Many children in Georgia reach their late teens unprepared to successfully transition into adulthood. This is evidenced by some of the poorest outcomes among states in school achievement, graduation rates and employment. By the most lenient measures, 20 percent of Georgia’s children do not graduate from high school – and some reports put this figure at 40 percent. It should be no surprise then that Georgia has the highest teen unemployment rate in the country (37.3%).
Georgia needs a comprehensive policy agenda to improve outcomes of youth transitioning into adulthood – particularly those at risk of dropping out, or being unemployed, homeless, or incarcerated. A review of national research on successful policies and programs, child development findings, and effective state and local systems suggests that major improvements can be achieved for youth. Specifically, policies in four key areas can drive success: Strong families, supportive communities, school strategies focused on vulnerable youth, and collaborative and effective government.
Changes in these systems will not come naturally. Leadership and advocacy from the community, working closely with elected and appointed officials, are essential. Voices for Georgia’s Children proposes to use the transitioning youth component of our comprehensive policy agenda (which also includes issues related to early childhood and child health) to take the lead in changing young lives, thus improving Georgia’s economic vitality.