Lilly Endowment provides $20M grant to help youth-support workers

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A coalition of agencies in Indiana that serve youth plans to use a $20 million grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment to support the well-being of professionals in the industry.

Over four years, the five organizations will lead the statewide effort to improve the lives of youth-focused workers so they can be more effective in their positions. Research by the groups found that workers struggled with increased workloads, inadequate benefits, negative workplace cultures and the emotional repercussions of working with youth who have experienced trauma.

The five agencies are Indiana Afterschool Network, IARCA Institute for Excellence, Indiana Youth Services Association, Indiana Youth Institute and Marion County Commission On Youth.

“Youth workers are critical to the future success of young Hoosiers, who spend much of their time with these professionals in a variety of programs outside of the school day,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education.

“By improving youth worker well-being, these caring and dedicated people can do their jobs more effectively,” Maple said. “We are grateful that IYI and other members of the youth coalition listened to the field and have developed a solid plan to improve the lives of youth workers and ultimately the youth they serve.”

The agencies plan to deploy a six-pronged strategy:

—Increasing access to virtual (or telehealth) services, including mental health counseling and short-term financial consultation;

—Facilitating peer learning groups to provide opportunities for youth workers to share experiences and support one another;

—Launching a professional development series for emerging leaders of color to help diversify leadership at youth-serving organizations;

—Convening leaders of youth-serving organizations (virtually and in-person) to provide information on how to improve working conditions and business practices to improve youth-worker well-being;

—Providing opportunities for youth-serving organizations to apply for funding to pilot and/or implement customized strategies that improve diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) within their organizations; and

—Supporting youth workers exposed to trauma (directly and indirectly).

The youth-work profession encompasses staff of youth recreation and youth development organizations and service bureau staff, mental health counselors, child and family welfare professionals, mentors, family support clinicians, residential treatment staff, and others at community-based organizations.

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