The years when young people move from youth to adulthood are full of immense possibility and potential. This is the time when young people gain the education, skills, life experiences, and supports they need to take on increasing responsibility, form their identities, and learn how to succeed on their own. A stable launching pad formed by support from families and caring adults, consistent access to resources to meet their basic needs, and opportunities to access quality education and employment helps adolescents become healthy, productive contributors to their communities.

But not all young people have access to the family and community resources and supports they need to thrive. We've identified four key findings that highlight ways the safety net is failing to meet the needs of all young people:

  1. Many young people lack a stable web of family and community supports to help them transition to adulthood. Systemic inequities in access to opportunities leave many young people, particularly Black and Latinx young people, growing up in families and communities with less access to  esources and supports.
  2. The federal safety net does not reflect the complex realities of young people’s lives, their developmental stage, or their strengths. Safety net policies and practices often overlook the complexities of young peoples’ lives, creating challenges for those who could benefit from these supports.
  3. The federal safety net has many gaps for young people. Because safety net programs tend to designate specific categories of people as eligible, other young people can fall through eligibility cracks.
  4. The federal safety net lacks a coherent approach to supporting young people. The contradictions and gaps in coverage for different groups of young people reflect a hodgepodge of policies, rules, and systems that sometimes work against each other.

Read the full article about safety nets for youth by Gina Adams, Heather Hahn, and Amelia Coffey at Urban Institute.