Karen Pittman's Youth Today Columns

Karen Pittman, executive director of the Forum, used to regularly write a column for Youth Today, the newspaper on youth work. This archive includes articles from her entire stint writing for Youth Today and covers a variety of topics related to children and youth.

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Youth Today: Keep on Tithing

By Karen Pittman, March 1999

55. 13. 7. A lock combination? A football play? No. These are the birth rates per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds per the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands, brought to us by D.C.-based Advocates for Youth and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Forty public health researchers and two teenage journalists formed a study tour that visited three countries (France was also included) to explore the sociological, cultural and community factors that influence adolescent sexual behaviors.

1999-03-01
Youth Today: An Unbalanced Proposition

By Karen Pittman, February 1999

President Clinton’s recent proposal to up the funding for 21st Century Schools is probably one of the youth development field’s best wins in a long time. He wants to add $400 million next year for after-school programming, for a total of $600 million. That would help provide an estimated 1 million students with after-school academic and non-academic supports and opportunities. The Youth Development Block Grant Act – which failed to win passage in the 104th Congress – was slotted for $891 million. So why aren’t youth workers cheering?

1999-02-01
Youth Today: Beyond Participation

By Karen Pittman, January 1999

Power: That’s the newest word in my youth development mantra. Beyond prevention to preparation. Beyond preparation to participation. Beyond participation to power.

1999-01-01
Youth Today: Move Over, Greenspan

By Karen Pittman, November 1998

Bear with me, I want to talk about data — specifically about official indicators and why we must invest time lobbying for their effective development and use.

While there is no shortage of fact books, until recently there has been no official government compilation of indicators. Accordingly, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, prepared by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, had the potential to be momentous. Unfortunately, it was not.

1998-11-01
Youth Today: No Place Like Home?

By Karen Pittman, October 1998

As with childcare, we may be on the verge of finding the middle-class issue that addresses the increasingly serious problem of youth homelessness and youth home-boundness — young people living at home because they cannot afford otherwise. As the parent of a 23-year-old non-college graduate with learning disabilities whose $8.00 an hour salary simply can’t be stretched to cover transportation food, health plan co-payments and lodging, and a 20-year-old opting to live at home and save for graduate school, I find myself thinking about housing options.

1998-10-01
Youth Today: The Cost of Being Certain

By Karen Pittman, September 1998

Certainty, not cost, is what undergirds public support for measures that lock teens away for life. And certainty, not cost, is the key to any effort to build sustainable community resources to support youth development.

Cost-effectiveness research is certainly important: Showing the short-term and long-term benefits of investment, the benefits of investing in one strategy over another, the benefits of doing something versus nothing. But in the end it is certainty that is needed.

1998-09-01
Youth Today: The Algebra of Development

By Karen Pittman, July 1998

“Youth development is what you’d do for your own kid on a good day. We don’t need a fancy definition to know what to do.” This practical advice was offered recently by Hugh Price, president of the National Urban League. He’s right. We don’t need a fancy definition. We need a functional equation.

1998-07-01
Youth Today: A Strategic Success

By Karen Pittman, June 1998

Seventy-eight: That will be the number of Beacon Schools in New York City once the third and largest class of Beacons opens this year. The number is impressive, suggesting a level of scale in publicly funded youth programs rarely reached in U.S. cities. The Beacons are one of the field’s success stories of the 90s.

But the real story is in the strategy that led to this success, a strategy that opted to promote the goals and principles of youth development, and the organizations and individuals that believe in them. Why has it worked? Ten reasons:

1998-06-01
Youth Today: The Black Table

By Karen Pittman, May 1998

Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? This question was the theme of a paper I wrote 25 years ago for a psych class at Oberlin College — the first white college to admit blacks. It was a question I was asked frequently, as one who was not always, or even often at the “black” table. It was one of my daughter’s key queries when she came home on her first break from Oberlin three years ago, and the theme of a talk I just gave to the prospective students of color being courted by my alma mater. It is also the title of a recent book, written by a Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, a black female psychologist, teacher, trainer and advocate who happens to be my cousin. Clearly this is a longstanding question in my family. But it is not just my family.

1998-05-01
Youth Today: Who's Watching the Youth Field?

By Karen Pittman, March 1998

I used to find it comforting to say that the youth development system is a decade behind early childhood. I don’t anymore. We seem to be losing the urge to explain, expand, prove and improve what we do. There are individual efforts — single organizations, subfields — that are pushing forward. There are grand efforts like America’s Promise, The Alliance for Youth. But interest in building public understanding and public will for the goal (youth development), the profession (youth work) and the field (youth services) seems to have waned.

1998-03-01