The program targets opportunity youth (ages 18-24 not working and not in school) and families impacted by incarceration and childhood hunger. In 2017, there were 3,025 total disconnected youth in Harford County according to Measure of America Opporunity Index. Research shows that the absence of economic opportunity is often a significant factor for youth becoming disconnected and they are two times more likely to live in poverty. This program brings youth from similar backgrounds together and connects them to resources so they can live more prosperous lives and build new relationships. Ther is a large gap in the workforce needs in Harford County. There is a shortage of middle skill level workers who can fill technical, skilled labor jobs. Susquehanna Workforce Network data states the average age of a construction worker in Harford and Cecil Counties is 62. With an aging skilled labor workforce and minimal recruitment of younger workers for these positions, not only is there an unmet employment need but it is also resulting in stagnant outcomes for disconnected youth, who cannot make a living wage.
Parental incarceration increases the risk of children living in poverty or experiencing household instability independent of other problems such as substance abuse, mental health, and limited education. While there is a lack of data on the numbers in the County, some disconnected youth are also young parents. The Center for the Study of Social Policy indicates that early parenthood can hinder youth from completing their education, prevent access to jobs with good pay and result in chronic economic challenges. A child raised in poverty is more likely to become an adult living in poverty, less likely to graduate high school or remain consistently employed. Forty-two percent of children born to parents at the bottom of the income ladder stay there.
The percentage for children under 18 years of age living in poverty is 8.1% in 2016 and there were 23.2% of children under 18 living with families whose income was less than 200% of the poverty level. The areas were the percentage of poverty is concerning are: Perryman (67%), Aberdeen City (55%), Edgewood (50%), and Darlington (46%).