WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL MATA
Los Angeles, February 19, 2009— Chairman Cárdenas, thank you for this opportunity to testify before the Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development today regarding the Youth PROMISE Act. Rep. Scott, welcome to Los Angeles and thank you for being here today. My name is Michael Mata and I am World Vision’s Urban Development Director for U.S. Programs based here in Los Angeles.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Internationally, World Vision works in nearly 100 countries. In the United States, we work in 11 major urban and rural areas, including Southern California, and serve over 600,000 children and youth nationwide. We partner with over 2,000 local community-based organizations, schools, churches, and businesses, as well as parents and youth themselves, as they work to transform their neighborhoods. We provide support through several Education and Youth Development efforts, providing strategies to improve academic achievement, build positive life skills, and create opportunities for disaffected youth, offering them a chance at a brighter future.
World Vision supports the Youth PROMISE Act for three important reasons:
· First, the bill calls for a robust approach to youth development that engages the whole community in the process of transforming the lives of youth. In order to help our young people make good choices and lead productive lives, we must examine and address all aspects of their well-being reflected in their experiences at home, in school, and in their neighborhood. It is important that all community resources are used to fully address the needs of each young person. Therefore, we support the recommendation in the bill that calls for the establishment of community councils comprised of community-based organizations, schools, law enforcement, social service organizations, and health providers to implement evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies. In addition, we strongly encourage such community councils to include the participation of youth.
· Second, we support the use of comprehensive evidence-based practices to reduce youth crime rather than a sole focus on suppression strategies. In July 2007, the Justice Policy Institute reviewed several studies evaluating the effectiveness of increasing federal funding and targeted arrests in select cities to address violence and found that none of the studies yielded a meaningful reduction in crime. In fact, these suppression strategies actually increased gang cohesion and tensions between the police and the community in some instances.
· Third, the bill supports the development and implementation of prevention and intervention strategies that are ‘evidence-based’, subject to rigorous evaluation to demonstrate their effectiveness in reducing juvenile recidivism and promoting positive outcomes for youth. World Vision supports the use of evidence-based practices and the direction of funding to communities for this purpose. Strong monitoring and evaluation plans will ensure that the programs we provide for our youth are meeting their needs, building upon their inherent strengths and helping them to reach their full potential.
In conclusion, I want to encourage all of us to provide opportunities for youth to participate in their own development. Enabling young people to share their ideas and take ownership of community change can yield amazing results. World Vision’s civic empowerment program works with young people to foster and implement their ideas for change.
Some of our 2009 Youth Empowerment Project delegates from the MacArthur Park/Westlake community are here today. They are currently participating in a 20-week training to study the needs and assets of their community and develop policy recommendations that will reflect their vision for change and improve the lives of local youth. They will present their findings and recommendations to their members of Congress and local government this summer.
On behalf of the young people we serve in Los Angeles and around the United States, I thank you, Rep. Scott, for your leadership in developing the Youth PROMISE Act. Thank you, Chairman Cárdenas, for the ad hoc committee’s support of this important piece of legislation. We look forward to partnering with you as we work towards the sustained well-being of youth in Los Angeles.
World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. We serve the world’s poor regardless of a person’s religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press
URBAN DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, INTEGRATED PROGRAMS TEAM, U.S. PROGRAMS
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL’S AD HOC COMMITTEE
ON GANG VIOLENCE AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT