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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 22nd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 47

Assessment outlines youth needs in Santa Barbara County

By ZAC EZZONE

After hundreds of surveys and numerous focus group meetings, the Community Action Commission (CAC) of Santa Barbara County released a report in late 2019 that details some of the issues youth throughout the county are facing.

According to the 2018-19 Youth Needs Assessment, most of the younger people surveyed are concerned about future job opportunities, college, and family stress. Depending on the area of the county, the youth surveyed also said they were concerned about housing and food security. 

The CAC worked with students and professors from UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology to prepare the assessment, which asks younger people ranging from 11 to 24 years old about several aspects of their lives, including how safe they feel in their neighborhoods, any mental health struggles, their financial situations, and any substance use issues. 

CAC Director of Family and Youth Services Seth Miller said the main point of the assessment is to ensure the programs and services agencies offer in the county are actually meeting the needs and preferences of the county’s youth. He said the CAC plans to use this data to shape new programs and grant funding it applies for, and he’s hoping other nonprofits and cities do the same. 

“We’re really interested in getting youth voices before implementing any type of programming,” Miller said. “We want to make sure the services we’re providing them are meeting their needs and desires.”

The assessment breaks up the answers to many of these questions in three different regions: South County, North County, and Mid County—which includes Lompoc and communities in the Santa Ynez Valley. 

Miller said separating the answers provides a clearer picture of what’s important to youth in different parts of the county. For example, the assessment shows that 61 percent of youth surveyed in Mid County were concerned about fights in their neighborhoods, while only 34 percent of South County respondents said the same.

“We want to target services the best we can for different locations,” Miller said. “And, essentially, if we’re applying for funding, we can point to the different needs of different communities.”

Miller said the nonprofit used data from this assessment to apply for grant funding that would have created a youth safety task force in Lompoc to address the gang activity taking place in the city. The CAC found out that it didn’t receive the funding in December, but it has since used the data gathered in the assessment to apply for state funding that will allow the nonprofit to expand a program that assists teenage mothers in Santa Maria. 










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