Focus Group

We conducted a focus group with youth program participants. There were 10 total participants, between the ages of 17 and 19, all of whom were people of color. We asked them introductory questions about their opinions of the term opportunity youth before asking about their own analyses of our data findings. Most of the participants have received at least one service, with some receiving more. Among those services are: School Help, Job Training, Financial Literacy, Job development, and more.

What Three Words Come to Mind When You Hear the Term “Opportunity Youth”?

Subjects of our focus group interview anonymously wrote down three words that came to mind when they heard the term “Opportunity Youth”. The words in the word cloud above are ranked in size according to the number of times they were repeated among the subjects. The word cloud suggests that these participants associated the term Opportunity Youth with negative words like Lost and Bum, while others associated the term with economic opportunity, using words like Money and Chance.

Three Main Takeaways from the Focus Group:

Those numbers are surprising!

The members the were initially confused with the labels of the services in the service data. No one clearly understood what basic skills were because, “basic skills could be taking care of yourself, knowing how to tie your shoes, or simply knowing to how to change a tire”. Once, we got past the confusion of the labels, the members questioned why Adult Education had a service rate of 99.1% while Occupational Skills Training, Leadership Development, Tutoring, and Mentoring all had services rates lower than 20%. The percentage of individuals who were participating in Adult Education was a major shock to our focus group because they felt as though Adult Education is something that everyone has access to and should not count as a “specialty service”. The members explained to us that they believe those four services should be received by more because it is what they believe is most beneficial to themselves.

In regards to the mentoring service, one member said:

“they go hard for us which we need cause nobody goes hard for us.”

This quote shows that the support that is given to Opportunity Youth through these programs and services are impacting and important to the participants. This may be the only form of support that many of these individuals receive.

Discussion of the Challenges Opportunity Youth Face

After showing them the bar graph of the challenges that Opportunity Youth Face the group members were drawn to how the Criminal Justice Involvement statistics had risen by 4.9% from 2016-2018. They were shocked to see the rate of change of the statistics. The youth in the focus group initially placed blame on the youth who faced these challenges, speaking critically about youth who were committing crimes. We then prompted them to consider and discuss the possibility of this being in relation to the Hartford Police which caused some controversy. Some members, who were in programs that connected the Hartford police to its youth, had a positive outlook on the police, while others who were not in these programs said that the police do nothing to stop crimes in certain areas of Hartford.

Where this critical chatter stopped was when they were urged to look at the DCF involvement bar graph. A sense of sadness filled the room as members said those statistics are out of the hands of those involved in DCF. They explained that many people are separated from there siblings when placed in DCF and it is so hard for them because their siblings are all they have. One member in the group opened up to how she herself is involved in the DCF and considers herself lucky that she gets to stay with her siblings under the protection of her grandmother.

What’s Next?

During our discussion in the focus group, the participants said that we should have a meeting with the people of power here in Connecticut that are involved in the criminal justice system and in DCF. They want to see change!

They believe that by showing this data and opening up conversation changes will be put in action. 


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