At-Risk and Delinquent Youth

Multiple Federal Programs Raise Efficiency Questions Gao ID: HEHS-96-34 March 6, 1996

The federal government now runs 131 programs in 16 agencies to benefit delinquent youth. Many of the programs GAO has examined provide a range of services--from counseling to job training to research and evaluation. The services most commonly authorized are substance abuse intervention and training and technical assistance. Many programs also have multiple target groups, ranging from poor youth to abused and neglected youth to school dropouts. The current system of federal programs for at-risk or delinquent youth creates the potential for overlap of services. GAO identifies many instances of two or more programs' offering similar services to the same target groups, raising questions about the overall efficiency of federal efforts to help these youngsters.

GAO found that: (1) there are 131 programs administered by 16 federal agencies that can benefit at-risk and delinquent youth; (2) 60 percent of the programs are administered by the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice; (3) FY 1995 appropriations exceeded $4 billion for 83 percent of the programs for which funding data could be obtained; (4) the median amount of FY 1995 appropriations was $10 million per program; (5) most programs use project grants or formula grants to distribute funds to service providers; (6) many of the programs are authorized to provide multiple services, including counseling, job training assistance, research and evaluation efforts, and substance abuse treatment; (7) many of the programs have multiple target groups such as poor youth, abused or neglected youth, substance abusers, and school dropouts; (8) the systems for providing services to at-risk and delinquent youth create the potential for program overlap and service duplication; and (9) the overall effectiveness of federal efforts to assist at-risk and delinquent youth is questionable.

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