LA County Department of Youth Development

Designing a More Equitable and Youth-Centered Contracting Function for the Newly Formed Department of Youth Development

Practice Area: Diversion and Reentry Scope: County Location: CA Status: Closed

Project Overview

Third Sector partnered with The W. Haywood Burns Institute and the LA County Chief Executive Office to establish the county’s Department of Youth Development (DYD). DYD sets more responsive and equitable ways for the county to deploy funding and resources to community-based prevention and support services for youth at risk, currently engaged, or previously involved with the criminal-legal system.


Most of us, whether we are White, Black, or Brown, believe that our children need support to grow and develop into adults that get to live a full and healthy life, no matter what mistakes they may have made. But for too long, we've relied on incarceration and surveillance to punish and criminalize young people instead of providing pathways and community supports that will help them to make different choices and provide the opportunities they need to thrive and live in safe neighborhoods.

In a bold step toward eliminating the county's overreliance on probation and incarceration, the LA County Chief Executive Office launched in 2020 the County’s Youth Justice Work Group, a collaborative planning process led by the W. Haywood Burns Institute, county departments, community-based organizations, and young people tasked with transitioning the county’s youth justice system out of the Probation Department and into a preventative and holistic county model. On the heels of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s closure of all of its state-run juvenile prisons, Los Angeles County established a diversionary system that focuses on funding supports like therapy and health services, community service, and vocational education to better support young people with prior involvement with the criminal-legal system.

In 2022, LA County created a new department, the Department of Youth Development (DYD), to support the development of its young people by coordinating and building capacity for a wide range of youth development services, opportunities, supports, and other care-first efforts with a goal of equitably reducing youth involvement with the criminal-legal system.


In the months leading up to the July 2022 launch, Third Sector guided the County’s Youth Justice Work Group in developing DYD’s new contracting function. The implementation plan enables the county to marshall resources to the neighborhoods of highest need, equip government staff with the tools and a framework to deepen community relationships, and allows the county to contract with an emerging network of community-based organizations that specialize in therapeutic, family-centered, and restorative justice practices that would otherwise have limited opportunities to do business with the county.

A key goal of the new department is to make multi-year contracting opportunities accessible to community-based organizations and ensure that DYD funds programs that measurably equip youth and their families to thrive. Third Sector worked with local organizations, county staff, youth, and advocates to ensure DYD is staffed to be responsive to local needs and sufficiently allocates solicitation and grant funding for community-based organizations to deliver programs that are suited to meet the social, linguistic, and cultural needs of young people of color.


As a brand new department in Los Angeles, DYD had the opportunity to completely reimagine how it used its contracting function to better serve LA County’s youth with criminal-legal system involvement or at risk of interactions with police. The department's new system:

  • Assigns staff and allocates funding for diversion, reentry and housing, and youth development by region (vs. a one county-model);
  • Streamlines the procurement process for community-based organizations that can make a difference in young people’s lives to do business with the county;
  • Establishes equitable and flexible access, reimbursement, and compensation via competitive solicitations, outcome contracts, and grants;
  • Prioritizes outcome delivery and relationship-building as guiding principles for contracting (vs. solely relying on compliance and reporting) ;
  • Creates capacity-building opportunities for current and future vendors through grants, technical assistance, training, and participatory budgeting; and
  • Forms a Continuous Improvement Process comprised of staff from government and community-based organizations, youth and their advocates, and research staff to manage community programs toward specific outcomes.
Practice area:

Diversion and Reentry

Third Sector works with our government agencies and communities to shift our criminal-legal system toward diversion and community-based models that make housing and support services more accessible to all.
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