For Victor Petersen, the problems began his first day of the sixth grade at Presidio Middle School when he was identified through a yearbook as an assailant in a summertime fight.
Between the ages of 12 and 17, the now 19-year-old bounced around the juvenile justice system and in and out of schools often running into an “us against them” attitude between him and his family and the Probation Department.
Peterson is among some 8,000 young people in San Francisco, ages 16 to 24, who city officials say are struggling in their transition to adulthood. They are “disconnected” youths and young adults who have dropped out of school or are homeless, unmarried or parents, and while there are many city-run programs and community services geared toward helping them, a new task report found that the programs and services are themselves disconnected from one another.
Petersen, who recently passed the high school equivalency test, worked on the report from the Transitional Youth Task Force, created by Mayor Gavin Newsom, in partnership with The City’s Youth Commission.
“Being on probation, there’s a lot of lack of support from probation,” the Richmond district native said. “Youths and their families need to be included in their case plan,” he said, referring to the plan for a youth to return to a normal life.
Apart from Petersen’s recommendation, the report, put together since March 2006, makes 16 recommendations, the “most critical” being the creation of city policy to commit to these youth by extending youth services until the age of 24; requiring city departments serving those youths to include them in decision-making; and creating an inter-agency council to serve them, according to Michael Wald, a Stanford law professor who co-chairs the task force.
“Basically, we do a lot for children, but then kids turn 18 and that’s it,” Wald said. Many of the young adults do not have the familial support system to help them transition into adulthood. “The efforts are to give structure so they can move through a progression” into a positive lifestyle, Wald said.