Community Connections for Youth (CCFY) is a New-York based nonprofit organization, whose mission is to mobilize indigenous faith and neighborhood organizations to develop effective community-based alternative-to-incarceration programs for youth. CCFY believes that increasing local community capacity to work with youth in the justice system is the key to reducing youth crime and delinquency, and improving long-term life outcomes for youth.
CCFY promotes increased community participation in the juvenile justice system through a three-fold approach that consists of:
- Community Advocacy: organizing the local community, particularly faith-based organizations, to advocate for juvenile justice reform.
- Training & Technical Assistance: educating grassroots faith and community-based organizations on how to work effectively with youth in the justice system.
- Direct Services: developing model programs and services for justice-involved youth in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.
Community Connections for Youth was founded in 2009 in response to the need to equip local community organizations to work effectively with youth in the juvenile justice system. As New York began to embrace systemic juvenile justice reform, it was clear that keeping youth free from incarceration over the long haul would require much greater involvement from their home communities.
Ruben Austria, a leader in the juvenile justice reform movement formed Community Connections for Youth with the vision of mobilizing grassroots faith and community organizations to play a much greater role in juvenile justice reform. Prior to starting CCFY, Mr. Austria spent nearly ten years developing the only Bronx-based alternative-to-incarceration program for juveniles at a grassroots faith-based organization in the South Bronx. The programís remarkable 84 percent success rate in preventing youth from returning to the juvenile justice system demonstrated the power of locally owned and operated community-based alternatives to incarceration.
As a 2007 Soros Justice Fellow, Mr. Austria advocated diligently for the creation of more community-based alternatives, and the redirection of youth incarceration funds to the local community. As New York City began to embrace juvenile justice reform, Mr. Austria saw several of the changes he was advocating for begin to take shape. Yet what he saw lacking was deep and meaningful participation from local community stakeholders who would (a) provide long-term neighborhood-based support for youth; and (b) advocate for policies and practices responsive to youth and the community.
In 2009, Mr. Austria incorporated Community Connections for Youth as a non-profit organization. The organization received its federal tax-exempt (501c3) status in December of the same year. With support from several foundations, churches, and individuals, CCFY launched its work of empowering the local community to play its role in juvenile justice reform.