Foundation aims to bring 'commitment to action' here Expanding role: The International Youth Foundation is moving to Baltimore, with an eye toward helping more children in the city and elsewhere in the nation.

January 17, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

The International Youth Foundation will move here partly because of a decision to step up its role in the United States -- Baltimore included -- in helping needy children with proven "action programs," an official of the charity said.

Douglas G. Franklin, IYF director of social marketing, said, "There's no question IYF chose Baltimore as home" in part because its planned acceleration of U.S. programs is made easier in a city near the many Washington philanthropic agencies, such as the Council on Foundations, Children's Defense Fund and National Center for Nonprofit Boards.

Karen J. Pittman, director of IYF programs and a veteran sociologist who began her job with the foundation in September, said IYF previously focused on backing effective programs in other countries, such as the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, Poland, Ecuador, Germany and Ireland.

Getting local help

Typically, IYF has lined up local foundations, granting challenge funds and start-up money to improve the lot of hungry, uneducated or wayward children, worked with these partners as equals, then advised them without further IYF funding.

For the next two months, operating from an office in Takoma Park, Ms. Pittman will be interviewing dozens of Washington and other U.S. officials from charities, companies and government to build new "partnerships" for American children. Learning from what works here and from overseas projects, she hopes to devise a strategy to back successful U.S. projects and broaden small spotlights of help to shine on more children.

"Two things to keep in mind," Ms. Pittman said. "One, IYF has a deep commitment to action. Two, IYF will have an impact on kids in Baltimore and elsewhere. Exactly what the programs are and what the impact is, we don't know yet."

The 5-year-old charity, founded with money from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, received pledges of $110 million during that time, $68 million from Kellogg.

It will move its headquarters and staff of 30 from Battle Creek, Mich., to Baltimore's Herget Harbor Building, 294 E. Lombard St., by June.

Contracts remain to be signed.

The foundation already offers modest support to some U.S. programs, such as City Lights, a Washington, D.C., alternative school for emotionally disturbed youth, and Jobs for America's Graduates, a national program assisting teen-agers who do not plan to attend college.

Overseas programs

Typical of IYF-backed projects overseas is Greenworks, a program to encourage wildlife protection, voluntarism, and future careers among youth in Nowy Sacz, Poland, where the young people try to stem a decline in area amphibians.

Or, Limerick Youth Services in Limerick, Ireland, which teaches teen-agers trades such as professional cooking.

Developing new ways this winter to help troubled American children is a mission that Ms. Pittman, the mother of three and a child development specialist, concedes she conducts with some anger.

"We have such simplistic, negative answers in the United States," she said. "We have a pregnancy problem -- give them contraceptives. We have a violent kid -- make them trade their guns in for shoes. Instead, we should start with the positive, help children become something, not just stop doing something.

"I get angry. I don't give up. I don't get discouraged. Well, I do get discouraged at the national level, rarely at the level of cities and towns."

Ms. Pittman was director of the President's Crime Prevention Council from January 1995 until she took the IYF job. The sociologist has lived for 18 years in Maryland near Washington and looks forward to coming to Baltimore this spring.

She, her economist husband, Russell, their daughter and two sons live in Takoma Park.

Working smarter

Ms. Pittman said the United States has no shortage of programs or foundation money. "We are woefully behind, however, in conceptualizing what it is about the programs that works. We have effective programs. What we do not have is a solid system for assessing, improving, sustaining, and expanding their impact."

Retaining interest and widening impact are key goals, says Rick R. Little, IYF chief executive officer, who founded Quest, a "life skills" development plan for grades kindergarten through 12 used in dozens of nations. He speaks of a recent study showing that 90 percent of programs for troubled children lose funding after five years.

Infinite audience

IYF shies away from pronouncements about how many children it has helped. Its programs affect scores, hundreds, thousands, but the target audience is limitless. IYF literature describes the world's underloved, underfed, undereducated and undertrained children in terms that to the less committed might seem impossible to fix.

For instance: The world has 100 million street and working children. Millions of them grow up alone.

By 2000, for the first time in modern history, half the world's people will be under 20.

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