Reports say that despite major initiatives and improvements, more teen programs are needed and lag by comparison on the south and west sides.

Since this 2003 piece, the district has responded (or followed through on what it had planned) substantially in staffed parks and with leagues, given the severe financial limits. Teen Tuesdays is one of many initiatives. But her appear to have been cutbacks in the park explorer programs. After school is still one of the prime needs in our communities.

Back to Park Issues, Park News web home. To Recreation Directory. To November 5 budget hrg. report

The Chicago Tribune Sunday September 21, 2003 issue, citing reports commissioned by Mayor Daley of Deloitte Consulting and the Financial Research and Advisory Committee and the Tribune's own analysis, calls for more teen programs, particularly on the South and West Sides. It calls attention to continuing discrepancies between facilities in different parts of town in the 21 years since settlement of a landmark discrimination lawsuit and despite major new initiatives and expansions. The conclusion is that only a small percent of teens are being served and many of the programs are far below modern needs and standards or have not become accessible because of gang boundary and other problems. (Ed: Jackson Park is one of many that have found ways to overcome the latter and so might be a model.)

General Superintendent Doig, who says efforts are being made to erase inequities, says, "We have to think differently... Even with all of these efforts, there are areas where we need to try to do more, and we need to have a deeper and broader impact.....There are clearly groups of teens and communities that need these kinds of services, that need these prog arms. We've made a much more intentional effort to have a presence there... [but] we've got to think differently...Now we're looking at this whole programming thing." Still, he says that ages 6-12 remain the District's core audience while experts say the key ages are 13-16, especially the transition into high school.

The park district clearly has been stepping up to the plate in several local staffed parks, notably Jackson and Nichols (new). Some, such as Midway, have to share and stretch staff. Bringing Harris on line late in the year in Woodlawn should help there.

Excerpts from article "Limited park programs leave teens at loose ends, Poor, minority communities fail to get fair share"

Chicago Tribune, Sunday, September 21, 2003.

More than 20 years after the federal government sued the Chicago Park District for neglecting fieldhouses and playgrounds in minority neighborhoods, teens in those areas are being shortchanged in recreational programs compared with the peers in more affluent areas, a Tribune analysis has found.

The underserved areas encompass a swath of primarily black and Hispanic neighborhoods with many teens and high levels of poverty and crime.

Mayor Richard Daley and his wife, Maggie, have long pushed recreation programs for teens as an alternative to gangs and drugs and as a way to lower the crime rate. But the Park District has lagged behind because of competing priorities and what Supt. David Doig describes as a history of inertia and ineffective management.

In addition, the newspaper has obtained a confidential, critical study of teen programs that are offered by all city agencies, which officials said took them by surprise. That draft report found 17 Chicago neighborhoods receive low funding for teen programs despite suffering high levels of unemployment, teen pregnancy, gun violence, and other social ills. Fourteen of the neighborhoods are on the West and South Sides, including Austin, Woodlawn and West Englewood.

As the demand and inequities have become more clear, the city in recent months has boosted two key teen programs. After School Matters and NeighborSports, signing up thousands of teens. Most agree that even those efforts will still fall far short of demand, leaving parks officials to pursue more partnerships with city schools and other agencies.

The Tribune's analysis found the ZIP code with the most teens in the city- which includes Lawndale and Little Village on the West Side- ranks 11th of 50 in the number of programs run by the Chicago Park District. That's only part of the problem, according to [a] Little village resident..a few blocks from Piotrowski Park... gleaming from a $1 million overhaul that includes a domed pool..., who said he was driven out of Piotrowski by street gangs. Even if that problem is solved, he said the park"is more for little kids, " a common complaint of teens about the Park district that has seen children 6 to 12 as its "core" audience.

Even where programs are offered in the underserved areas, many consist merely of throwing open a gymnasium door for pickup basketball or offering"open swims" at district pools, activities that lack the formal structure that child-development experts see as antidotes to delinquency and risky behavior.

Some stats:
Facility to teen ratio: Zip code 60618 (nw side) 1/48, 60623 (west) 1/104

How 4 ZIPs with the most teens fare: P to T ratio 1/261 to 1/437 26-30 Pr
How 4 ZIPs with the least teens fare: P to T ratio 1/126 to 1/160
46-60 Pr

It's a different story on the North Side.... [and] even as the city beefed up sports programs over the summer, juvenile crime was up, according to police statistics...

The authors of the confidential study ordered by the mayor... estimated the city needed to spend an additional $31 million to provide adequate programs just ford the 10 neediest neighborhoods. Since the study was delivered last October, the city has launched a number of initiatives that target high-need neighborhoods. NeighborSports...was expanded to 17 parks in high-crime areas over the summer and was swamped with 3,300....[O]nly 5,300 of Chicago's 2333,561 teens aged 13-18 took part in... programs this summer... In August, the city announced it would nearly double spending to $17 million on its signature..After School Matters, a spinoff of Gallery 37 programs...( robotics)..

[Even before such initiatives and many new park pools, fields, and fieldhouses,] the Park District had spent $50 million on facilities to settle a 1982 Justice Department lawsuit alleging the agency had historically discriminated against black and Hispanic neighborhoods. But the overhauls aren't always followed by structured recreational programs that involve instruction and adult leadership.

[Contrasts Piotowski on west edge to the McFetridge Sports Center across the street from Ed Kelly's north side ward and nearby Horner Center.] Eight of..10 full time drama instructors work on the North an Northwest Sides..Of the four parks offering teen acting programs this fall, three are on the North or Northwest Sides, one is on the West side. None is on the South Side.... Some unique facilities have been built in minority neighborhoods, such as ... Auburn-Gresham...

Part of the problem, Doig said, has been that many park programs haven't changed with the times...Now we're looking at this whole programming thing."

The city audit dives home th need. The study shows city programs reach 31 percent of Chicago's 233,561 teens aged 13 to 18- more than most cities. But it also shows teens spend only 4.6 hours a week in the programs, about one-third of the time experts deem effective...Chicago spends about $89 million on teen programs ..but it would need to spend an additional $214 million to be fully effective...The city could make a hugh impact, the study said, by focusing about $31 million on the most underserved areas of the city- 10 neighborhoods clustered around Englewood that reach into Chicago's South and West Sides and are home to 84,230 teens. [This is one reason the mayor expanded After School Matters, which started in 2000. It's in 24 of 92 high schools (half by 2005) and ties into libraries and parks. The growth is heaviest in the identified neighborhoods with some able to do "saturation" programming.]

[The park district hopes schools, other public institutions, and the private sector including theaters will help more. Some theaters, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc, with help from leaders etc.- even busing teens- already do with outreach satellite programs that have sent many teens to college. Many programs include life preparation.]

[Teens do want structure and to show initiative. Joan R. Wynn of UC Chapin Hall says even gang joining shows this.]

Child development experts say teen programs can be highly successful if they "empower" the participants and make them feel as if they have a stake in the program's success. In many cases, teens are looking for mentors, to be mentors, or for pay.

Even when the NeighborSports partnership with other city agencies is included, the Park District served only 8,633 participants ages 13-18 this summer, compared with 40,346 children ages 6-12. That imbalance baffles some experts and those in the trenches at non-profit organizations... young teens are among the most needy. "Twelve to 15," he said, "that's make it or break it right there."