Recession’s strain on families creates continued demand for youth services

Report finds 81 percent of Salvation Army programs saw increased need for assistance for services to youth.

The economic recession and its remaining aftershocks throughout American society have had a major impact on American families and youth across the country according to the new report, “Growing Up in a Downturn,” released by The Salvation Army today. The report, based on a 2011 fourth quarter survey, found that 81 percent of Salvation Army social service centers in cities throughout the United States have seen increases in requests for youth programs and services, including education, food, arts and theater, athletics and youth ministries. Despite an increase in volunteerism at some centers, many programs were also forced to cut back on services due to the growing need and losses in funding.

Salvation Army centers, including corps community centers, Ray and Joan Kroc Community Centers, summer and day camps, preschools, daycare and after-school programs, have witnessed the growing need since 2008, when 75 percent of centers first experienced increased demand during the recession. Centers in more than 80 cities, including a dozen major metropolitan areas such as Baltimore, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco participated in the survey.

“Potentially for years to come, parents across the country may be forced to make hard choices everyday about the welfare and safety of their children,” said Commissioner William Roberts, national commander for The Salvation Army. “Regardless of their troubles, The Salvation Army will be there to help them through these trying times so those hard choices are a little easier to make.”

According to The Salvation Army’s most recent annual report,  Salvation Army programs assisted more than 30.2 million Americans nationwide in 2010, up from 28.9 million in 2007. As demand in general rises, The Salvation Army is continuing to provide care and assistance to as many people as possible, especially youths in America who may not understand the full impact of the recession on their parents. Key findings in “Growing Up in a Downturn” include:

  • 81 percent of Salvation Army youth programs saw an increase in demand for youth services in 2011, up from 75 percent in 2008.
  • 60 percent of Salvation Army youth programs saw an increase in demand of up to 30 percent.
  • 11 percent of Salvation Army youth programs saw an increase in demand of 50 percent or more.
  • 56 percent of Salvation Army youth programs are beyond capacity.
  • Since 2008, 41 percent of Salvation Army youth programs have been forced to cut back services or close programs completely.
  • During 2011, one-third of Salvation Army youth programs have seen a reduction in giving.
  • 62 percent of Salvation Army youth services have seen increases in volunteerism.
  • With continued support from community members, 92 percent of Salvation Army programs expect to meet the increased demand for as long as the children come to the Army for assistance.

“Even as America pulls itself out of the pitfalls of the recession, we expect to continue to see clients, young and old, coming through our doors,” Roberts said. “The Salvation Army will continue to serve communities that still struggle with the loss of business, jobs and homes and help those struggling to get back on their feet.”

“Growing Up in a Downturn” was conducted in October 2011 and surveyed a representative sample of 100 Salvation Army youth programs in cities across the United States. The report represents the experiences of Salvation Army officers and employees who work directly with youth who participate in a variety of Salvation Army programs. The report also examines trends in donations and volunteer rates for youth programs.

“Although we may be pushed to our limits in some communities, The Salvation Army is committed to providing hope for tomorrow for millions of Americans every year,” Roberts said. “With upward trends in donations and volunteerism in some communities, we are looking forward to a brighter future for America’s youth.”

The Salvation Army is calling upon all Americans to consider donating money or volunteering time to charities and organizations meeting the needs of youth in local communities. Donors and volunteers can learn more about giving to The Salvation Army by visiting or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.


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