Methods: The sample included 12 youth-serving staff from three agencies in a metropolitan area in one southern state and seven YYA from one of the agencies (n=19). We used purposeful sampling, engaging program administrators as gatekeepers to recruit participants. Semi-structured interview guides were developed for data collection. Two staff focus groups (n=4 and n=5), one YYA focus group (n=6), three staff interviews, and one YYA interview were conducted. Trustworthiness and rigor were enhanced using multiple coders, peer debriefing, and member checking. Thematic analysis procedures recommended by Braun and Clarke (2006) were used to analyze data.
Findings: Three primary themes represent provider perspectives on how COVID-19 impacted service delivery and providers' roles: (1) increased challenges with recruitment, engagement, and retention, (2) decreased job satisfaction and perceived self-efficacy, and (c) adjusting to new work-life balance. All YYA began the program during COVID-19, so they did not speak to the impacts on the programs themselves. Providers described three primary impacts on YYA they serve: (1) stability and safety of living situation, (2) an increase in mental health needs, and (3) increased availability of resources like food but constrained access to critical resources like obtaining government IDs. YYA themes focused on (1) increased availability of resources like food but constrained access to critical resources like transportation and internet, (2) impacts on employment and education plans, and (3) adjusting to new norms of hygiene and safety protocol.
Implications: Providers faced a myriad of problems during the COVID-19 pandemic related to YYA recruitment and participation as well as lower job satisfaction and perceived self-efficacy. Likewise, YYA were affected by unstable living situations, increased mental health struggles, restricted access to critical resources, and disruptions to education and employment. Implications include a need for workforce system policies to allow workforce development program contingencies during unprecedented times. Likewise, policies must ensure YYA have access to resources that support their health and economic stability, such as transportation, childcare, housing, and technology, as they participate in programs that support their future well-being.