Youth First State Advocacy Fund



Washington, DC


Criminal Justice Reform

Fiscal Sponsor:

New Venture Fund

Interim Director:

Carrie Rae Boatman

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Youth First State Advocacy Fund is a pooled donor fund focused on abolishing youth imprisonment. It is a project of the New Venture Fund, a funding and fiscal sponsorship nonprofit managed by Arabella Advisors characterized by critics as part of a multi-billion-dollar “dark money” network. 1 2 It works to abolish youth prisons and allocate funding to community and youth programs. 3


As a New Venture Fund project, the advocacy fund does not report its finances or reveal its donors. However, in 2021 it received $175,000 from the Ford Foundation “to promote alternatives to the use of juvenile incarceration as a correctional model for youth.” 4 It also received $400,000 in 2020 from the Public Welfare Foundation, and an unknown amount of funding in 2018 and 2020 from the Art for Justice Fund. 5 6

Policies and Projects

The Youth First State Advocacy Fund is focused on abolishing youth incarceration, specifically by closing youth prisons and instead investing resources in community and youth programs that the group believes will better prevent crime and reform troubled youth. It seeks to effect these changes on the state level. 7

The organization maintains that the American justice system is racist and that youth prisons cannot be reformed, only abolished. 8

Partner Organizations

Youth First State Advocacy Fund works in 12 states with state-based partner organizations. These are: Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, Invest Don’t Arrest Kansas, Maine Youth Justice, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Virginia RISE (Re-invest in Supportive Environments) for Youth, Ohio Juvenile Justice Coalition, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, New Mexico Youth Justice Coalition, Pennsylvania Care Not Control Campaign, Illinois Final 5 Campaign, End Youth Prisons Minnesota, and Tennessee’s Youth Justice Action Council. 9

YFSAF works with a variety of national organizations. These include Calamari Productions, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ceres Policy Research, the Children’s Defense Fund, Color of Change, Columbia University Justice Lab, Credible Messenger Justice Center, Community Connections for Youth, National Disability Rights Network, Justice for Families, Equality Federation, Juvenile Law Center, Boston College Law, Justice Policy Institute, Moms Rising, Movement Advancement Projects, Juvenile In Justice, National Juvenile Justice Network, National Juvenile Defender Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Partnership for America’s Children, NOXTIN Equal Justice for All, Rights4Girls, Spark Action, Performing Statistics, The National Crittenton Foundation, The Sentencing Project, The Forum for Youth Investment, Youth Advocate Programs, and The W. Haywood Burns Institute. 10


Carrie Rae Boatman is the interim director of the Youth First State Advocacy Fund. She has worked for a variety of large nonprofit organizations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Andrus Family Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Rockit Fund. 11

Al Cleveland is the only other staff member listed on the YFSAF website. Cleveland is based in Portland, Maine, which is identified in her bio as being “unceded, occupied land of the Abenaki people.” Cleveland is the campaign manager at Maine Youth for Justice, and has a history of advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution, and dreams “of a world without cops, capitalism, and prisons.” 12


  1. Ford Foundation. Return of Foundation Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990-PF). 2021. Schedule I. Archived:
  2. Ludwig, Hayden, and Parker Thayer. “Arabella’s $1.6 Billion ‘Dark Money’ Haul in 2021.” Capital Research Center. Capital Research Center, November 16, 2022.
  3. “Blog – Youth First.” Accessed March 20, 2023.
  4. Ford Foundation. Return of Foundation Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990-PF). 2021. Schedule I. Archived:
  5. “Public Welfare Foundation Announces New Grants.” Public Welfare. January 14, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2023.
  6. “Youth First State Advocacy Fund-Art for Justice.” Art for Justice. Accessed March 18, 2023.
  7. “Our Mission.” Accessed March 20, 2023.
  8. “Our Mission.” Accessed March 20, 2023.
  9. “Partners.” Accessed March 18, 2023.
  10. “Partners.” Accessed March 18, 2023.
  11. “Staff.” Accessed March 18, 2023.
  12. “Staff.” Accessed March 18, 2023.

Donor Organizations

  1. Ford Foundation (Non-profit)
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Youth First State Advocacy Fund

Washington, DC