Wednesday, January 11, 2017

When Is the New Year Again?

This week's guest column by Daniela Grigioni examines how uncertainty at the federal level, from the congressional budget to the presidential transition, impacts local service delivery. A shorter version of this op-ed runs this week in the Current.

Across the diverse community that is Washington, DC, we’re lucky to have multiple opportunities to mark the New Year. There’s New Year’s Day on January 1, but there’s also the Chinese New Year coming up at the end of January. In September, we’ll mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the Islamic or Hijri New Year.

Congress enjoys the liberty to set its own calendar. And while the examples above are fixed annual traditions, when it comes to the federal budget and the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year, we’ll soon be marking our third "New Year’s Day" of the year. The first was on October 1, 2016, the official start of the 2017 fiscal year. Unfortunately, Congress elected not to pass a full FY17 budget, adopting instead a short-term spending bill that funded the government for nine weeks, thus avoiding a budget fight in the midst of the presidential campaign. When that funding expired on December 9, our second "New Year’s Day" for the 2017 fiscal year, Congress opted for another short-term measure to carry the government through most of April, leaving funding for the end of the 2017 fiscal year – May through September – unresolved.

Federal Policies, Local Impacts
Federal grants play a huge role in my work — providing afterschool programs for children. The federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative provides funds to DC and to the states, which in turn award grants to community-center or school-based afterschool programs. The After-School All-Stars DC program at Charles Hart Middle School is lucky enough to receive a 21st CCLC grant that makes all the difference to the participating children, and to their families. 

Coming from some of the most impoverished areas in DC, students at Hart are able to enjoy art exploration, dance, athletics, mentoring, a phenomenal class in Healthy Eating run by a professional chef, a farm-to-table garden project, singing and performing, spoken word and poetry, in addition to a partnership with TechBridge, an organization that exposes young girls to the sciences. As part of the afterschool programming, children learn about many careers they might not otherwise, as well as college campuses and college life, and they join in service projects, and meet volunteers and mentors who help them develop leadership skills and the competencies necessary to be competitive on the college and job market.

But running a good program depends not just on having the funding, but also on being able to plan for what funding you’ll have. The federal delay in adopting a full-year budget means DC and the states won’t know how much money they’ll have for 21st CCLC grants until April, seven months into the fiscal year. They may guard against the prospect that Congress might decide to cut funding for afterschool programs, in some cases by holding off on making any grants at all until they know exactly what kind of resources they’ll have. Indeed, if funding were cut, this source of safe, healthy and enriching activities might just disappear. Many children would return to an empty home or remain in the streets and, for many who receive meals through their afterschool program, dinner would be uncertain.

Cost of Uncertainty
Who knows what to expect in the new budget? Every transition brings uncertainty and this one is no exception. The President-elect will have new initiatives, and presumably some cuts to propose, and Congress should and will have its say. We can certainly hope that something as important and worthy as support for afterschool programs never ends up on the chopping block. 

Still, having multiple fiscal New Year’s Days comes at a cost, and the uncertainty it creates for afterschool — and for other essential funding streams – is one of them.  Our students, our families, our workforce, and our country itself suffer with this kind of uncertainty.  In the context of these challenges, it is extremely important that we afterschool providers remind ourselves and others of the value of out-of-school-time programs.  In many communities, we are an anchor for young people and their families; we guarantee a constant and safe presence of service and care; we keep on leveling the playing field for disadvantaged youth.

At After-School All-Stars we’ve tried to diversify our connections.  We work hard on creating volunteer opportunities so that professionals from different walks of life can meet our students and understand how positively afterschool programs impact their lives.  As service providers, we need to continue to expose our work to policy makers, the private sector, the business community and the philanthropic community.

At a time when there aren’t nearly enough afterschool programs to meet the need, our federal budget process should provide certainty and support – not present additional challenges.

Daniela Grigioni is the Executive Director of After-School All-Stars DC. She is a 2016-17 Afterschool Ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

If this Year was a Youth

And by this year, we mean 17.

If this year was a youth, we thought we’d paint a partial picture of what a 17 year old and their peers might be experiencing.

To begin with, a 17 year old, as part of the general youth population in the District, is among 107,989 residents under the age of 18. That is 17% of the population in our city are youth. In a group of 100 youth, 43 of them come from a single mother family and 28 are children living in poverty. 63% are black, 19% are white, 14% are hispanic, &12% identify as other.

For every 1,000 youth, at least 5 are experiencing homelessness at any given time during the year. And of the at least 545 youth experiencing homelessness at any given time in DC, 43% self-identified as LGBTQ.

For a 17 year old, 69% of their class will have graduated high school within four years.

About 8,300 young people in the District are categorized as disconnected youth, meaning they are neither in school nor employed. This represents 9% of all District youth 16 to 24.

Only 12% of 16–19 year olds and 59.7% of 20–24 year olds were able to find paid, unsubsidized work in 2015.

Finally, 17 year olds in DC could be among the few in the country that are able to vote, should the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015 be reintroduced and adopted.

If they follow trends in Takoma Park and Hyattsville, voter turn out for 17 year olds would be higher than adults:
So far in Takoma Park, younger-voter participation has been impressive. In the 2013 election there, 44 percent of registered 16- and 17-year-olds voted, compared with just 11 percent of all voters 18 and older. In Hyattsville, 16- and 17-year-olds also participated at more than twice the rate of their 18-and-older counterparts.

So as we enter 2017, we’d like to hear from you 17 year olds about what you see in your community, and what kind of change you’d want to see occur, and finally, if given a chance to vote to make that change happen, would you?

What about you adults? What does giving 16-17 year olds the vote make you think about? What would be the challenges and the opportunities? And until they, how can we all be better advocates for youth to ensure that they can thrive into adulthood?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It's Raining Wins, Hallelujah!

For our final blog of the year, we thought we'd share some of the recent wins that blew our collective minds, just at the beginning of this month, in case you didn't see the email our Executive Director sent out last week.

461 Youth Earned A State Diploma

On Saturday December 3rd, the first cohort of GED recipients in the District were awarded their State Diplomas. We couldn’t be more proud of their hard work- or more thankful for the hundreds of youth and partners that helped to pass that policy through the SBOE. This graduation celebration for State Diploma recipients marked the culmination of their persistence and resilience, and we’re confident it marks one of many more accomplishments on their path to success.

We’re leading the way on out of school time

On Tuesday December 6th, the Office of Youth Outcomes and Grants Establishment Act of 2016, which sets out the system to redevelop and cohesively/effectively support and fund before, after and summer programming passed unanimously through a first Council vote; protecting AND expanding these critical services for the nearly 38,000 at risk students.

We are on the forefront of ending youth homelessness

On  Tuesday December 13, the DC Interagency Council passed the “Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness” (CPEYH...We’re still looking for a better title and acronym), a five year programmatic and funding strategy designed to grow a safety net system to ensure youth homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring. For the nearly 600 youth on any given night in DC experiencing homelessness or housing instability- that is a literal life changing, and potentially lifesaving, service and support.

Not a bad way to begin the end of the year! But also a sign of why the year-round support of individuals like you is so important.

These kind of wins happen all year round. And if you'd like to ensure that we are able to be as nimble and responsive to opportunities like this, but also able to do the groundwork in the months leading up to these wins, to move the bar forward for DC youth:

Thank you, and see you in 2017.

- Your DCAYA family

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

DCAYA's Top Ten Blog Posts of 2016

To wrap up the year, we thought we'd take a look back at our Top Ten most read blogs for 2016, beginning at number 10!!

10) FY2017 Budget Asks, 3/31/16

As you know, our asks take a look at the Mayor's proposed budget, incorporate our own policy analysis and research, and are a mix of requests:
  • to maintain what is in the Mayor's budget,
  • to increase the amount of funding to appropriate levels, and at times
  • to insert funding that isn't included at all.
Our asks for the current fiscal year included Transportation Support, Educational Data Capacity, Youth Workforce Development, Youth Homelessness, and Expanded Learning. Little would we know that the latter ask, as it related to allocation to the DC Trust, would be part of a completely new landscape the following month.

9) Local Funding for Local Opportunity: The Role & Vision of the DC Trust in Expanded Learning, 3/9/16

9 months later, it's pretty interesting to see how the core values shared in this post continue to be a part of the conversation, as legislation for an Office of Youth Outcomes and Grants is in the midst of the markup process, following the dissolution of the DC Trust.. From our community providers, several themes that emerged were:
  • The impact of expanded learning programs on achievement outcomes
  • The capacity of community partnerships to maximize resources
  • The need for stable local funding intermediaries
So although the landscape might be a different one, as our community and representatives finalize what a new youth development entity looks like, the direction and purpose of our work remains constant.

8) A transcript of the Kojo Nnamdi Show's segment on the DC Trust, 5/4/16

Our next most read blog was simply a transcript of a Kojo Nnamdi Show segment focused on the DC Trust, what went wrong and what's next. One of his guests included Andria Tobin, Executive Director of Kid Power Inc, but also a member of DCAYA's Board of Directors. On one our favorite quotes from the show, from Andria:
"So we want to make sure that there’s a really thought out plan to make sure those funds are protected for many nonprofits and youth in the District, one that is collaborative and strategic, and is flexible and innovative in the way that the Trust was designed to be."
7) Lights On Afterschool: 4 Questions with DC Afterschool Ambassador Daniela Grigioni, 10/19/16

This month's blog took a closer look at afterschool, in an interview with Daniela Grigioni, who had been selected as one of 15 leaders from across the nation to serve as a 2016-2017 Afterschool Ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance. This is the third of our blogs in the top ten which related to Expanded Learning. This is one of our four main issue areas, and has to do with learning outside of the classroom, particularly after the school day and over the summer.

6) Homeless Youth Census: Data-Driven Advocacy Calls for Greater Investment to End Youth Homelessness, 3/2/16

As with many of our efforts, the need for accurate, robust, and timely data leads to better advocacy. And the Homeless Youth Census is both a great example and a relatively recent success. Benefits of this census highlighted in the 2015 Report Fact Sheet were that it:

  • Provides understanding of the number of youth experiencing homelessness in the District
  • Informs the various and complex needs of youth experiencing homelessness and help bring solutions to scale
  • Educates key stakeholders of where resources should be allocated
What's especially wonderful looking back at this post was another very recent success we highlighted in last week's blog post, that the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness voted to approve the 5-year Comprehensive Plan to end youth homelessness.

It should be no surprise that one of our most read blog posts was an update regarding the hearing schedule set by DC Council, which is our primary advocacy season. We've already been planning for the FY2017 hearings over the past several months, which included our regular community input sessions across our four issue areas as well as a special effort to move the Office of Youth Outcomes and Grants legislation forward so that an FY2018 budget has somewhere to put Out-of-School Time funding.

This month, we re-released #ExpandLearningDC, our policy and funding framework for afterschool and summer learning in DC, originally posted in April. The report had been updated following the vote that month by the DC Trust’s Board of Directors to dissolve the organization. This version also used updated data to better reflect trends in out-of-school time access within DCPS.

3) #ExpandLearningDC, 1/28/16

Even more read than the previous blog post, was our first Expanded Learning post of the year. As you can tell from this year's highlights, our work is definitely more of a marathon rather than a sprint. Although our main advocacy season happens during regular times each year, not only is there a tremendous amount of work that is required to prepare for and then evaluate after hearings, but there are also the unplanned events and developments that we have to monitor and respond to, like the dissolution of the DC Trust. And this refers not just to DCAYA's staff of four, but the hundreds of member organizations whom we do our work with.

2) Leading the Way in Youth Workforce Development!, 8/3/16

The runner-up to our top read blog post for 2016 was our recap of a joint program we have with the Institute for Educational Leadership, the Youth Workforce Leaders Academy aka YWLA. Through in-person learning sessions with national and local experts, online discussions, capstone projects, individual professional development action planning, and facilitated peer-to-peer learning, participants will significantly expanded and grew their expertise in providing high quality youth workforce development services This post recapped the year with our 2nd cadre, and recognized each individual in this post.

1) New Year, New Resolutions, 1/6/16

Our most read post was our first one of 2016, a light-hearted start to the year, using GIFs to animate some New Year's Resolutions we wanted to make, both personally and professionally.

And THAT was 2016! We hope you enjoyed this look down memory lane, as we look ahead to 2017. We also hope you may have learned a bit more, not just about our work highlighted at various points throughout the year, but how it all ties together. And this work is only possible, because of the year-round engagement of our members and support from our community.

If you would like to support us during this holiday season, please consider showing your support with a donation, and thank you in advance!

- Your DCAYA Team

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DC ICH Votes to Approve 5-year Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness

At the December 13 quarterly meeting of the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), members agreed by unanimous voice vote to adopt the ICH Youth Subcommittee’s Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness (short title TBD). 

The youth plan will complement the ICH’s Homeward DC plan which addresses homelessness among adults and families. The ICH Council’s approval of the plan is a culmination of more than six years of community efforts to bring youth homelessness in the District to light, and to meet that awareness with dedicated action. 

For DCAYA, the first major benchmark was reached in November 2011 with our release of From the Streets to Stability: A study of youth homelessness in the District of Columbia. Before that time, little to no concrete information was available related to the issue of youth homelessness in DC – in terms of the size of the population, or the unique needs and characteristics of homeless youth. The report highlighted the need for a more services and for a diverse array of supportive services and programs for youth, and the groundbreaking effort led to more people taking notice over the next several years. It was followed up in October 2013 with a community coalition-led Bold Strategy to End Youth Homelessness.

In May 2014, DC Council passed the End Youth Homelessness Amendment Act, requiring a new youth drop-in center and a street outreach program, a new intake system to ensure that there is no “wrong door” for youth seeking support, more beds for youth in crisis, a publicly-funded Homeless Youth Census to be completed annually, and finally, a community-wide comprehensive plan to end youth homelessness.

The Youth Plan: Vision Statement and Benchmarks

With the groundwork laid by the 2014 legislation, the District now has the start of structures and supports needed to end youth homelessness. This goal does not mean that a youth will never experience housing instability or homelessness again. Rather, it means that our community will have a system in place to prevent homelessness for youth whenever possible, and if literal homelessness cannot be prevented, to ensure that the youth’s homelessness is brief and non-recurring, with access to stable housing within an average of 60 days or less.

This is vision statement for the Comprehensive Plan: By 2022, youth homelessness in the District will be a rare, brief, and nonrecurring experience.

For youth experiencing homelessness, their housing crisis comes at a key point in their development into independent adults. Recognizing this difference between youth and adults, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has developed core outcomes for youth that go beyond resolving the youth’s housing crisis to also helping them with building permanent connections, achieving education and employment goals, and developing social-emotional well-being. Addressing these core outcomes will require a community-wide effort with the involvement of partners in the District beyond the usual stakeholders in the homeless system.

The plan lays out specific benchmarks to assess progress toward the vision, including:
  1. Our community has ended chronic homelessness among youth;
  2. Our community has a system in place to identify all youth experiencing homelessness;
  3. Our community has the ability to provide immediate access to developmentally appropriate emergency shelter for any youth without a safe place to stay;
  4. Our community connects youth to stable housing as quickly as possible; and,
  5. Our community provides Transitional Housing only for youth that prefer it, and that Transitional Housing is stable, does not have barriers to entry, and has high rates of exit to permanent housing.

What’s Next

The ICH will be formally releasing the plan in early 2017. The plan will be published to include a series of short vignettes written by District youth experiencing homelessness, and there is also a contest underway for youth to determine a name for the plan. 

The plan also lays out more than 40 key strategies which DC agencies and community partners will undertake in the coming years. The ICH’s youth subcommittee will continue meeting monthly in 2017 to work across youth-serving agencies, community-based organizations, local advocacy partners, and young people from the community to support the key strategy work. And as performance and budget hearings approach in the spring, DCAYA will be crafting an advocacy agenda in strong support of achieving the plan’s benchmarks.

To stay informed about the plan’s 2017 release and the title contest, or to find out more about the work of the ICH Youth Subcommittee and DCAYA’s advocacy, please contact Joseph Gavrilovich, Senior Policy Analyst.