Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Where Does the Money Go?

With the intent to outline the funding streams that sustain reconnection opportunities for DC youth, the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA), in partnership with The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, releases “Connecting Youth to Opportunity: A Resource Map for the District’s Disconnected Youth Dollars.” The network of services navigated by disconnected youth is complex, with the District offering several programs and services across eight city agencies. The resource map is a tool for those seeking to utilize the District’s resources most effectively and to understand the complexities behind funding this unique, at-risk population. It is important to note that due to the budget process and ability to track actual vs. budgeted expenses, the roadmap is based on 2012 and 2013 budgets. However, we will be updating the roadmap annually to better provide tracking and trends on spending and access. So with that caveat,  what does this initial roadmap tell us about DC’s inventory of reconnection services? DCAYA has three key take-aways:

First, while cross agency coordination has improved to a degree, there still remains room for improvement. In order to capture the dynamic needs of youth and maximize investments in our public systems, agencies must collaborate to share services, expertise, and resources. One example, which is seen in the funding map, is the Pathways for Young Adults program. The Department of Employment Services (DOES) is partnering with the Community College of the District of Columbia (UDCC) to address the needs of disconnected youth by supplementing traditional occupational training with the chance to learn key life skills. Intentional partnerships between our workforce system and sister agencies is necessary if we are going to build a comprehensive and efficient workforce development system that youth can readily access and transition through as their needs evolve.

Second, the resource map also reveals a severe scarcity of year-round programming specific to disconnected young people. While as of 2012, just under $12,000,000 is spent on the six-week-long Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), less than $5,000,000 was slated for year-round workforce development training for out-of-school youth. Even though adult training programs are available for youth over 18, the rate at which youth access these programs is low, given their overrepresentation in our unemployment rate. Higher-need, less-skilled youth require modified programming that meets them where they’re at. We need to invest in year round training and job placement services that are designed to meet the unique needs of the disconnected youth population.

Third, and perhaps one of the most poignant pieces of the map, is the lack of local funding directed to youth who face the greatest risks of disconnection at key points of transition, like aging out of foster care, exiting the juvenile justice system, becoming young parents, or acclimating as first generation immigrations. We know these youth are especially vulnerable to disconnection and the resources and support they require are often a bit different and deeper than their peers. Yet, the District invests less than $1,500,000 in local dollars to these particularly high risk populations, while federal funds only account for $5,191,409 more.

In reviewing the resource roadmap and comparing various agency programs side-by-side, it is easy to see the startling reality of where the gaps and opportunities lie for disconnected youth. By understanding the various funding streams within our system of reconnection foundations, community advocates and policymakers can target future investments and strengthen our ability to intervene early and effectively. Join us in working with the Council to ensure that the 2015 budget includes strategic investments that connect youth to opportunities.

View "Connecting Youth to Opportunity: A Resource Map of the District's Disconnected Youth Dollars."  

Amy Dudas is the disconnected youth and workforce development policy analyst at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. This FY'15 budget season, Amy will be citing trends in disconnected youth funding to advocate for the support of a re-engagement center in conjunction with funding to grow capacity in alternative education programs.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Budget Breakdown: What Mayor Gray's Proposed Budget Means for Children and Youth

As you likely heard, Mayor Gray released the proposed DC Budget for 2015 last Thursday. The multi-billion dollar budget proposal is now before Council where, through a series of upcoming public hearings and advocacy meetings, it will be debated and tweaked by Council Committees before it goes to a final vote.

To inform our budget asks for 2015, DCAYA spent the last few days reading through each agency budget to identify major changes. We found a few pockets of great investments, and a few areas that will need loud community voices in the coming weeks. Here's what we've found so far:

Education: Please note the DCPS budget format was dramatically overhauled this year and it will take us a bit more time to work though. In the meantime, here are a few broad takeaways.

DC Public Schools and Public Charter Schools  
  • $112,000,000 in new funding for DC Public Schools (DCPS) and the District’s public charter schools (PCS), including $60,000,000 million in funding targeted to at risk students.
  • A $409,000,000 investment for ongoing citywide school modernization.
  • $880,000 to add three additional career academies in IT, engineering, and hospitality.
  • A major increase in the number of middle school counselors, budget mark pending.
Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE):
  • Due to a decrease in a number of federal grants, OSSE’s overall budget will be reduced by $25,697,297. This will impact a number of OSSE’s offices and programs. DCAYA is still waiting for more information on these cuts.  
  • Funding to services designed to promote success in post secondary education including DC TAG, AP Test Fee Funding the College Access Challenge Grant went up by $9,788,000.
DCAYA Ask: Given the overall complexity of the Education Budget, we are continuing to work through our final asks for this year. We’ll be sure to post additional information here and on our website as soon as possible. In the meantime, DC Appleseed just released a great report and recommendations on the need for robust investments in Adult Basic Education, and as always, our friends at DCFPI have a number of great blogs up that look at the Mayor’s entire budget.

Youth Homelessness and Safety Net Services:
  • Although we’re still waiting to hear final numbers on supports for Homeless and unaccompanied youth and young parents; last year’s budget for this population was $6,022,691. Given the investments made by the LGBTQ Housing Program we would anticipate this number to rise by close to $400,000 this year. We’ll update you as we learn more.
  • The overall budget for homeless families shows a decrease. While the budget does include a $1,000,000 increase to both emergency rental assistance and rapid re-housing, this investment will not cover the loss of nearly $600,000 in federal funding traditionally used to provide critical safety net services for homeless families. 
  • Funding to mental health services for children and youth through the Department of Behavioral Health also saw a massive increase of $23,689,000.
  • The DC Kids Ride Free Program was increased by $2,000,000.
DCAYA Ask: With 48% of homeless families headed by a parent aged 24 years and younger, our city faced a mounting crisis this winter. While we applaud the commitment of this Mayor to invest in truly affordable housing and the 500 Families in 100 days initiative, we remain committed to ensuring young heads of household and unaccompanied youth receive the level of support they need to succeed long term. We must remember that many of these young parents and individuals are simply not prepared financially or emotionally to live alone. We will continue to advocate for the adoption of our $10,000,000 investment in prevention, reunification and long-term supports for this vulnerable population.

Expanded Learning and Youth Development:
  • Despite early indications that the Trust’s budget could see an increase in the Mayor’s proposed budget, funding remained flat at $3,000,000.
DCAYA Ask: We stand by our initial recommendation that the Children Youth Investment Trust Corporation should be funded at $8,000,000. This is the funding level necessary to maintain its current grant making, capacity building and agency coordination efforts.

Youth Workforce:
  • Funding to the DOES Summer Youth Employment Program increased by $634,000.
  • Unfortunately, year round programming provided by DOES was cut by $1,943,000 due to a loss in federal funding that was not replaced with local dollars.
  • The end of a contract between OSSE and DOES has removed $4,153,000 in Post-Secondary Education and Workforce Readiness funding from the OSSE budget. The impact of this cut is somewhat unknown at this time, with more information to follow.
  • On a brighter note though, although this isn’t possible to find in the budget document, the Mayor’s Office Reported making an additional $2,500,000 investment in workforce programming at the Community College of the District of Columbia.
DCAYA Ask: While the investment in the community college is fantastic, the failure to invest local funds into the year round youth workforce programming is troubling. DCAYA will push for stable funding for this program and also recommends that the increase in SYEP be transferred to the year round program.

Disconnected Youth:
DCAYA Ask: This budget is insufficient to support a fully functioning REC. The DCAYA’s analysis recommended $689,000 in public funding (this relies on at minimum $115,000of in-kind donations from various government agencies and foundations). We are continuing to push for the full investment recognizing that as proposed, the Mayor’s budget would hire three staff and support almost no additional resources for a REC.  In addition, we continue to push for $1,500,000 to support additional capacity in our alternative education programs. Without more seats, there will be very few educational programs for youth to reconnect to. Because funding in DCPS' budget is still unclear, progress in this area is uncertain. We'll continue to update you.

DC Alliance of Youth Advocates envisions a community where no youth is considered at-risk and where all are respected as valued members of society. Facilitating robust community input on the DC Budget to ensure smart, stable funding that positively impacts DC youth is a major part of our work. Please check our website calendar for opportunities to have your voice heard in the upcoming DC Council Budget Hearings 

Friday, April 04, 2014

Ride Along with Ay

Excerpt from the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates report "Connecting Youth to Opportunity: Better Understanding the Needs of Disconnected Young People in Washington, DC":

The DCAYA survey asked questions specifically about transportation, as it has been a consistent concern among providers that work with at-risk youth. Students use a variety of transportation options in getting to school/programs (bus, metro, car, foot), and as a result there was variability to the costs associated with transportation. Nonetheless, nearly one-third (29%) of students reported spending more than $30 a week or $120 a month getting to and from school. Equally concerning, 47% of survey respondents who spent more than $30 a week came from Wards 5, 7, or 8. While young people who are connected to a traditional K–12 school are eligible for some transportation subsidies from the DC Government, these subsidies do not extend to young people older than age 22 or those who take classes outside of the traditional school calendar. Given the low earning power for many students, and the level of participation in non-traditional programs, the reality is that transportation costs may be a prohibitive factor in a student’s ability to re-connect.


My name is Ay, pronounced literally by the letters, so A-y. I go to School Without Walls, and yes we have walls. I plan on doing a lot of things in the future but my central focus is to be a lawyer. 

Leaving so early is kind of scary. Especially when there’s no one around. But you get use to it and speed walking is a nice exercise! I never take the bus to the metro because I find it to be extremely unreliable.

Sometimes when you have to walk to the metro things don’t always go your way. Especially in the winter. The one path that takes me to the metro fastest likes to freeze up and turn to ice. Then I have to circle all the way around.

If you hear there’s a problem on the red line (which is about every other week) you gotta leave even earlier to make it to school. If not, you get stuck waiting for the train. Sometimes you have to get off because of “mechanical problems” and board another train that is already crowded. So you squish together like sardines.

A lot of times the bus decides to come 50 minutes after it’s suppose to be here. How am I supposed to be on time if my transportation method isn't? Sometimes I can’t take the train and have to rely on a bus. But it’s never the better alternative.

Guest blogger Ay participates in the youth development program Brainfood, which uses food as a tool to build life skills and promote healthy living. Her favorite Brainfood dish is Jamaican beef patties. Super delicious! 

By taking snapchats and telling snippets, readers may get a sense of a youth's daily commute around DC. If you know of a youth who would like to be a guest blogger for DCAYA, please contact the multimedia and communications manager Angela Massino at 

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook, SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What It Takes to Connect Youth to Opportunities

Below is an excerpt from the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates Disconnected Youth One-Pager. Throughout the month of April, DCAYA will post blogs examining the effects of disconnection and proven methods to reconnect youth to workforce and educational opportunities. You can download a printable version of the one-pager to share with others here


Despite recent attempts to dramatically improve public education, “roughly three out of ten American high school students do not graduate in four years.”[i] Of those who do graduate, one-third are unprepared for college-level academics.[ii] Moreover, “recent evidence suggests that students who eventually drop out of school “are doing so in earlier grades and at lower skill levels – some even too low to be able to take the GED.”[iii] 

Several factors contribute to youth getting off track before achieving a high school diploma. A history of poor academic performance, chronic truancy, negative school “push-out” policies regarding suspension and expulsion, pressing responsibilities at home, and/or the need to earn an income, are all causes of disconnection. 

In 2010, the city already claimed more than 4,500 TANF recipients between the ages of 18 and 25 and that number is likely to be much higher today.[ix] If we do not address the needs of these young people now, we condemn them to a lifetime of hardship and instability and a reliance on government benefits.

This issue is at a crisis level in DC. Young people who lack educational credentials and work experience are less likely to become self-sufficient adults, and in many cases these young people already have children of their own, exacerbating the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

  • In 2012-2013 only 64% of the city’s young people graduated high school within four years[iv] and college completion rates remained well below the national average.[v]
  • District youth struggled to find entry-level employment opportunities which serve as important foundations for lifelong success. Only 25% of 16–19 year olds and 68% of 20–24 year olds were currently working or actively seeking work in 2012.[vi]
  • Over 14,000 young people in the District (ages of 16 - 24) were able to be categorized as “disconnected youth”-meaning they were neither enrolled in school nor were they employed.[vii]
  • In a 2013 DCAYA survey, 60% of disconnected youth were trying to re-engage in school or had in the past, suggesting that they will make many attempts to get back on track. [viii]

  • Follow the example of cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago by consolidating access to information and services for disconnected youth at a re-engagement center in the District. In providing a “one-stop-shop,” disconnected youth gain access to well-trained staff that provides the latest information on educational programming options and workforce development training. At the same point of entry, disconnected youth can also be guided to the long-term, wrap-around services necessary to sustain reconnection including housing supports, childcare, and income or food assistance. 
  • Expand the capacity of non-traditional, alternative education and workforce development programs. Considering that the compounded factors that lead a youth to disconnect are likely to re-emerge in a traditional school or work environment, it’s critical to offer programming that prioritizes the incorporation of real-world context and a pathway towards long-term success. By continuing to undertake research efforts to ascertain where to build capacity within existing programs, while also soliciting the opinions of youth to determine their needs, policymakers will continue to “scale-up” successful programming within the system of reconnection. 
  • Improve data sharing between systems that young people disconnect from and programs currently serving disconnected youth. As the current system exists, youth might plug into programs in their efforts to reconnect, but very little of the information gathered on services and outcomes is shared system-wide. This leaves an information gap on “who” these youth are, what subpopulations are most high-risk for disconnection, and what programmatic approaches should be implemented system-wide as best practices. 
  • Support efforts that focus on long-term engagement and success. In order to sustain youth re-engagement, it’s important to support efforts that give youth the opportunity to “bridge” from one level of service to the next in their pursuit of long-term success. In connecting organizations and service providers to each other’s work, a comprehensive system of re-engagement emerges, and a clear path forward insulates youth from further disconnection. 
  • Establish formal mechanisms to solicit the opinions of youth. In addition to a commitment to collect outcomes data, the opinions of youth must be solicited to effectively tailor programming to their dynamic needs. The input of youth will inform program improvement, solidify best practices, and demonstrate how to replicate efforts across the system of re-engagement. 
  • Create a comprehensive system of disconnected youth service provision. A sustained and successful re-engagement effort hinges on communication and adaptability between the many programs, agencies, and organizations that serve disconnected youth. By agreeing to comparable indicators of success, establishing a network of referrals and shared resources, and sharing data about the dynamic population they serve, these entities will hone their understanding and ability to meet disconnected youth where they are.

[i] Youth Transitions Funders Group, Closing the Graduation Gap: A Superintendent’s Guide for Planning Multiple Pathways to Graduation.
[ii] Bridgeland, J., DiIulio, J., & Morison, K. (2006). The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts. Washington, DC: Civic Enterprises, LLC,
[iii] Youth Transitions Funders Group, Ibid; Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia’s Dropout Crisis, 2000-2005. Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Youth Network, The Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania,; Planty, M., Provasnik, S., & Daniel, B. (2007). High School Coursetaking: Findings from the Condition of Education 2007. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics,
[iv] Office of the State Superintendent for Education. “Official Graduation Rates SY 2012-2013 “”
[v] TAG Data
[vi] Raise DC Analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011 Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Accessed 04/20/13 at
[vii] American Community Survey, 2009
[viii] DCAYA, 2013. Connecting Youth to Opportunity. Retrieved from DCAYA website:
[ix] DC Deptartment of Human Services, Income Maintenance Administration, Automated Client Eligibility Determination System, TAN,F Recipient Adults by Sex and Age - FY 2011 

DC Alliance of Youth Advocates released a report in the Fall of 2013, "Connecting Youth to Opportunity." Youth focus groups and surveys were conducted to ask young people about the challenges they face leading to disconnection and the barriers preventing them from reconnecting. The full report can be found on the DCAYA website.

 For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook, SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at