Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Tuesday is next week, after Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The DC Alliance of Youth Advocates is once again participating in #GivingTuesday (December 1st!). With Black Friday and Cyber Monday focused on "getting", Giving Tuesday is a global day dedicated to giving. And for many DC youth, what adults and organizations in their community give is the only way they get access to high-quality and affordable developmental opportunities.

Last year, more than 27,000 organizations in 68 countries came together to celebrate #GivingTuesday.  Since its founding in 2012, #GivingTuesday has inspired giving around the world, resulting in greater donations, volunteer hours, and activities that bring about real change in communities.

So we are asking you to save the date and join this global movement by continuing to support our local work. Consider giving $15 in '15.

Our goal for #GivingTuesday is  $1,500. With your help and only 99 other DCAYA friends and supporters, we will easily hit this target, if not surpass it! We hope you'll join us in kicking off our end-of year campaign to ensure that youth have a unified and powerful voice in the decisions that impact their lives.

Here is the link to our Giving Tuesday campaign page:

Please bookmark the link, take a second to visit and give on Tuesday, December 1 and if you can, share why you support DCAYA on our Facebook page or by mentioning us on Twitter.

And if you'd like to print out a sign like the one JR is holding above to share your own reason for giving, you can print it from here. Whatever you do, however you share your support, don't forget to use the hashtags #GivingTuesday or #GiveLikeALocal!

Again, a successful campaign on December 1st will go far in ensuring our community starts the new year with our best foot forward: While this might be the end of 2015, what you give today will be the key to the beginning of new opportunities for many youth in the District.

So save the date, and get ready to give to DC youth, by giving here on Giving Tuesday.

P.S. In case you want to give while you get, before Giving Tuesday, you can do so at Amazon Smile. Just click on this link first:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Critical Time for Action: Support #DiplomaBound Youth!

A Call to Action for students pursuing a GED or NEDP, alternative and adult education providers! 

As we’ve been sharing since last winter, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) has been considering a series of proposals that would allow the Office of the State Superintendent ofEducation (OSSE) to award diplomas to nontraditional students, such as adult students and students attending alternative schools, who have passed the General Educational Development (GED) Test or the National External DiplomaProgram (NEDP). After a yearlong process, the SBOE will vote on these proposed regulations to create a State Diploma at their monthly meeting this evening.

Ahead of tonight’s vote, we need your support to ensure the SBOE votes in favor of the State Diploma as a critical element of the District’s second-chance system for reengaging youth and adult learners. Here’s our streamlined advocacy plan:

Why does the District need a State Diploma to support alternative students?

Disconnected youth face distinct barriers when trying to return to school to receive a traditional diploma.

  • The bulk of DC’s “second chance” programs (those that offer wraparound services in addition to educational instruction) offer GED preparation, not credit towards a diploma.
  • Traditional high schools offer less flexibility in scheduling, a particular barrier for young parents or young people who are under financial pressure to help support their families. 
  • If youth are over 21, they can no longer attend traditional high schools, leaving them with limited educational options. 

Preparing for and passing the GED or completing the NEDP are critical alternative options for re-engaging students. 

While the GED became much more rigorous in 2013, as reflected in its alignment to the Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, the test is still seen by some employers as an “easy way out” of mastering high school skills. This perception puts GED recipients at an even greater disadvantage when applying for jobs even though passing the GED and achieving a high school diploma demonstrates comparable mastery of the same core competencies. This perception has led to staggering inequities for GED students in terms of employability and earning power. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, GED certificate holders had significantly lower earnings ($3,100 per month) than those who earned a traditional high school diploma ($4,700 per month) regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, or age.

So what will the proposed regulations do for DC youth?

By issuing a State Diploma upon completion of the GED or NEDP, students have an alternative pathway to demonstrating mastery of high school concepts and competencies. The State Diploma will open doors for the over 8,000 youth (ages 16 – 24) in DC who are not currently enrolled in school or other educational programs.

  • The State Diploma will enhance the regional competitiveness of DC’s youth and adult learners. Maryland already offers a State Diploma for GED attainment, and Virginia’s robust alternative education system functions as a pipeline to local employers. The State Diploma will help ensure that District residents applying for the same position as a resident of MD or VA has a comparable credential that demonstrates mastery of the same core competencies. In fact, 13 other states offer a State Diploma for GED/NEDP completion.
  • The State Diploma will aid in de-stigmatizing alternative pathways to high school competency. We know that a traditional high school diploma opens far more postsecondary education and employment opportunities than a GED credential alone, despite the increased rigor of the GED since 2013. Youth who obtain a traditional diploma often find work more easily and have more earning power than those who master similar concepts through the GED track. According to the 2009 Census, high school diploma holders earned approximately $4,700 in mean monthly earnings compared with GED certificate holders, who earned $3,100.

How can we ensure these regulations become District policy?

In order to ensure agile advocacy on the State Diploma, we’ve carved out our strategy in the case tonight’s meeting goes in one of the following three ways. In any case it’s important that will fill social media and the SBOE members’ inboxes with our support ahead of tonight’s vote at 5:30. To do so, please reference our updated Advocacy Guide (SECTION IV) for a social media guide with sample tweets and a sample email to reach out individually to the SBOE members. Make sure your SBOE representatives know you support the State Diploma with thunderous tweets and emails!

Remember to use the hashtag #DiplomaBound so the conversation is loud and clear on Twitter.

Here are our strategy plans based on the three possible ways tonight’s vote could go:

     1.     SBOE follows through tonight on a first and single vote on the creation of a State Diploma:
·       Advocates convene at the meeting to show support for the State Diploma.
o   Advocates can reference the Advocacy Guide to bolster their social media and email support.

      2.     If the SBOE votes in favor of the State Diploma tonight, but also requires a second vote once the 30 day public comment period passes on the proposed State Diploma regulations from OSSE:
·       Advocates maintain pressure on the SBOE to vote in favor of the State Diploma via social media and direct engagement.
·       Advocates engage with Council, and urge them to move forward on a legislative approach to creating the State Diploma. A bill was introduced and moved to the Committee on Education earlier this year to create the State Diploma.

      3.     If the SBOE votes no tonight and does not schedule a second vote on the State Diploma for December:
·       Advocates sign onto a letter expressing our appreciation of the SBOE’s work on this issue, but state that the urgency of the issue requires that we turn to Council for support in moving the State Diploma forward.
·       Advocates engage with Council, and urge them to move forward on a legislative approach to creating the State Diploma. A bill was introduced and moved to the Committee on Education earlier this year to create the State Diploma.

Together, we can make sure DC creates educational pathways so all hard working residents can be #DiplomaBound as a first step towards their lifelong success. Ask the SBOE to vote “YES” on OSSE’s proposed regulations to amend current District graduation requirements.

Follow our Disconnected Youth & Youth Workforce Development Policy Analyst Amy Dudas at @amy_dudas and @DCAYA on twitter to stay updated on the progress of the State Diploma. 

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, November 11, 2015

A Bumpy Road to Self-Sustaining Employment: Paving the Way for Homeless Youth

As a continuation of our participation in Youth Homelessness Awareness Month, we'd like to take this week to highlight an important intersection of two of DCAYA's Issue Areas: Youth Homelessness and Youth Workforce Development. For many youth in the District and across the country, experiencing homelessness for short or extended periods of time can add significant barriers to their ability to connect to and thrive within workforce development programming. This week we're joined by guest blogger Amy Louttit from the National Network for Youth to elevate the challenges homeless youth experience in accessing workforce development opportunities and to highlight some areas of potential progress for this vulnerable population.

Barriers to Employment for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

The barriers that youth who are experiencing homelessness face when trying to access jobs and career pathways are diverse and profound. At the front end of the process to engage in the employment and workforce training necessary to be self-sufficient and seek affordable housing options, many of these youth lack the basic required documentation. A result of the transiency of their lives in general, as well as the fact that many of the minors do not have a parent or guardian to sign necessary documents, many homeless youth lack access to the social security cards, birth certificates and/or state issued identification cards needed to enroll in programs or complete required tax forms. While many of these documentation hurdles cannot be avoided (social security and identification verification are ubiquitously required to work), some programs have recently made it more difficult for youth experiencing homelessness to participate. For example, JobCorps recently reversed a long-standing policy that had allowed unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness to participate without parental signatures. When we consider that Runaway and Homeless Youth programs are the best places to link disconnected youth to employment, it becomes imperative that we focus on minimizing documentation hurdles for youth who lack the stable relationships necessary to safely obtain such signatures and paperwork.

Other youth experiencing homelessness are able to access jobs, but lack the supportive services required to help them continue to develop the life skills needed to maintain employment. The cost of transportation, lack of mentoring support, and healthcare needs are frequently cited as barriers. Without including supports to counter these pervasive barriers to employment for youth experiencing homelessness, these young people are much less likely to sustain their engagement in workforce training or on-the-job experience. The detrimental effects are twofold. Youth are unable to stick with the programs or jobs that are providing them with much-needed experience, training, and income. And employers on the other end of the equation experience a confirmation of perceptions that youth employees lack the ability to demonstrate reliability, persistence, and work appropriate self-advocacy skills.

Areas of Workforce Access Opportunities for Homeless Youth

In July of 2014, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law as part of a Federal effort to fill in the gaps youth face when navigating the workforce while gaining stability. This Act which governs programs such as JobCorps and other Youth Formula Funded programs attempts to encourage local labor to engage with "disconnected youth"-- those who are not enrolled in school and are disconnected from supportive services. In many instances, the disconnected youth population is currently experiencing homelessness or has in the past. 

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently collected public comments on regulations authorized by WIOA. While the Federal requirements were intentionally structured to minimize barriers to workforce and labor for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness, some local communities are prescribing higher barrier documentation and eligibility requirements. Youth experiencing homelessness up to 24 years of age are particularly in need of programs that aid them in identifying and training for a career pathway. 

The programs funded by the DOL under WIOA are built to achieve just this goal for disconnected youth. However, at the local level some communities have instituted such requirements as passing "entry exams" to these programs. Entry exams are usually used to assess a young person's literacy and numeracy skill levels, but they can often be used as cutoff points for program eligibility. For example, many programs will not accept students who cannot perform at 8th grade literacy and numeracy levels for fear that youth will not be able to efficiently perform necessary workplace duties. These entrance exam barriers are particularly troubling for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness because they are likely to change schools frequently. Such school mobility interrupts their education and often results in large gaps in their literacy and numeracy skills and often contributes to a young person's ability to persist through traditional pathways to high school completion. 

Understanding that delayed academic achievement is one of the underlying causes of youth disconnection, we must do better to incorporate basic skills education with workforce development training if we expect our disconnected youth to sustain engagement in school and work. Conversely, where these youth are unable to access WIOA programs, such as JobCorps, it is far more probable that they will be trapped in the cycle of poverty and homelessness due to lack of education and skills.

The Federal Government is making strides toward filling in gaps and reforming laws. Meanwhile, youth-serving organizations and their partners are capitalizing on opportunities to advocate for better policies and watching for the WIOA final rules to be published. In the interim, States are beginning to develop plans with their funding under WIOA and local partners should look for opportunities to educate local policymakers about the unique issues unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness face. Together we can help to fill in these gaps and end the challenge of youth homelessness.

Amy Louttit is the Public Policy Associate at the National Network for Youth. We thank her for highlighting critical disconnections between the youth workforce development and youth homelessness fields. 

For more information on DCAYA's efforts to address the needs of homeless youth in DC, reach out to Senior Policy Analyst Joseph Gavrilovich ( 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

DC Alliance of Youth Advocates Named ‘One of the Best Nonprofits’ by the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington

‘Give Like a Local’ Means Local Reviewers Have Vetted Local Charity

The Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, after a careful vetting process, has selected DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) as a new nonprofit for inclusion in this year’s Catalogue. It means when people want to “give like a local,” they will know DCAYA has met the Catalogue’s high standards because it has undergone a program review, financial assessment and site visit.

DCAYA’s mission is to ensure that all children and youth in the District of Columbia have access to high-quality and affordable developmental opportunities. As a coalition of youth-engaged organizations, youth and concerned residents in the District, DCAYA accomplishes this mission by crafting policy recommendations, providing structured advocacy opportunities for our members and allies, networking and empowering youth.

“Give Like a Local” is the Catalogue’s new campaign to raise awareness of nonprofits such as DCAYA, as well as the Catalogue and the easy way donors can support local charities that mean the most to them. The Catalogue also offers gift cards so families and friends can continue the giving tradition with the charities of their choice.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Where Will They Be Next November?

A look back at Youth Homelessness Awareness Month and the Year Ahead for District Youth

In the summer of 2007, the United States Congress officially declared November as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. It’s noteworthy that a 16-year-old youth that year who was experiencing homelessness would now be a 24-year-old, either fully independent, on the precipice of transitioning to self sufficiency, or sadly having fallen through the cracks will be moving into an adult serving system. 9 years after the institution of National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, that is unconscionable.  Here at DCAYA, this reinforces the urgency to act and ensure we are cutting off the pipeline into housing instability and homelessness. That said, it also allows us to acknowledge the progress our community has made.

What’s Been Done About Youth Homelessness in DC?

In kicking off this awareness month three years ago on this blog, we noted that the need for more action around youth homelessness in the DC was very real. The “invisibility” of homeless youth – mostly young people “couch surfing” from place to place – meant that there was little public awareness or political will to be found for doing right by them. In the meantime, the District’s overall capacity for serving homeless youth was at only 216 beds, with providers reporting high turn-away rates and double-digit waitlists.

Recognizing this, the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates worked diligently with providers and partner advocates to develop and release A Bold Strategy to End Youth Homelessness in the District of Columbia in October 2013. This strategy called the Mayor,  DC Council and city officials to invest in a long-term, data driven, continuum of services that spanned prevention through intervention and into stable independence. Together, the coalition partners calculated that a $10 million commitment was needed to fund prevention, intervention and evaluation for a full year.

As Support Grows, Services Follow in DC…

Council heard the request, and passed the Ending Youth Homelessness Amendment Act in May 2014, but at a commitment of $1.3 million. The Act mandated and funded a new youth drop-in center, a coordinated intake system among providers (to ensure that there is no “wrong door” for youth seeking support), fifteen new beds for youth in crisis, a street outreach program, and an annual homeless youth census. Since the initial Act was passed, contracts for the mandated services have been awarded to five youth-serving, community-based organizations in the District.

At the same time, the needs of particular populations of homeless youth are being better addressed in DC. In February 2014 the DC Council passed the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act by an almost unanimous vote, mandating that the number of beds for homeless LGBTQ youth be more than doubled from eight to 18, and that the count of homeless youth in the District includes an accurate census of LGBTQ youth. It also funded cultural competency training for all shelter providers to ensure that no matter where a youth makes contact with the system, the staff they encounter are sensitive to their unique needs.

…But Where Will They Be Next November?

While this initial investment to the Ending Youth Homelessness Amendment Act was critical, we're still working diligently to understand what else is needed from a data informed perspective.

To this end, the first publicly funded, youth census funded under the Act was completed in August 2015, with data expected to be released this month. Advocates in the meantime are continuing to collect data on homeless youth with the newly established Coordinated Entry System. Through the collected data, advocates, community-based providers, and DC agencies will have a greater understanding on the investments needed to stabilize homeless youth and guide them onto a path of self sufficiency.

While the successes of recent years have led to a more youth-friendly system – one that has become a little better at meeting the demand and connecting youth to appropriate services – it is almost certain the data will tell us that we’ll need to ramp up funding in the years ahead if we are to truly stick to a bold strategy that emphasizes prevention and meaningful interventions to end youth homelessness in the District.

Joey Gavrilovich is a Senior Policy Analyst at the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. For more information, visit our website and don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.