Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Budget Blog Part II

Today’s blog comes to you as Part 2 of our team’s analysis of Mayor Bower’s proposed DC Budget for 2016. The Mayor’s proposal is now before Council where, through a series of upcoming public hearings and advocacy meetings, it will be debated and revised by Council Committees before it goes to a final vote.

Last week, we brought forward our concerns about the DCPS afterschool budget. Now we would like to turn our analysis to older youth services and system-level investments. We encourage you to take a look at our analysis and then testify about your particular concerns at DC Council budget hearings.

Please note that our analysis will become more nuanced as we are able to clarify details about the budget. To keep up with the latest information, sign up to our mailing list.


Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE):
  • The budget does not replenish $1.36 million in SLED’s federal funding that will lapse in FY16. We are hopeful that OSSE and the DME will find a solution that both supports SLED's continued strength and OSSE's capacity. We trust that Council, in its oversight role, will monitor this process and step in if necessary. Read about the importance of SLED: Seize the SLED
  • The funding mark for Career and Technical Education is cut by 18% ($1.2m) in the FY16 budget. This reflects a broader-based cut that reduces OSSE’s ability to expand the number of Career Academies as previously planned. Career Academies already in operation will not be affected.
  • Funding for the DC ReEngagement Center is sustained within the budget, yet we are concerned that staff reductions of 2.5 FTEs within the office of OSSE’s Assistant Superintendent of Postsecondary and Career Education might impact Center staff. 
  • We are still trying to determine the status of the federal 21st Century Learning Grants that pass through OSSE to community-based afterschool providers. The 21st Century Learning Grant is a formula grant so it should remain stable, however that is not apparent in the FY16 budget. We will update you if we find out that this $6 million is, in fact, not available for FY16.
    • Updated 4/16/15: As confirmed by the OSSE Assistant Superintendent, the 21st Century Learning Grants are secure for the upcoming school year.

DC Public Schools and Public Charter Schools

  • Afterschool funding has been cut by 50%. 25 coordinators and central office staff will be laid off. This will erase all of the hard work from previous years to develop a strong afterschool infrastructure that ensures students are enrolled in and receiving quality programming. At the school level, afterschool money was moved to pay for extended day. Read for more information:
  • While $32 million in new investments were added to the DCPS budget, alternative schools and adult education schools were notably not included in FY16 improvement plans. Increasing capacity in these alternative placements is critical to successfully place disconnected youth into educational programs.

DCAYA Ask: DCAYA will advocate for the DC Council to fully fund SLED by replacing the $1.36 million with local funds, maintaining the District’s burgeoning educational data warehouse. We are also asking the DC Council to fully fund afterschool at $6.5 million. Sign the petition here.

OSSE Budget Hearing: April 30, 10AM, Wilson Building Room 500

DCPS Budget Hearing: April 23, 10AM, Wilson Building, Room 412


Department of Human Services

  • Funding for homeless youth services in the Department of Human Services budget appears to remain stable, in large part thanks to last year’s legislation. Currently advocates and the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) are working to distribute the FY15 funding to providers as quickly as possible. The ICH is also working to develop a youth-specific strategic plan that will guide future funding in this area. The strategic plan will be developed from the data collected from the new coordinated entry system.
  • One gap that the coordinated entry work has highlighted is policy and programming for homeless minor-headed families. Currently, minors with their children cannot access housing services through VA Williams because they are minors, and they cannot access housing services for minors because they have children. Filling this gap will take resources that are not identified in the current budget. 

DCAYA Ask: DCAYA will advocate for the DC Council to keep youth homelessness funding stable and ask Council to consider the impact of a minor-headed families policy change on the DHS budget.

DHS Budget Hearing: April 24, 10AM, Wilson Building Room 500


Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp 
  • The DC Trust is funded again at a $3 million baseline. As we have advocated in the past, this leaves the Trust to rely on leftover funding from other agencies to fund critical afterschool and summer programs for youth. At this time, the Trust will not be able to fulfill their final year of funding for their 3-year grants to 33 afterschool providers.

DCAYA Ask: For DC Council to give the Trust an additional $2.5 million to cover the already-committed afterschool grants and $3 million to pay for summer programming.

DC Trust Budget Hearing: May 1, 10AM, Wilson Building Room 412


Department of Employment Services/Workforce Investment Council
  • Funding to the DOES Summer Youth Employment Program increased by $3.2 million from FY15. This is the result of a decrease of $2 million from the program’s base budget and an enhancement of $5.2 million to expand the program to serve youth 22-24, increase SYEP pay to the minimum wage ($8.25/hr for youth 16-24), and provide free transportation for the full six-week program. 
  • Year-round programming provided by DOES will see an increase of $2.3 million, which reflects an increase in our federal funding as well as $1.67 million increase in local funds from FY15. 

University of the District of Columbia
  • DC funding for UDC/UDC-CC was reduced by $5 million. While a portion of this cut accounts for the removal of one-time funding, we are concerned that the remaining $3.5 million cut might inequitably impact programs and services offered by UDC-CC.

Department of Transportation
  • Mayor Bowser has included an additional $7 million to WMATA’s budget to expand Kids Ride Free to rails, which is an incredible, and smart investment in youth across the District

DCAYA Ask: While it is encouraging to see the ratio of the District’s investments in SYEP to year-round level off from 2:1 in FY14 to 1.2:1 in FY16, we are still concerned by the changes that this budget makes to the overall youth workforce landscape. DCAYA will advocate for full funding of youth workforce development programs beyond the SYEP expansion to age 24 to ensure the District is able to connect these older youth to employment and further training beyond the six-week summer program.

As for the expansion of the Kids Ride Free Program, DCAYA is very happy to see Mayor Bowser’s commitment to removing the barrier of transportation costs for youth in the District in her first budget. This expansion will have a huge impact on a young person’s ability to make it to school on time, and to get to a part-time job or internship without breaking the bank. Nevertheless, many youth who are working through multiple barriers and have reconnected to alternative education still lack access to Kids Ride Free. We are advocating during budget hearings for the DC Council to explore expanding Kids Ride Free for the approximately 720 youth 22-24 who are connected to an LEA.

DOES/WIC Budget Hearing: April 27, 10AM, Wilson Building Room 500

UDC/UDC-CC Budget Hearing: April 20, 10AM, Wilson Building Room 412

Department of Transportation Budget Hearing: April 21, 1PM, Wilson Building Room 412

Be on the lookout for an email from us with complete budget talking points and tips for testifying at DC Council budget hearings!

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 at an upcoming DC Council Budget Hearing.

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at

Friday, April 10, 2015

Response to DCPS's "FY16 Afterschool and Extended Day Overview"

Photo courtesy of Kid Power, an afterschool and summer program.
After our last blog on the cuts to afterschool funding, DCPS released a statement attempting to clarify the afterschool funding for next year. Unfortunately, the data and explanations they offer in this new statement still seem to indicate that afterschool programming will be reduced.  

We spent time today working with DCPS to understand their statement and the difference between our analyses. One problem that we identified together is that the internal budget documents they are using do not reflect the same numbers as the Mayor’s budget. While we understand that school-based funding can be prone to frequent readjustments, we do hope that in the near future we can all be working with identical, clear information at the school level, and the aggregate level. DCPS has been gracious in helping resolve this, and we both are committed to continuing dialogue about this important issue affecting students and families. We are also committed to helping them improve their data and analysis as they do the difficult work of budgeting for a myriad of variables.

Moving forward we hope that DCPS, along with the DC Council - who has the power to change this budget - will take a closer look at the quality of the data and analysis leading to cuts in afterschool programs.

Here are our top concerns specifically regarding the most recent DCPS statement on afterschool funding. These have been shared with DCPS and we have included updates from them where applicable.

1.) The chart provided by DCPS shows that school-level afterschool programming was funded at $3.7m in FY15 and will drop to $2.9m in FY16. However, in a later paragraph, it references having to fill a FY15 and FY16 budget gap of $6.5m in funding lost in late FY14. This would then suggest that the difference between FY15 and FY16 is much larger than referenced in the chart. We are continuing to work with DCPS to understand what staff positions or services this $6.5m covered, and how this loss of funding may impact FY16. 

2.) DCPS is increasing the number of schools that have extended day from 25 to 65, but only adding $800,000 to do this. According to the chart, it took $5.4m to have extended day in 25 schools, so realistically it does not seem possible that only $800,000 is needed to add 40 more schools. Clarity on the budget process here is needed.

3.) Last year, the Chancellor offered Extended Day to 50 schools, and according to the chart, only 25 schools chose to add the extra hour (many of those schools only accepted Extended Day for certain grades). The chart says that 65 schools will have Extended Day next year, but there is no analysis that shows that 65 schools will actually agree to implement the practice. Since there was no known discussion with the teacher’s union, parents, or the wider community, it does not seem that Extended Day should be budgeted for 40 new schools when it is unlikely that it will be implemented in 40 schools. 

4.) The chart shows an estimated 7,000 students were enrolled in Extended Day last year. There is no explanation for how this estimation was reached. More problematic is that ‘TBD’ is listed for the students expected to be served in Extended Day in FY16. We find it troubling that budget decisions are being made without well-founded estimates on simple data, like estimated youth to be served. We hope this issue will be addressed moving forward.

5.) The chart also does not explain how many of those estimated 7,000 students in Extended Day in FY15 overlapped with the 6,790 who were in afterschool. In the narrative of the FY16 budget, DCPS stated that they want to grow Extended Day based on improved DCCAS scores that were found at schools with Extended Day. However, it appears that this funding is not based off of a “clean” sample. It is possible, if not likely, that the students who improved their test scores were in afterschool programs as well as Extended Day. Before major budget reallocations happen, causation should be more closely analyzed. Afterschool could, in fact, be the cause of improved test scores and de-funding it would drive test scores down. 

6.) Many DCPS programs already have the first hour focused on academics, not including homework; it is called the Academic Power Hour. The DCPS afterschool programs have a curriculum that was developed by the Central Office’s Office of Out-of-School Time Programs that aligns the Power Hour with Common Core. All DCPS sponsored afterschool programs use Power Hour. If DCPS truly wants students to have another hour in the classroom, like Extended Day would have, then it should require all community-based organizations providing afterschool to implement the Power Hour. The advantage of using the afterschool Power Hour, rather than Extended Day, is the community-based afterschool providers can come in and assist the teacher. Also, with this model, community-based organizations can still have enough time with the students in order to meet their grant requirements. 

7.) Many of the afterschool programs rely on partnerships with community-based organizations like DC Scores, Horton’s Kids, Kid Power, etc. These organizations rely on funding from grants made by the DC Trust or other Federal grants. Often, to meet grant requirements, programs must spend a specified amount of time each day with students. That is why the recent DCPS statement is not completely accurate when it says that schools can have Extended Day and afterschool. With one hour blocked off for Extended Day, community-based organizations may not be able to meet grant requirements, and thus won’t be able to partner with those schools. Schools that offer Extended Day to certain grades could still work with CBO partners to provide afterschool to the remaining students. However, given the reduction in coordinators and overall community-based funding streams, we worry that this may remain difficult and not fully resolve our capacity concerns. 
  • The amount of in-kind services that DCPS afterschool receives from its community-based partners cannot be understated. It is estimated to be $20m. If, because of time restrictions due to Extended Day, these community-based organizations cannot secure their sources of funding, then DCPS will lose part, if not all, of this $20m. 
8.) According to the chart, it took $5.4m to pay for one hour of Extended Day at 25 schools in FY15. Also according to the chart, it only took $3.7m (or, more accurately, $6.5m) to pay for two-three hours at 55 schools. Based on these numbers, afterschool programs are cheaper than extended day. So cost-savings does not seem to justify the decision to move to an Extended Day model vs. an afterschool model.

9.) The DCPS statement was very clear about afterschool funding for central office staff: It will be cut drastically. As it is stated in the budget, 25 afterschool staff members will lose their jobs due to the funding cut. The new statement simply says “tasks can be absorbed by other DCPS teams.” This is concerning because there is no indication of a plan for which “other teams” will absorb the tasks. In addition, it is difficult to believe that other DCPS teams have additional time within their workday to effectively facilitate coordination between schools and CBOs.
  • What a loss of coordinators will mean: Principals, or other over-stretched school staff members, will have to coordinate logistics (facilities, paperwork, security, etc.) for multiple programs and hundreds of kids. Community-based organizations may have to end several partnerships because of the barriers this change will cause. With community-based organizations bringing $20m to DCPS afterschool programs, this change could result in a significant loss of resources provided to DCPS children.  
  • What a loss of OSTP central office staff will mean: When situations arise, coordinators will not have recourse from a central location with expertise and the ability to engage in a higher level discussion with principals or community-based organizations. Because the OSTP staff ensures that DCPS is partnering with quality providers, the overall quality of afterschool programming will decrease. The strategic approach to blending the traditional school day with quality afterschool partners will be lost. Without the central office, there will not be personnel to quickly respond to incoming data on enrollment, afterschool meal coordination, etc. The intensive, complicated afterschool enrollment system will lose quality, and there will be more barriers to students enrolling—the OSTP staff has to do intensive, behind-the-scenes work to address TANF eligibility requirements and making enrollment more accessible to parents. 

In closing, we look forward to seeing the most up-to-date individual school funding for afterschool, as promised in the DCPS statement, both for the sake of policy decision-makers and parents. As we have in the past, we urge local funding for afterschool programming instead of moving money within the agency or relying on unstable federal grants. Further, we hope the DC Council, DCPS, and sister agencies recognize that these funding cuts to DCPS afterschool programs is happening at a time when the Trust afterschool grants are at-risk and it appears that the federal 21st Century Learning grants may not be available (at the same level) for the District. DCPS, the DC Trust, and 21st Century Learning grants are the main sources of funding for afterschool programs across the District. The afterschool funding landscape appears dire at this point.

We are still engaging in conversations with DCPS and look forward to talking more with the Education Committee and the DC Council on crafting a budget that is protects this valuable resource.

On Monday, April 13th, DCAYA will publish tools to help providers and parents advocate to keep CBO-run afterschool programs within DC public schools. Sign-up to our mailing list to be one of the first to receive the advocacy strategy and get timely updates on all youth-related news in DC. 

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Budget Cuts to DC Afterschool Programs

It’s that time of year again: The DCAYA team brings you our analysis of the newly released DC budget.

This year, we’re going to split our analysis into two sections. Part 1, today’s blog, will focus on cuts in the DCPS afterschool budget. Next week, Part 2 ,will focus on our concerns related to older youth services and system level investments.

**To preface, this analysis is in its working stages. We are actively tracking down greater details about the budget. Nonetheless, we have identified some clear areas of concern that we did not want to delay in getting out to parents, service providers, and other community partners. I strongly encourage you to continue to visit our blog, Twitter, Facebook and website for updates as the budget analysis process continues.

Concern regarding Afterschool Funding:


Just last year, DC ranked #2 in the country for having the best afterschool programs. Over 7,200 students were enrolled in afterschool programs and  DCPS stated its commitment to universal access to afterschool programming. Why? Afterschool programs, or expanded learning opportunities, have been shown to improve academic, social/emotional , health and safety aspects of students’ lives. Working parents, particularly for those with younger children and limited income, need afterschool programs for economic stability and the safety of their children.

Yet, after examining the budget documents for the upcoming year, which were released April 2, we know with certainty that broad, deep funding cuts will result in thousands of students not being able to attend afterschool programs next year, unless Council makes immediate changes to the budget.

It appears that DCPS is moving afterschool money to fund extended day. One important difference between afterschool programs and extended day is that afterschool programs go until 5:30pm or 6pm, while extended day typically only goes until 4:15. Another difference is that extended day is an extra hour in the classroom, typically with the same teacher, while afterschool programs often bring in community-based organizations to tutor students, provide physical activities, and cover hands-on learning not usually possible in traditional classrooms.

In-Depth Analysis:

1) There is massive a reduction in DCPS school-based afterschool program funding:

We are deeply concerned about the disconnection between the school-level budgets and the budget guide produced by DCPS. Take for example the difference between the Budget Guide and the actual school specific budget for Kimball Elementary. The budget guide -which many use to understand services at their school -states that Kimball Elementary will have an afterschool program. Yet, in the school-specific budget cited above, and in the budget submitted to council, all funding to Kimball’s afterschool program has been removed. In our analysis, Kimball is not unique. As many as 22 schools show a similar disconnect between the programming messaged to parents, and what appears in the school level budgets. [1]

Our analysis suggests that DCPS is funding Extended Day at these schools instead of afterschool programs. The degree to which this change has been communicated to parents or principals is unclear and concerning.

2) There is an almost complete divestment in the infrastructure for afterschool programs at the DCPS Central Office:

The remaining 32 or 33 schools that will have afterschool next year (provided by DCPS and in partnership with community-based organizations) will lose almost all of the infrastructure support provided by the central office.

From what we can tell, cluster coordinators charged with facilitating partnerships between schools and community-based organizations, have been largely eliminated. The budget indicates a reduction of about 23 positions from the DCPS Central Office of Out-of-School Time Programs.

To put this in historical context, close to a decade ago, our community fought hard for afterschool coordinators. We needed individuals responsible for identifying potential partners, facilitating partnerships and maintaining the already onerous paperwork requirements necessary to fund and sustain partnerships between schools and CBOs. Reduced in 2011 and 2012, schools and CBOs have had to make do with a single coordinator responsible for 2-3 schools. Not ideal, but manageable.

We are now returning to the days where each individual school will be responsible for negotiating ad-hoc partnerships with no overarching support. With a lack of central coordination, vetting, or oversight, scaling up quality afterschool programs with quality school partners is essentially impossible.

3) There are major reductions in other, non-DCPS funding for afterschool programs:

The DC Trust is currently slotted for a $3 million dollar investment. While at first glance this looks consistent with past years, it is not. The reality is, that due to budgeting processes of the prior administration, the DC Trust actually needs an additional $2 million to maintain school-year grants (which are 3-year grant commitments pending funding).

In terms of federal funding, the TANF funding for afterschool co-payments, which passes through DHS to DCPS, has dropped by over 50%. The DC budget also shows no federal 21st Century Learning Grant funding which provided $5.6 million for afterschool programs last year. We are currently figuring out if there is a way DC can obtain 21st Century funding again for next year.

In short this means the partners that add capacity to DCPS sponsored afterschool programs may also have to reduce the number of students they serve.

So what can you do?

Ask your principal about your school’s afterschool budget and plan.

What you are seeing in the budget book on the DCPS website, and what is actually budgeted for and planned for your school next year, may not match. Ask your principal if your school is doing extended day or afterschool.

Let Councilmembers know. Call/email/tweet Councilmembers or show up to testify in front of them at Council. If you would like help preparing what you would like to say to Councilmembers, DCAYA is happy to help, just email us at

Join DCAYA in our #SaveAfterschoolDC Campaign on Twitter.

If you have any questions or concerns about afterschool funding or other aspects of the budget, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

Teaser for next week’s Part 2 blog:

  • We remain concerned about SLED funding given the conclusion of federal funding in FY16 and no local funding to support the continuation of this critical piece of infrastructure.
  • We are cautiously optimistic about increased investments in year-round youth workforce programming, but concerned about cuts to adult education.
  • We are deeply relieved to see investments in the plan to end homelessness for families, adults AND unaccompanied youth. 
Stay tuned for more!

[1] To put this in context: In 2014-2015 DCPS operated 55 traditional afterschool program sites and 4 21st Century Learning Center sites at elementary and middle schools covering roughly 60% of the elementary, middle school and education campuses 

Updated 4/13/2015 - See DCPS's response and DCAYA's update

DCPS 4/9/15: FY16 Afterschool and Extended Day Overview

DCAYA 4/10/15: Response to DCPS's "FY16 Afterschool and Extended Day Overview"

Maggie Riden is the Executive Director of DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. During her tenor at DCAYA, Maggie has seen the ebb and flow of youth program funding during each DC budget season. Join us this year as we advocate to save DC's afterschool infrastructure reinstate quality expanded learning investments through our social media campaign #SaveAfterschoolDC.

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Afterschool Programs For The Win!

In DC, 35% of children and youth participate in afterschool programs, while 66% would participate if a program was available. This week, we have a special guest blog from WNBA assistant couch Eric Thibault who witnesses firsthand the transformative power of sports on a young person's social, mental, and physical development. Eric is a DCAYA "Afterschool Champ" for his advocacy in expanding access to afterschool sports programs for DC girls.

The blog 'tips off' DCAYA's eBay auction for the "Ivory Latta Experience". The highest bidder will practice their backswing with basketball star Ivory Latta at the Top Golf  driving range. Along with spending quality one-on-one time with a WNBA athlete, the lucky winner will receive a signed Latta jersey and mini basketball. All proceeds will go toward DCAYA's work in expanding access to quality afterschool and summer programs for all District youth. 

Enter Your Bid for the "Ivory Latta Experience" 

As an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, I’m very lucky to have sports pay the bills. But before basketball was ever my profession, it was what I looked forward to every day: at recess, on Saturday mornings, and after school let out in the afternoon. While basketball has stuck with me and become a central part of my life, it was never the only after-school activity to grab my attention. Baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, band, creative writing, math club – I can point to each of these experiences as having a key part to play in my social, mental, and physical development.

Learning to be a valuable part of a team is an essential and irreplaceable component of growing up, and one that is most readily accomplished through sports. Among countless other lessons, playing sports taught me how to handle winning and losing, to pursue and achieve both personal and group goals, to relate to others with different backgrounds, viewpoints and abilities than myself, to sacrifice for the good of a group, and how to handle myself in pressure-filled situations. When I was in graduate school, a classmate expressed frustration with one of our sports management group projects. Our professor, with a laugh but clearly not joking, told him to “get used to it – life is a long string of group projects.” The professor was completely right; whether you are a coach, a teacher, a chemist, a musician, an administrator, or a politician, there’s no substitute for learning how to interact and succeed within a group of varying opinions and attributes. Almost without fail, the people in that class that grew up playing team sports adapted more quickly to the tasks at hand than those who lacked that experience.

In a more immediate sense, after-school activities directly improve the quality of life for kids. Sports help with nutrition and combat obesity, a growing problem in our country. Art and music are backed by endless amounts of research that indicates they improve academic performance. After-school programs of all kinds can help keep kids living in high-crime or poverty-stricken areas from falling into more dangerous situations. On a personal level, I know I learned arithmetic from studying basketball stat sheets and understood geometry more easily with the help of passing angles. Understanding how to curve a golf shot went hand in hand with physics class. Playing the drums in the band showed me the importance of getting on the same page with my peers in those interminable group projects.

Above all, the part of my sports experience for which I’m most grateful was the opportunity to establish relationships with people I would not otherwise have befriended. When I was 13 years old and in middle school (a mostly-white, upper-middle class middle school), I played on a predominantly black basketball team. Some players came from money, some did not. Some had two parents at home, some had one, some had none. The thing that we all had in common was a love for basketball, and that bridge allowed us to move past any awkwardness and get to know each other as individual human beings. When you get to spend that quality time around people from different backgrounds, it shapes how you see the world. You start to see the world in shades of gray, and move away from lazy stereotypes. It’s one thing for your parents to explain tolerance, it’s another to learn it on a day-to-day basis. I have no doubt that our society would be a more accepting place if more people had similar opportunities at age 13, or younger. Being part of a sports team, school band, or debate club offers an environment where that becomes a natural consequence, where kids develop attitudes and habits that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Who's your #AfterschoolChamp? Tell us on Twitter from March 25 - April 1 for a chance to win a "DCAYA Afterschool Champ Badge"!

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

DCAYA Testifies about Youth Homelessness

This week’s blog post is an excerpt from testimony given by Maggie Riden, the Executive Director of DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, at the Department of Human Services performance oversight hearing on March 12, 2015. The following entry was edited for length. 

Good morning Chairwoman Alexander, fellow Councilmembers, and committee staff. My name is Maggie Riden and I am the Executive Director of DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, a coalition of over 130 youth-serving organizations in the District.  Today, I would like to welcome the new Director of the Department of Human Services and identify the key areas in which DHS can move forward.

It is indeed a “fresh start” for DHS.  We are committed to working with Director Zeilinger to prevent homelessness, improve homeless services, and find stable housing solutions in the District.  In order for this collaborative effort to work, transparency and communication are critical to building a system which properly serves homeless youth.  

First and foremost, DCAYA is concerned by the unclear and seeming slow implementation pace of the Homeless Youth Reform Act of 2013 and the End Youth Homelessness Act of 2014. Having a clearer timeline and transparent funding information is essential for collaborative planning of youth-specific services. This point is especially poignant, because as we speak, there are youth on waiting lists for emergency and transitional beds. We urge DHS to clarify the internal status of the funding and layout next steps to ensure proper implementation.

There is also a need for greater transparency and communication among the services offered to youth-headed families.  This is clearly illustrated in the updated status on the implementation of the Rudd report recommendations. For example:

Rudd report:

“Recommendation 6.1:  Increase the number of on-site case managers to identify and engage those families who are difficult to serve.”

DHS Answer:

“DHS and TCP provide case management services to all families in shelter.  In addition, the Bowser administration recently announced the creation and funding of housing navigators who will be responsible for specifically assisting families with their housing needs, allowing case managers to focus on other issues.”  

This DHS answer does not present clear information on whether additional case managers were hired, how many case managers were hired, if the case managers are full or part-time employees, or the credentials of the case managers.  DHS must communicate transparent information on the status of its implementation of the Rudd recommendations, including basic data on implemented changes, written protocols, training materials, and explanation of mechanisms.  Relisha was not the only young person taken from DC General - DHS must clearly articulate the steps being taken to ensure such tragedies do not repeat themselves.  

Meanwhile, there are pockets of great work happening in our community around youth homelessness.  The Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) is helping agencies and community-service providers in developing and implementing the Coordinated Entry for youth.  DHS is playing a role in this process, and the role must continue to grow, as the issue falls squarely within DHS’s mandate.  

The Coordinated Entry system is identifying the knots, gaps, and workarounds present in the current system of youth services.  It is time for DHS and its partners to untangle the systemic workarounds covering up the problem of youth homelessness.  It is time for DHS and its partners to build a system which connects youth to best-fit services and programs.  With the new funding provided by the youth homelessness legislation, DHS and its partners have the resources to meet the needs of homeless youth with new, transparent, and well-communicated policies and programs.  

DHS has an incredibly difficult job in the District, where inequality is rapidly growing and intergenerational poverty is deeply-rooted. We do not ask for quick solutions, but we do demand greater transparency and communication.  It is the only way that we, as a community, will fix the horrible reality of vast homelessness in the District.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Expanding Our Approach to Education

Photo Courtesy of Beacon House
Education is a top issue in DC. There are constant debates around truancy, graduation rates, charter schools, credit attainment, assessment scores, teacher supports, community involvement, student engagement, and the list goes on. DCAYA focuses on one educational topic at the heart of these debates: Expanded Learning.

To give context, the Expanded Learning Model adds time to the school day by partnering schools with community-based providers (CBOs). These partnerships enhance the curriculum by bringing enrichment activities, led by CBOs, into the classroom to compliment the traditional school subjects taught by teachers. The partnership also allows teachers to spend more time planning the curriculum and engaging in professional development opportunities, while CBOs are working in the classroom with the students. DCAYA supports this model because it is a win-win situation for everyone: CBOs enhance the school climate, students are offered personalized and hands-on learning experiences, and teachers have extra time to plan and grade work without feeling overwhelmed and/or burnt out by the longer school day.

See all of the benefits of an Expanded Learning Model in DCAYA’s latest one-pager:

So what would it take for DC to adopt the Expanded Learning Model?

DC currently has certain pieces in place to smoothly transition schools into an Expanded Learning framework: a high-concentration of quality community-based providers, extended days for certain schools, and the infrastructure to facilitate community collaboration. In fact, DC already has an example of a functioning and thriving Expanded Learning Model at Kelly Miller Middle School through their partnership with Higher Achievement.

However, in order for DC to scale the model responsibly and successfully, District-wide data must be collected on afterschool and summer programming to fully understand the landscape. Both the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation (DC Trust) and DC Public Schools (DCPS) are in a position to collaborate and gather such data, which would allow the District to begin building a strategy to connect schools with CBOs. The data would also be used to assess students current limitations and access to afterschool and summer programming and ensure that at-risk students are receiving ample educational supports.

To further understand the Expanded Learning Model and DCAYA’s 2015 policy asks, be sure to read the one-pager and reach out to our policy analyst Katie Dunn at for more information on testifying at DC Council hearings.

In addition to educating the public and policymakers about the benefits of an Expanded Learning Model, DCAYA is also advocating to protect current afterschool and summer programming. In the coming weeks, look out for another #LightsOnAfterschool social media campaign to ensure that Trust grantees receive full funding for their summer programs. 

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at

Thursday, February 19, 2015

From Chicago to DC - Homeless Youth Share Similar Challenges

On February 24th, DCAYA is partnering with OSSE, Sasha Bruce, and a number of homeless youth providers to host a screening on the critically acclaimed documentary “The Homestretch”. Following the documentary will be a panel discussion with leading homeless youth advocates on what the District and individuals can do to combat this growing problem.

“The Homestretch” follows three Chicago teens as they navigate the education and services system while struggling with the realities of homelessness. As described in The Atlantic, “the documentary demonstrates the complexity of the issue – a problem that’s often hidden from the public eye.” While different scenarios caused the film’s protagonists to become homeless – indentifying as LGBTQ, facing obstacles with immigrant status, and fleeing from stepparent abuse – the challenges these individuals face closely mirror those of D.C.’s homeless youth population.

Watch a live stream of the panel discussion at 7:30PM on Tuesday, February 24th:

Photo courtesy of "The Homestretch"

National data shows that approximately 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ. With only 10% of the total population identifying as LGBTQ, this small subset of youth represents a large proportion of the homeless population.

While better data is needed to truly understand the scope of homelessness among LGBTQ youth in DC, anecdotal evidence reflects a similar narrative to Kasey’s. In a 2011 DCAYA study on youth homelessness, one respondent wrote, “At age 17 I was kicked out and ‘disowned’ by the very family that raised me. Why, do you ask? Well, it was because of my sexuality.”

Photo courtesy of "The Homestretch"

Youth are underrepresented during the annual point-in-time count to calculate the number of homeless individuals in a city because unsurprisingly, youth do not want others to know they are homeless. High school is hard enough without dealing with the stigma of homelessness.

Even more underrepresented, however, are Latino youth because of reasons similar to Roque. Some Latino youth are forced to stay undetected and not seek services because they fear getting themselves, or their family, in trouble with immigration.  This poses a particularly difficult challenge around funding services for Latino youth because while the need is apparent, the numbers are elusive.

Photo courtesy of "The Homestretch"

During the 2014 point-in-time study conducted by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, 907 families in DC were in emergency shelters – a huge jump from 464 families in 2013.  Of those families, half are young parents under 24.

With the surge in family homelessness, and young workers in DC facing a 16% unemployment rate, young parents have few options to get themselves out of a shelter and onto a path of long term stability. DC helps families exit shelter through Rapid Re-housing, a program that combines rental assistance and case management for generally up to 12 months. Rapid Re-housing programs, however, are finding that youth need more intensive case management, life skills training, and educational options in order for young parents to begin paying rent without assistance.

While further data is needed on DC’s Rapid Re-housing outcomes, the need for youth-focused transitional housing programs is clear, especially with DC expecting to see a 16% rise in family homeless this winter.

Be on the lookout for information on a large community screening happening in DC in the Spring and how you can get involved with local youth homelessness advocacy efforts. 

Watch a trailer of the film here: 

To read more about youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook and VISIT us at