Friday, October 28, 2011

Blog Nationally, Fund Locally!

Since the launch of the Huffington Post's Impact section (as well as HuffPost DC) we sure have been reading HuffPo a bit more here at the DCAYA offices! HuffPo Impact traditionally covers issues like homelessness, volunteering, and philanthropy, but this week the bloggers chose also to feature a slideshow of organizations that help underserved young people. The slideshow featured a ranking of organizations from Philanthropedia, a website which rates non-profits for philanthropic donors.Philanthropedia offers up some great information about at-risk youth on the national level and the stats are certainly worth sharing with our devoted "Youth-Friendly DC" readers!

For instance: " In 2000, more than 4 million youth between the ages 16-24 were neither working nor in school and 25% are estimated to be parents."

Another great piece of information: "Each year, more than 20,000 teens leave the foster-care system with little transitional support."

Lastly, according to Philanthropedia's research, the U.S. population of 16-24 year olds is expected to grow at an above-average rate over the next decade, which means the problems that we see with at-risk youth and young adults from this age group are likely to become even more wide spread if the federal government, along with states and localities do not take some concerted action.

According to Philanthropedia's website, their focus on at-risk youth grew out of the belief that "few funders fund at-risk youth programs because many believe they can make a bigger impact funding children during the early childhood development stages." This is certainly something DCAYA and the direct service community experience here in DC when it comes to funding opportunities for youth, but being the optimistic youth advocates we are, DCAYA does not believe it has to be that way!

Two recent research reports highlight areas where both private philanthropy and public funding sources could positively affect the lives of at-risk, disconnected and disenfranchised young people right here in our own backyard. "Ripe for the Picking: Opportunities for Private Investment to Affect Disconnected Youth in Washington DC" and the recently released Brookings paper titled "Strengthening Career and Educational Pathways for DC Youth" offer up funding ideas, creative strategies and policy recommendations to alleviate the dismal situations that many of DC's young people face. While DCAYA and Brookings DO NOT rank programs operating here in the District, we do give some great examples of high quality programs that in addition to the list of national organizations Philanthropedia provides would be ideal targets for private investment.

Through targeted investment, the philanthropic and private funding community have a key window of opportunity to enhance outcomes for individual youth while also strengthening the social and economic health of the District in the long term. They also have a unique opportunity to blaze a trail when it comes to investing in youth and young adults. We certainly aren't saying that investments made in areas like early childhood are bad (far from!), but funders (be they private or public sources of funding) MUST include youth and young adults that have fallen through the cracks of previous funding endeavors if communities writ large are to have positive outcomes in both the short and long term.

On that note, we encourage YOU, our readership, to peruse both the national AND the local research on effective programming and remember big philanthropy are not the only players in the game. Individual donations can go a long way in sustaining organizations, especially locally based community organizations who are not tied to a national funding mechanism. So chose wisely!

For more information on disconnected youth, educational pathways and youth workforce development here in the District contact DCAYA Policy Analyst Anne Abbott (

For more information on homeless and unstably housed youth or the programs that serve this population here in the District please contact DCAYA Senior Policy Analyst Maggie Riden (

For more information on the Brookings Report "Strengthening Career and Educational Pathways for DC Youth" please contact Martha Ross, Fellow, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

One last thing BIG SHOUT OUTS to national orgs with local entities like YouthBuild, and Girls, Inc. and also to our friends at the Campaign for Youth Justice for making the list!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Slight, But Worthwhile Detour

Tuesday afternoon Council Member Michael Brown took to the steps of the Wilson Building to bring attention to the on-going crisis of teen pregnancy in the District. Though DCAYA does not cover the issue of teen pregnancy in the same we do our four main issue areas, teen pregnancy is a large contributor to many of the issues we do cover.

According to the DC Department of Health Statistics the 2008 teen pregnancy rate was 61.4 pregnancies per 1,000 girls 15 to 19. As noted in the graph below from our friends at the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy the District has historically battled rates well above the national average.

This is bad news for District teenagers for several reasons. High school graduation rates in the District are below 50% and at least some part of that is due to the high number of teen pregnancies in the District. Remember how hard it was to get out of bed every day for 8:00am homeroom in high school or how difficult it was to juggle homework, extracurricular activities and a social life when you were a teen? Imagine having to do that with a child to take care of. Traditional high schools do not offer options for child care or flexible scheduling that is conducive to young parents continuing their lives as students and once they drop out few options exists to re-engage young people with educational options.

The current rate of unemployment for 16 to 19 year olds is an abysmal 50%. Although the rate of the unemployed youth with children is hard to estimate what we do know is that the same issues of lack of affordable childcare options and the demanding schedules that force pregnant and parenting youth to drop out of education can also prevent them from entering or remaining in the workforce. Pregnant and parenting teens are at an extreme risk of being low-income or chronically unemployed throughout their lifetimes.

When teens and young adults have low levels of educational attainment and are also low-skilled and unable to find unemployment to support themselves and their families the downward spiral often continues. In DCAYA’s 2011 Homeless and Unstably Housed Youth Survey, 47% of the almost 500 youth who self- identified as being homeless or unstably housed reported having at least one child, with many respondents having more than one. While a good number (78%) of those individuals had physical custody of their child/children, only 41% had obtained a high school diploma or GED and only 20% were currently employed.

It is clear that adolescents are not setting themselves up for success when they engage in the risky behaviors that lead to teen pregnancy, however, at the end of the day communities pay the price for the poor judgment of teens in this regard. According to DCCP, 50% of people who receive temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) started families when they were teenagers and approximately three-quarters of the children placed in foster care were born to teen parents. Sons of teen mothers are three times more likely to enter the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. All of these systems and public benefits are very costly to taxpayers and even at their best are only treating the symptoms of poverty…not the causes.

DCAYA is happy to have both the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy as well as Council Member Michael Brown as allies in the fight to allocate more resources to the prevention of teenage pregnancy and related challenges that prevent youth from completing a successful transition into adulthood.

For more information on the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy please visit their website at

Monday, October 03, 2011

DC is Ripe for the Picking When it Comes to Reconnecting Disconnected Youth

DCAYA is pleased to announce that our report, Ripe for the Picking: Opportunities for Private Investment to Affect Disconnected Youth in Washington, DC, has been enthusiastically received by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. This report reflects the research done to date on this population as well as an overview of the policy and public funding landscape that currently exists for disconnected youth in the District of Columbia. In recognition of its publication we are providing here an overview of what this report is about: disconnected youth in DC.

“Disconnected” simply means youth that are neither in school nor working… NOT connected to school or work. Experts agree youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not doing either of these things are at an extreme risk of not growing into productive members of society. We would like to think that between the ages of 16 and 24 most people are finishing high school, entering college and transitioning into first jobs (likely with a few stints in part-time employment opportunities such as a summer job or working a few hours a week after class). However, this is becoming the road less travelled for large segments of the population, especially economically disadvantaged and system-involved youth. Granted some alternative options have become available to youth who deviate from the “normal” path that, if navigated correctly, re-engage and re-connect young people to education and employment, but as illustrated by the persistence of disconnection in communities across the country these options are not always enough to allow re-connection for large numbers of youth.

Greater Washington Research at the Brookings Institution recently analyzed 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) data and found that a total of 85,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 lived in the District. About 28,000 of those youth lived in households with an income less than 200% of the federal poverty level and had not achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of that 28,000, nearly 9,000 were not in school and were unemployed or not in the labor force or looking for work. That means one in 10 youth aged 16 to 24 were neither in school nor working. For low-income youth without a bachelor’s degree that number rose to one in three.[i] To make matters worse, that ACS data was from 2009. The fallout from the recession has continued for the past two years here in the District and young people have been one of the groups most affected by its effects such as high-unemployment and increased rates of poverty.[ii] Although we don’t yet have 2011 ACS data to analyze it is highly likely that the number of out-of-school, out-of-work youth in the District today is even higher than the numbers from 2009.

Long story short: disconnected youth in DC are a major problem.

We know from years of practice and research that young people need proper support to grow into healthy and productive adults, and disconnected youth are no exception to that rule. However, if you read our report (abridged version attached) you’ll notice that at present, supports targeted towards disconnected youth are at a bare minimum. DCAYA along with other organizations and individuals are working to change that situation, but until we can force movement on this critical issue we rely on the devoted followers of our blog to help us disseminate the valuable information in our report.

A copy of the full report is available here.

Please keep in mind this report was developed specifically for funders who were interested in gaining a better understanding of where to dedicate their limited resources. DCAYA’s recommendations at the end of the paper are where we believe an infusion of funding will have the greatest benefit to the current population of disconnected young people and are not exhaustive of all the areas that could benefit disconnected youth.

[i] Strengthening Educational and Career Pathways for D.C. Youth. p. 5-6.

[ii] For an examination of the historic youth unemployment during recent years, see Sum, Andrew & Joseph McLaughlin. 2011. The Steep Decline in Teen Summer Employment in the U.S., 2000-2010 and the Summer 2011 Teen Job Market Disaster: Another Bummer Summer. Boston, MA: Center for Labor Market Studies.