Thursday, June 26, 2014

SPECIAL EDITION: Youth Advocacy Budget Wins

Tuesday was the final Council vote on the budget, meaning the FY15 DC budget season is officially over:

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DCAYA is pleased to report that the budget includes a number of smart investments in children, youth, and families:

Youth Homelessness
  • The Ending Youth Homelessness Amendment Act passed. It mandates and funds a drop-in center, coordinated intake, 15 new youth beds, an annual homeless youth census and a street outreach program. Total: $1.3 million
  • More social workers were funded to focus on families experiencing homelessness. Total: $600,000.
  • The permanent supportive housing program received more funding. Total: $2.3 million.
  • The local rent subsidy program, which facilitates a number of families getting out of shelter and into homes, saw an increase in funding. Total: $3.0 million.

  • The Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (OSSE) budget includes funding to increase capacity and quality of the early childhood education division. Total: $9 million.
  • The Healthy Tots Act, which promotes early childhood nutrition, was implemented. Total: $3.3 million.
  • A new weight for at-risk students was added in the school funding formula. Total: $81 million (including summer school). 
  • Six new school-based mental health clinicians were funded. Total: $470,000.
  • Two additional full-time positions were added to OSSE in order to provide outreach and basic services to support homeless children and youth. Total: $200,000
  • There was a modest increase in the DCPS Out-of-School Time Program to support afterschool and summer programming. Total: $8.4 million.
  • Funding to support community based organizations providing expanded learning programming was held stable. Totals:
    • Federal 21st Century Learning Center Grants. Total: $10 million
    • Children Youth Investment Trust Corporation. Total: $3 million
  • The community schools initiative received support. Total: $1 million 
  • Peer health education program received investments. Total: $100,000

Workforce and Disconnected Youth
  • The youth re-engagement center was approved. This will serve as a central point of re-connection to education and workforce development programming. Total: $473,000 and $349,000 of in-kind resources.
  • A Career Pathways Coordinator was created and the Adult Career Pathways Task Force was funded. These initiatives will better connect and coordinate adult education and workforce development services. Total: $175,000
  • Participants in SYEP will now be able to access free transportation for the first three weeks of the program (that is, until they receive their first pay check). Total: $731,000.
  • While the Alternative Schools Subtitle does not include specifically appropriated funding, the change in policy amends the process of alternative school designation, thus allowing OSSE more flexibility in awarding alternative school statuses. This ends a policy that left many high-quality education programs undesignated and underfunded.
  • Council restored a number of significant cuts to funding and services. Total: $300,000 to year-round youth employment services; $1.2 million to adult job training; $6 million to TANF job training services. 

While this list certainly is not comprehensive, it gives a pretty good rundown of where we can expect to see some increased services and supports across multiple agencies, as well as some modest changes in policy that will have positive impacts on youth and their providers. While all of our advocacy asks were not met, DC councilmembers and their staff know our issue areas well, setting us up for continued advocacy in the future.

Our member organizations and partners have been invaluable in this process. You have organized rallies, signed petitions, testified at hearings, and tweeted to your councilmembers. We cannot thank you enough! So take a second to absorb the wins that we all worked hard to accomplish.

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Ok. Now back to work. FY16 Budget here we come!

The DCAYA staff would like to sincerely thank all of the organizations, community members, direct service professionals, and advocates who worked so hard this past budget season to help see these wins through. Thanks to your advocacy and direct service, young people in DC have a fighting chance to live healthy and productive adult lives. 

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, June 25, 2014

Great News for Out-Of-School Time Programs & Parents!

The DCPS Office of Out-of-School Time Programs (DCPS-OSTP) has some exciting news for thousands of families: enrolling in an afterschool program next year will be far, far easier. It will be online, AND most students will not have to provide burdensome paperwork!

In the past, families had to provide complex income and residency documentation in order to enroll. Now, thanks to creative thinking and effective data sharing between DCPS and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, schools that have at least 70% of their students eligible for free and reduced lunches can take advantage of a much simpler online process (only 8 DCPS schools do not qualify). Here is the DCPS website with full details.

This new, online enrollment process makes 3 important improvements:

1.)  Removes barriers to enrollment for many families.
Last year, DCAYA cited serious concerns with DCPS’ approach to enrollment. We were apprehensive that the decision to move to a central enrollment fair at a single location would have a number of unintended consequences for economically insecure families. The additional financial and opportunity costs of navigating enrollment, created a burden for those students and families who benefit the most from expanded learning opportunities.

By moving enrollment online, parents can now enroll their child at a time and place that is doable for them. They will not need to take time off work or travel far in order to produce proof of income, proof of relationship, and proof of residency documentation. School computers will be available for families who do not have access to computers.

2.)  Guarantees each enrolled student is placed in an afterschool program 
If the student is enrolled between now and July 11th, DCPS will guarantee them a seat in an afterschool program. The second enrollment period is July 21st-August 20th, but student placement, at that point, will depend on the availability of space. 

3.)  Eliminates major paperwork burdens for the DCPS-OSTP staff.

In the last few years, local funding for afterschool programming has declined. This has left DCPS-OSTP almost entirely funded by federal TANF dollars. TANF funding comes with restrictions on how the money can be used; in the past, schools had to prove compliance to the TANF requirements when serving low-income children in afterschool programs. This was extremely complicated and time-intensive, but was required in order to keep the TANF funding. To make matters worse, the budget cuts which made programs reliant on TANF funding, also cut the staff capacity of the DCPS-OSTP office, leaving fewer people to manage the intensive reporting requirements.

This year, through thoughtful collaboration, DCPS-OSTP and OSSE were able to develop a much simpler mechanism to demonstrate the funds were indeed serving the target population by using the data already being collected and reported on the number of students eligible for free lunches. By eliminating the burdensome documentation collection at the majority of schools, DCPS-OSTP staff will spend less time chasing down paperwork and more time focusing on quality programming.

Last year, DCPS-OSTP listened to our community’s concerns and worked with us on a creative solution to meet the needs of all parties involved. Such cross-sector collaboration, feedback, and implementation is a resounding feat which ultimately benefits the population DCPS-OSTP and the DCAYA community works to serve – the youth.

Please pass this information onto parents and youth in your programs so they may use the online platform to place their child into an afterschool enrichment program, ensuring all youth have access to these critical development opportunities.

DCAYA would like to thank Daniela Grigioni, Manager of External Relations for Afterschool Programs for DCPS, and all those who worked with her in this process. You were a great listener and have worked hard to make online enrollment possible. Thank you!

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, June 18, 2014

Help DCAYA Change the Statistics

Do More 24 is an online giving campaign that only lasts 24 hours and is geared towards nonprofits in the DC metropolitan area. DCAYA is taking on the Do More 24 challenge. Please DONATE BELOW.

“It's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life.” Oprah Winfrey 

Often times policy and advocacy work deals with numbers: 9,000 DC youth are disconnected, 4,043 students are homeless, only 3 out of 10 at-risk youth are enrolled in expanded learning programs – but these numbers only give us a glimpse of the reality.

Charmia Carolina is a mom, a Sasha Bruce Youthwork grad, and a GED recipient. She is a powerful young woman who opens up in front of councilmembers and shares her story because she knows her life and the lives of her friends matter.

At 19, Charmia found herself homeless with two children and another on the way. She thought to herself, “how could this happen again.” The first time she was put out, she was only 14 and having problems at home. It is easy for her to admit now that she wasn’t mature enough then to know what was in her best interest. Having aged out of foster care and with little supports to turn to, Charmia was left to fend for herself on the streets, while her little girls lived in their grandmother’s cramped apartment. Not having a high school diploma, and knowing things needed to change, Charmia applied to a homeless services program for youth that would provide her with a GED and a workforce readiness skill in carpentry. Over 352 young people applied to that same program. It only had 35 slots. Despite the odds, Charmia was accepted into the program, while 317 youth were left to find another option.

DC Alliance of Youth Advocates wants to change these statistics. This year alone, we worked to pass legislation geared towards homeless youth like Charmia. The youth-focused legislation provided funding for more beds, drop-in shelters, street outreach, family reunification programs, and funding for community organizations that provide education and workforce training.

And the youth homelessness legislation is just a piece of what DCAYA works on. By focusing on the spectrum of services geared towards young people – afterschool learning, high school credentialing programs, and re-engagement opportunities – DCAYA works to make sure youth are getting the resources they need to blossom into self-sustaining adults.

Charmia is just one example; there is a story behind every statistic. We work to change these statistics because we know the youth behind the numbers. You can change the lives of DC youth by contributing to DCAYA on June 19th at Young people like Charmia are proven examples of what can happen when a community chooses to Do More.

PictureAngela Massino is the communications manager at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. She collects stories of DC youth, program providers, and community advocates to convey the resilience, passion, and needs of the DC youth serving community. If you or your program youth have a story to share with Angela, please contact her 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