Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Ain't No Stopping Us Now

Photo taken at DCAYA 10 Year Anniversary Celebration by AISM Photography

Before we move forward with our 2015 advocacy agenda, let’s take a quick second to look back on our community’s accomplishments. 

2014 was a monumental year for youth advocates as we banded together to pass impactful legislation and transformative community initiatives.

As an alliance, we are making significant and positive changes for young people in our community. Check out our Top 10 Outcomes of 2014.

Top 10 Outcomes of 2014

1.) Passed LGBTQ Homeless Youth Legislation

This groundbreaking legislation is the first of its kind throughout the country that’s targeted to support homeless LGBTQ youth. Nationally, LGBTQ youth make up a disproportionately- large share of the overall homeless youth population. By increasing immediate services - such as beds - and long-term supports -like family reunification programs – DC is addressing the issue of homelessness among LGBTQ youth head-on. What makes this legislation particularly progressive, and a model for national legislation, is the cultural competency training component, that will ensure staff members interacting with LGBTQ youth are aware of and sensitive to their unique needs.

Learn more: Will You Be America’s Next Top Model?

2.) Welcomed the Creation of the Re-Engagement Center

The creation of DC’s Re-Engagement Center is a major advancement for the District’s disconnected youth population that was several years in the making. From the National League of Cities building on national best practice to conduct a Re-Engagement Center feasibility study, to DCAYA’s research and composition of a report to document the specific needs of DC’s disconnected youth. The findings behind a Re-Engagement Center were clear, DC youth need a single entry point with strong connections to trusted adults to successfully reconnect to educational opportunities. Rather than sending youth to various offices across the District to figure out their next life steps, the Re-Engagement Center is a single-door approach to help guide youth back onto a path of educational success.

Learn more: “One-Stop-Shop” to Re-Engagement

3.) Advocated to Expand the Kids Ride Free Program to SYEP Youth

How is an at-risk youth with no money able to afford their trip to work before their first pay check? For years, this has been a significant hurdle for SYEP youth seeking to gain valuable work experiences. DCAYA posed this question to then Councilmember Muriel Bowser and Councilmember Mary Cheh at the Kids Ride Free Roundtable last year. To our great appreciation, they listened. With leadership and support from DOES, the Kids Ride Free Program was expanded to SYEP youth for the three week period before youth received their first paycheck. Through this collaborative solution, youth were able to focus on doing a great job, instead of the financial stress of getting to their job.

Learn more: Jump on the Bus

4.) Passed Homeless Youth Amendment Act of 2014 with $1.3 Million in Funding

Funding towards youth- specific shelter beds and programming has declined over the years, which is why this legislation and funding mark was critically needed. With significant community support and strong council backing, the Homeless Youth Act was passed to ramp-up services which target youth between the ages of 16 -24. A significant piece of this legislation focuses on collecting and analyzing data on homeless youth to best target funding towards services that work.

View infographic: Filling the Gaps of Homeless Youth Services

5.) Published Voter Education Guide

What an election year! With so many candidates running for office across the District, how were concerned residents able to decide who was best fit for the positions? DCAYA sent out surveys to all Mayoral, Ward, and At-Large candidates asking them about their stances on pressing youth issues and received a 100% response rate. For advocates it was a win-win situation: community members became more informed about the issues, and candidates became well aware that youth advocates are very committed to holding our elected officials accountable for addressing the needs of young people.

Read more: Candidate Surveys

Watch the youth voter video: I Vote DC

6.) Simplified Afterschool Enrollment Process for Low-Income Parents

2013 was a major headache for low-income parents trying to enroll their children into free or reduced-cost afterschool programs. Through collaborating with the DC Public Schools Out-of-School Time office, DCAYA was able to suggest significant changes to the enrollment process so parents of children who need these enrichment programs most are able to access them successfully.

Learn more: Great News for Out-Of-School Time Programs & Parents

7.) Passed Child Sex Trafficking Legislation

It is a heartbreaking and truly unfortunate reality that sometimes something terrible has to happen before lawmakers will act. After DCAYA published a blog about a young person from the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project who was abducted and trafficked to California for commercial sex, policymakers and law enforcement began to listen. A comprehensive bill was drafted by trauma- informed experts to protect, rather than prosecute, victims of child sex trafficking to provide them with the services they need to successfully recover.

Learn more: Sex for Shelter

8.) Created the Youth Workforce Leadership Academy

In July, DCAYA and our partners launched the Youth Workforce Leadership Academy, a year-long learning community of youth development professionals. The Academy allows emerging leaders in the youth workforce field to discuss best practices and build strong city-wide partnerships. The monthly collaborative workshops are intended to bolster programming for young people so that DC may become a community of experts that are committed to combating poverty through a skilled youth workforce.

Learn more: DCAYA Releases Workforce Leadership Academy Application

9.) Lead Design of a Coordinated Intake System for Homeless Youth

Right now, when a young person goes to a youth shelter and there are no beds, they are often turned away and left to figure out their next steps for the night. DCAYA is working with nonprofits and government agencies to lead the creation of a coordinated intake system, so that when a shelter cannot accommodate a youth with no place to stay, that young person will be guided to a program with available space. Look out for more on this in the New Year!

Learn more: Coordinated Entry: Boot Camp and 100-Day Challenge

10.) Celebrated Ten Years of Youth Advocacy

Can you believe we’ve been doing this for 10 years? That’s right folks, as an alliance we’ve pushed for youth reforms and innovative initiatives for a decade now, getting stronger and stronger with each passing year. We can’t wait to see our advancing work impact the lives of DC’s youth in DCAYA’s next decade. It’s through the power of the 130+ youth-serving organizations behind us that DCAYA has accomplished so much for the youth of DC, and there “ain’t no stopping us now.”

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