Update from the Wilson Building

Last week marked the beginning of the District’s FY 2010 agency performance oversight hearings and the Wilson building has been aflutter ever since. If you haven’t attended any yet, you’ve already missed about a dozen, but not to worry, hearings are scheduled through mid-March and there’s still time to sign up to testify as well. Please see the schedule for the oversight hearings here

I’ve spent much of my time at the hearings in order to understand the issues both Council and advocates are focusing on, and it has been both moving and disheartening to hear how folks are anticipating budget cuts and how this will severely affect the already vulnerable population in our city. 

Last Thursday, in an attempt to highlight issues families are facing, I participated in Fair Budget Coalition’s Children and Youth issue briefing, as part of its issue briefing series at the Wilson Building. We presented on issues such as early intervention, home visitation, child care, CFSA prevention programs, youth workforce development, and youth homelessness to an audience of mainly Council staff and community advocates. We were pleased to see staffers present and actively asking questions since we knew they were understandably busy with the hectic oversight hearing schedule. 

As a warm-up exercise for the issue briefing, we created a quiz, “How much do you know about D.C.’s children and youth?” which helped frame our discussion. As the new KIDS COUNT grantee for the the District, DC Action looks forward to serving as a resource for accurate and accessible data to shape effective policies for our children, youth and families.

I was more than happy at Tuesday’s Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation (aka CYITC or the ‘Trust') when Council member Graham, used a fact from our warm-up quiz in his opening statement: In 2009, there were approximately 14,560 youth (ages 16 to 24) who were not enrolled in school and were unemployed. Graham has indicated that his office will focus particularly on teen drug abuse and alcohol prevention. We hope data and the stories of the community continue to be the heart of testimony heard at the agency performance oversight hearings and serve as the basis for decisions being made in the city.  

The expected $600-million budget shortfall for FY2012 has everyone thinking about solutions, but as Graham mentioned at the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) hearing last week, it’s not all about finding more money. Graham discussed the millions of dollars that the District spends to send youth to out-of-state residential treatment centers, about $24 million. This is money D.C. needs to keep in the District. He also noted that we should be doing more to keep these young people in their homes and with their families rather than send them through costly programs that may not actually rehabilitate them. Council member Michael Brown, who serves on the Committee on Human Services added, “we can’t cut our way out,” highlighting the need to concentrate on revenue for the District and not just making major cuts.

Tomorrow DC Action will be testifying at the hearing for OSSE, scheduled for 1:00pm (please note the time change) in room 412. 

Also note: the Department of Human Services oversight hearing has been postponed because Director Clarence Carter has decided to leave D.C. and head to Arizona, where he accepted a position as head of the state Department of Economic Security. The hearing will be postponed until an interim head for DHS is appointed and available to attend.