Written by Amy Nakamoto
Update 4/23/2012 — The decisions that lay ahead for the Trust at this point are in the hands of Councilmember Jim Graham. Councilmember Graham is inclined to move the Trust's granting dollars, currently slated at $3 million, to the Department of Human Services. It is unclear if this money will then be used for positive youth development and related programs or a different social service altogether. In either case, moving the money and dissolving the public-private entity that is currently the Trust would create serious concerns in the city for these following reasons:
- There would be no dedicated District funding for broad-based nonprofit programs that provide necessary enrichment, mentoring and academic support.
- The District would have no coordinating, larger mechanism with which to target national funders and investors who care deeply about youth development and related outcomes.
- It's a sign from our city leaders that funding reactive versus proactive solutions with youth and families is a good investment.
- The District, which was once a national leader in working with and connecting with youth through strong youth worker training and focus, would begin to seriously lag behind our other urban counterparts, a slide our young people can't afford.
The following was first published on 2/9/2012
Dear DC SCORES supporters — we don’t often engage you in advocacy, but we are at a critical juncture in the city with regards to the fiscal health of strong youth development organizations.
One of DC SCORES’ largest funders, The Trust (Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation), was created in 2000 as a public-private entity to derive their budget from the District government as well as private dollars from local and national sources.
Their charge is to support positive youth development by funding organizations that foster outcomes for youth like sense of self-worth and sense of belonging. These are predictors for concrete outcomes such as academic success, living a healthy lifestyle, and becoming active and engaged citizens.
As the sole, dedicated development funder with allocated District dollars, the Trust has supported direct programming and the leadership and staff capacity building of some of the strongest nonprofit youth programs in the District, such as DC SCORES, Higher Achievement, the Latin American Youth Center, Brainfood, Beacon House, Martha’s Table, Life Pieces to Master Pieces, KidPower and so many more.
One of the most influential and game-changing initiatives the Trust led was engaging the Wallace Foundation to fund a middle school after-school initiative at a time when virtually nobody was paying attention to the support a middle school student needed.
For DC SCORES, that funding laid the groundwork for our now-robust middle school program that engages more than 200 youth annually at seven schools.
Despite all of this good and its indelible impact on so many organizations, there is another narrative plaguing the Trust right now. For a host of reasons that are too nuanced to describe in detail, the Trust’s future is in danger as a result of the fallout from former Councilmember Harry Thomas’ (Ward 5) criminal behavior.
The DC City Council — which is charged with oversight of the Trust; allocates public dollars to the Trust; and is largely responsible for placing members on the Trust board — is now weighing shutting the Trust down because of its role in steering dollars toward at least one former Councilmember’s interests.
The Council has a chance to make it right. The public needs to know that the vision of the Trust — that each child in the District of Columbia has the opportunity to make positive choices that let them develop and grow into healthy, caring and productive adults — is what they are truly about.
While it may seem like the easy choice to close the Trust to restore some sense of ‘good government’ for our residents, it’s not the right choice. Not to sound too cliché, but young people should not suffer because of negligent and irresponsible actions made by adults.
This is the Council’s chance to do right by its youngest constituents.
Please call or write Councilmember Jim Graham today pleading with him to keep the Trust on behalf of DC SCORES and the others making a difference every day.
Amy Nakamoto is a board member of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA)