Civic Engagement

The Need

Under-resourced youth rely on government services for most aspects of their lives. They depend on public schools to prepare them for college, the Department of Employment Services to prepare them for work, the public transportation to get to school and work, and publically funding health insurance and clinics for health care. If they are in foster care or the juvenile justice system, they depend on publically subsidized group homes and foster parents to provide a nurturing home. Yet – young people have very few opportunities to influence the policies and programs that determine their lives and wellbeing.


    Our Program

    Engaging youth in government and other high level decision making is central to building youth power and thus an integral part of YWP programs. YWPs youth advocacy and civic engagement work represents such a long journey for our youth staff that starts with digging up and telling their stories, placing personal experience within institutional failure, recognizing the commonality of their co-workers also experiencing the same problems, and then imaging the possibility of change and translating that into concrete recommendations.  Currently, YWP programs have 4 main civic engagement opportunities including oversight testimony for the DC Council, Youth-Adult Working Groups, policy development, and the Youth Vote Project. These project build youth skills and capacity to do power analysis and action around issues they identify and to be decision makers and problem solvers—through the policy process.


      Policy Work

      YWP has moved several foster care, health, and educational policies in the past five years that have significantly expanded rights and opportunities for DC youth. For example, The Foster Youth Transit Subsidy will extend the $30 DCPS monthly student transportation card to 400 foster youth ages 19 and 20 starting October 1, 2013; The Foster Youth Rights and Responsibilities Amendment Act of 2012 was signed into law on January 22, 2013, which details 40 rights in education, privacy, health, transportation, and other issues. On the health end, we expanded the DC Public Schools Condom Distribution Act to include youth, and then we advocated for funding to hire youth as peer educators and developed new Health Education Standards (the most far-reaching and youth needs responsive in the country), which should be passed by the State Board of Education in April 2016 and implemented in September 2017.   


        Our Impact

        YWP has made a significant impact on the laws and policies that govern child welfare and is starting to make inroads in youth health, education, and employment. YWP youth staff continues to be a major force at DC Council oversight hearings and account for the vast majority of young people who come before the DC Council to testify on youth serving agencies – especially CFSA, DOES, and DOH. . If it was not for YWP and our youth advocacy programming, the oversight hearings for every youth serving agency would be significantly different. Shorter yes.  But also missing the voice and experience of the youth consumers who use agency services.