CLC Testimony and Comments
Youth homelessness is a tragedy that far too many of our clients and their peers experience. Every year approximately 800 of the District’s youth under the age of 25 are either literally homeless or functionally homeless, which includes couch surfing. In Fiscal Year 2013, nearly 12% of the 698 youth who accessed homelessness services were under the age of 18 and approximately 45% were between the ages of 18 and 21. Preventing and addressing youth homelessness and its consequences requires a coordinated interdisciplinary effort.
DCRA has been a poorly functioning agency for years. DC Superior Court’s Housing Conditions Court was created about nine years ago through advocacy by legal services organizations that had given up on DCRA being a viable resource for addressing illegal conditions in rental housing. Children's Law Center clients value having this venue, but because tenants can almost never depend on DCRA to follow up with recalcitrant landlords whom DCRA has ordered to make repairs, the Housing Conditions Court docket has become increasingly overburdened.
Children’s Law Center clients come into contact with DHS in many ways, especially through the continuum of services for individuals, youth and families who are homeless, as well as through the application for, and receipt of, public benefits. Children's Law Center attorney Kathy Zeisel provides testimony on these two major areas in which DHS serves the city through the Economic Security Administration (ESA) and the Homeless Services Program.
While at Children's Law Center we normally focus our testimony on the past performance of an Agency during Oversight, today Sharra Greer, CLC policy director, focuses on a proposed new role for the Deputy Mayor.
Many of the youth that we work with at Children's Law Center–students with disabilities, youth in foster care, missing youth, and commercially and sexually exploited youth–are very vulnerable and need MPD members to provide a sense of safety, fairness, and security when interacting with them. Children's Law Center policy attorney Aubrey Edwards-Luce's testimony reviews MPD’s efforts to address youth issues in their homes, communities, and schools.
Children's Law Center attorney Renee Murphy focuses on the work to be done to improve education quality and equity, one of OSSE’s overarching strategic goals. It is not equitable that children with disabilities continue to suffer dismal achievement and life outcomes. It is not equitable nor high-quality that too many parents still have difficulty getting schools to evaluate their children, or that youth with severe mental health concerns or learning problems go without identification of their disabilities.
Nearly 20,000 of the children on Medicaid in DC likely have a mental health disorder that can be identified and requires treatment, but in FY 2017, only about 12,000, or about 12%, of publicly insured children received mental health services. In general, despite some progress over the past several years, gaps in the system of care still leave families, teachers, social workers, probation officers, lawyers and judges scrambling to meet the mental health needs of at-risk children in the District.
One of the best ways to improve access to mental health care is to provide services where children are. Counseling services in school or at the school building can make a huge difference for the children who need them. In addition, prevention services and lower level services provided in the school can help children from escalating and needing high level and acute services. Children's Law Center Policy Director Sharra Greer testifies about school based mental health during the DBH oversight hearing today.
Approximately 99,000 children and youth under 21 years of age are enrolled in the District’s Medicaid program.2 A properly functioning Medicaid system is not only vital for ensuring the physical and mental health of DC’s children, but it is also the backbone of our early intervention and child welfare systems -- providing the services that ensure children reach developmental milestones, aid their academic achievement and reduce their stay in foster care. DHCF has consistently been a well performing agency. This year continues that trend, although there have been a few challenges.
Children's Law Center Policy Analyst Michael Villafranca focuses his testimony on the Safe Schools Certification Program and challenges under the Language Access Act. He shares that despite the efforts of OHR to train and oversee compliance with the Language Access Act of 2004, many CLC client families who are limited English proficient or non-English proficient continue to have difficulty accessing services at multiple government agencies.