Disarray at D.C. youth agency is endemic, records say

Squandered resources shortchanging young offenders

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“They let the kids take the tests with their books open, and they still couldn’t pass,” he said. “They let the instructors help and they still failed. Finally, they just passed them anyway. It’s an eight-week class, and they just starting fudging the results to try to burn through that grant money.

“I was very outspoken about my objections,” Mr. Williams continued. “The problem is trying to rehab these kids on the street. These services they are supposed to be getting are not working, and the [Council‘s] oversight committee is not managing the service providers.”

Asked about the documents obtained from his office and about the problems with DYRS in general, Mr. Graham’s office said the population of youths committed to DYRS has declined from 1,100 in January 2011 to 745 as of mid-October, and that the agency is pursuing stronger oversight of its community-based providers. The council member also pledged to monitor spending closely to ensure resources are properly directed toward rehabilitating committed youths.

The mayor’s office did not respond to questions sent via email, but in a letter to Mr. Graham, the mayor’s budget director disputed the underspending, insisting “the vast majority of the funds” are needed for payroll and outside contractors.

In relying on a practice of releasing youth into the community — by the hundreds, either before or after they have been sent to RTCs — DYRS has turned its monitoring and rehabilitation responsibilities over to a network of nonprofit providers that has proven inadequate in delivering behavioral-health services and drug-abuse treatment, according to Mr. Graham.

This system was spotlighted in a WJLA-TV News series earlier this year that looked closely at the network of providers, known as D.C. Youthlink. The series showed that, despite millions of dollars distributed to grass-roots providers by the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Corp., a nonprofit agency that works closely with D.C. agencies to develop partnerships that expand and improve technical assistance, job training and educational opportunities, DYRS failed to protect against possible fraud and ensure that quality services were being offered.

Without identifying any youth in particular, Mr. Williams pointed to DYRS efforts to obscure its shortcomings, such as placing a child with a third-grade reading potential into a workforce-development program, a service provider’s report on a youth’s activities that conflicted with the GPS data retrieved from the youth’s ankle bracelet, and the placement of an at-risk youth into the home of the youth’s mother who dealt drugs out of her house.

The end result for the wards of DYRS, according to Mr. Williams, is that even when they are sent to an out-of-state RTC, eventually they come home and “hit the street, right back to where they were in the first place.”

Then the DYRS cycle begins again, he said. “They fudge the numbers, try to make them work, then when their commitment is almost up, they leave them to the adult system. They do this constantly, all day long.”

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