Why This Matters
Youth represent the future of our communities. Ensuring that each young person has the best chance to develop their full potential benefits all of us.
Community youth programs provide important supports and opportunities to young people, complementing the education and activities provided by families, schools, and faith-based organizations.
Campaign for Kids (CFK) is a coalition of more than 50 community-based youth-serving organizations that share ideas and leverage their collective power to support positive youth development in Westchester County. Each year, led by Westchester Children’s Association, Campaign for Kids members identify critical needs of youth, and then advocate for public funds and policies to address those needs.
What Are The Facts?
- Initially, the coalition’s goal was to create a stable and sustainable mechanism for county funding that would support community-based youth agencies that provided positive youth development programs and prevention services.
- In 1993, Campaign for Kids successfully advocated for the very first Invest in Kids fund. As a result, $850,000 was set aside in the county budget to support dozens of community based youth programs. Since then, Campaign for Kids has advocated for increased funding.
- Nearly $2 million was allocated for the Invest in Kids fund in the 2015 County Budget.
- The Invest in Kids fund targets at-risk young people in 11 urban communities. The maximum county grant is $45,000, and the agencies must match that amount with their own funds.
We Can Do Better
After a frustrating and harmful delay in the announcement of the organizations that would receive county funding for youth programs, Campaign for Kids initiated efforts to reform the Invest in Kids funding process.
On July 22, 2015, Westchester Children’s Association hosted an event to celebrate progress in these reforms. At this event, the Westchester County government announced its intentions to form a new Invest in Kids planning group, as recommended by Campaign for Kids. This group will evaluate and make recommendations on improving the process for funding youth programs.
Campaign for Kids, through WCA’s leadership, continued to work together with the County to make sure that effective and important youth programs receive funding in a fair and transparent way.
Over the summer in 2016, WCA invited representatives of youth service programs, County departments and interested community members to develop a concrete set of criteria for selecting youth programs and to create a scoring rubric to accurately assess RFPs. This is an important step to ensure that all applications are weighted appropriately and that the reasons a program might be picked to receive funding are transparent to the public.
After a long, collaborative process, Westchester County released the request for proposal for youth programs in Westchester to apply for Invest in Kids funding in 2018-2020 in June 2017. Applications from 58 organizations were received and then scored by a diverse group of volunteers. For the first time, WCA and the County Youth Bureau maintained records of scores so that comparisons in scores could be made, keeping transparency. Scores were submitted to the County Administration and a promise to announce winners before Thanksgiving was made.
Sadly, once again, that did not happen. Funding announcements were delayed almost a month past when they were supposed to be announced, and the County administration made arbitrary funding decisions with little emphasis on a program’s application score. See chart below.
We are frustrated that the many months of work by County staff, nonprofits, and advocates have produced a result that falls far short of our hopes. The good news is that we have raised expectations about how funding decisions can and should be made. Hopefully, we can pick up this work in the new year under the new Administration and move closer to our vision of effective, clear, responsive, and transparent youth funding.