Join our President & CEO Siobhan Davenport tomorrow with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation for the Emergency Charla: How Latinos Can Be Better Allies to the Black Community on Tuesday, June 9th from 4:00pm to 5:15pm EST. Register for this important conversation HERE: https://hhf.page.link/fmab.
Combatting Racism & Inequity: A Call to Action for Teen Girls and Their Families fromSiobhan Davenport, President & CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington.
You may know me as the President and CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, an organization focused on the well-being, safety, equity and bright futures of our 600 mostly Black and Brown girls living in DC and Montgomery County, MD.
But I am also a Black woman and mother of a Black teenage daughter and son and the issues of racism, inequality, and police brutality against Black and Brown people that are now so publicly discussed are also deeply personal. I fear for my children’s safety as they perform mundane and daily activities – going for a run in our mixed race community, wearing a hoodie while running errands or bird watching in one of the beautiful parks – all innocent activities that, with just a phone call to the police, can become dangerous and life threatening.
And yet, even during this time of public pain and protest, I have hope.
I have hope seeing Crtittenton girls, their friends, neighbors and the world using their anger and fear to lift their voices and march in our streets to protest the the racist murder of an innocent Black man, George Floyd and the long line of Black men and women —Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown—who died at the hands of those who are sworn to protect and serve all Americans.
I have hope because I work with a team of dedicated professionals who create the trust and safe space for Crittenton girls to understand and empower themselves to overcome the daily inequities of racism, sexism and classism that they encounter in school, work, on public transportation and just about every other aspect of their daily lives.
I have hope in the network of support for Crittenton and the many peaceful protests calling for an end to structural racism. I know that Black and Brown people cannot change systems by ourselves and that we need the actions of White allies so that all Americans feel safe and have access to opportunity in our country.
A Call to Action
We are at an important moment in time. I am calling on the larger Crittenton community to come together in support of the voices of Black and Brown girls as we seek the systemic change essential to ensuring an equitable society. We all have a role to play and, having been asked by many in our community, have included concrete actions we can take to continue the change we all support.
Hear from Teen Girls
We invite you to join our virtual High Tea: Talk With A Teen Girl on Thursday, June 25th to have a much-needed open conversation with our teen girls. It is an opportunity to hear directly from and partner with our Black and Brown teen girls to move forward on advocating for equity, including very timely issues related to education, equity and mental health.
Get the Facts
In 2019, we released a report, Declare Equity for Girls: It’s Time!, that is a call to action for our District of Columbia teen girls and the adults that care about them and their future. The report illustrates with hard, verifiable data, the harsh inequitable realities that our teen girls face. Read and share this report with your network so you have a shared understanding of why the systems need to change.
Change happens when we take action and helping to educate and encourage our youth to identify a cause they feel passionate about and then translate that passion into votes for elected officials that support policies to address racism, sexism and classism.
When We All Vote is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American. There are opportunities for adults and families to be Voting Squad Captains and separately, for high school teens to engage (and even hired) in their National Student Ambassador Program.
Staying Connected: Creating Change
The Crittenton community knows that the not-so-secret sauce to our success is that every team member cares about every teen girl we serve. Being a caring adult — centering and supporting others — is what we are each called to be not only for Crittenton girls, for the next generation and for the Black and Brown communities facing systemic racism, sexism and classism.
Grateful for your support and friendship as we commit and recommit to the change we collectively seek.
I am deeply touched by your generosity toward our teen girls and their families. Thank you for your kindness of giving to our Giving Tuesday Covid-19 Emergency Fund. Since March 13th, we have continued virtual service to our girls and helped to serve their families, including 375 adults, children and babies. We have also provided resources to those who have contracted or are recovering from COVID-19.
I’m so proud of our team, who practice the mission, and are a source for factual information, comfort and continuity for our teen girls. We are grateful to be in a position to help provide some relief for our girls and their families during these uncertain times. I appreciate you greatly helping us in reaching our goal of raising an additional $5,000 to match the $5,000 that we received from the V&S Foundation. These funds will go a long way in helping our teens and families during this crisis.
Thanks to your generosity, in partnership with HHS – SON, Victims’ Rights Foundation, Gandhi Brigade and Small Things Matter, we delivered much needed food essentials and hygiene products to 100 families yesterday afternoon.
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Clarissa Garcia began her internship before COVID-19 hit. Her job at WishSlate Inc., an e-commerce app, was focused on PR and media relations. Unsurprisingly, her tasks quickly rendered incredibly difficult due to the immense focus that the media is having on the virus.
“It’s been pretty frustrating for me,” she considers. “I’ve had no success so far”. But while difficult, this unique situation is giving her an unexpected insight in navigating a start-up during a crisis. Tuning into weekly Skype meetings with the company’s CEO has kept her well informed as to how the company is navigating everything. “I find it helpful, and it keeps me and the rest of the interns engaged,” she says.
Interns like Garcia are used to work hard to prove themselves in temporary positions, but doing that remotely—and in the middle of a global health crisis—definitely add to the challenge. Some of the high schoolers, higher education students, and those who are in full-time, post graduation internships during the school year are lucky enough to make the remote transition. Others are even more fortunate, with their employers offering full-time positions upon graduation. But many are completely left without the experience—and sometimes money—they counted on having.
Laina Milazzo, a second year law student at Touro Law Center, was working as a legal extern at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office in Massachussetts, in the district court bureau. Once COVID-19 hit, all externs were told not to return until further notice. The next day, the courts closed indefinitely. “Since it was an externship we get credit for, they needed to find somewhere for us in order to actually receive credit for all the work we had already done,” says Milazzo.
She was reassigned to the appeals bureau, which allowed her to do research assignments from home. And she’s adapted: “The research is so different from the work I was doing in the district court bureau,” she says. “But now I have hands-on experience in two totally different bureaus—and I think overall it’ll help my career.”
Some of the students in Milazzo’s class weren’t able to switch to another department. Although they won’t substitute the hands-on experience of an actual internship, their professor is creating new assignments for them to do in order to still gain knowledge and receive credit for the time they put in already.
Zaria Wilson faced a similar disappointment. A graduating high school senior, she’s been interning at the National Institutes of Health in the Department of Cellular Development and Neurobiology since last June. With her work taking place completely within a lab, the internship had no way to translate to remote work. Plus, her schedule was tied to her Maryland-based school, so the day it shut down, the internship ended.
While Wilson is fortunate to have interned since June, she’s being proactive to make up for the last few months at the lab that she’s losing. “I’ve been doing my best to make up for the last months of the internship by doing some online courses and staying aware of the science field and biology.”
However optimistic, adapting may seem too far-fetched for some. Wilson is worried about how losing her internship stipend will affect her paying for college. While keeping up with her reading and online courses, she’s applying for scholarships. And Sammy, who had graduated from high school last June, wouldn’t be starting college until the fall.
He had been working as an intern in an investing firm in New York City for less than a month when his office was suddenly shut down due to COVID.19. Since then, Sammy hasn’t worked for them, or for anyone else, for that matter.
“I know that people like me (interns) are going to be amongst the last to be hired back,” he fears. “I hope that my school will be well equipped to deal with helping us find opportunities. There aren’t really many for me to pursue right now.”
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Last Thursday, we co-hosted The COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall for girls and gender fluid youth of color with Black Swan Academy, YWCA National Capital Area and DC Coalition for Girls. We learned so much from Dr. Mariam Savabi, MD MPH and Necole D. Martinez and, especially, all the girls and gender fluid teens who were honest about their challenges and insightful about solutions.
Our time together was inspiring and informative, yet a reminder that the crisis we face is much graver for it has exposed the fragility of systems that have not worked for decades for the communities in which we serve. Though local governments and schools have responded as best as they are able, this pandemic is devastating to vulnerable families. Yesterday we asked the teens “what can we do?” And they answered.
They shared real mental health challenges: the struggles with self-isolation, of not having a schedule, of worrying about their parents, their community and missing the comfort of predictable routines.
They shared frustration with school: the challenges of dealing with uneven expectations and access to technology and teachers, of balancing school with new home responsibilities.
They shared their solutions: including the need for access to masks, hygiene and required products; of safe housing for community members who need to be quarantined and also for the homeless. They had ideas of how the government can be responsive, of how caring adults can encourage, how parents can access resources, of how together, we can create a community of care. And in their telling they showed us a way forward, a way we can work together to connect, encourage and grow these next generations of people.
At Crittenton we see a way forward. Core to our success is a caring adult providing judgement-free support, information, recommendations and referrals. While this has been essential to program delivery it is proving to be vital to responding to the current crisis. As have partnerships. We have an opportunity to work together, activating on Black Swan Academy’s call to action by signing the survey. LINK HERE http://thepeoplesdemandsdc.com/
At Crittenton we will continue to support girls in group and individually, make referrals and recommendations to the resources they need. We will test the idea of a senior-only group to address some of the real loss seniors are feeling as their graduations are canceled and colleges possibly postponed. We will continue to collect data on the individual and collective needs of 600 girls with a focus on their safety and mental well being. And we will continue to connect with incredible partners like you.
I look forward to connecting with many of you in the days and weeks to come as we navigate the unknown change and if we are persistent (and a little lucky), real opportunities to create real change for girls of color in the DMV.
President & CEO
PS: Check out our Virtual Town Hall and hear for yourself the challenges girls and gender fluid youth of color are facing by listening to the recording HERE. (Access Password is L8^&11.7)
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 crisis has shaken us all up. The very fabric of life as we know it has been transformed into a new, less favorable normal. As the dynamics of our country have changed with lockdown and stay-at-home orders, so too have the dynamics of home life. Parents are working from home, furloughed, or newly unemployed. With school closures, children—from daycare to college-aged—are home too. Families are juggling the tall task of finding a new balance, with limited resources, and heightened anxieties.
What is also clear, is that individuals across the country are feeling the consequences of these changes to varying extents, and in varying ways—and oftentimes those experiences are closely intertwined with the intersections of their gender, race, and socioeconomic status. This begs the careful consideration of how the changing home dynamics brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are specifically and disproportionately impacting girls of color—and particularly girls of color from low-income communities. For one, it is having a huge impact on how girls of color are being asked to show up as everyday caregivers to keep their homes afloat.
Black and Brown girls are and have always been natural leaders in their schools, their families, and their communities. While continuously at odds with the structural and systemic barriers put forth by the many traces of racism and patriarchy in the U.S. system, they are innovative, ambitious, and solutions oriented. Because of their lived experiences, they are often wise beyond their years. We can all learn something in trusting their leadership.
But Black and Brown girls are also—too, often—the first to feel the brunt of the crisis in a way that, if not called out, can go unseen. In the world of COVID-19, girls of color are being asked to show up in new ways, with new responsibilities. Girls who still have to show up as students, in the new virtual classrooms that they may or may not have good access to. Girls who, though perhaps not or never employed themselves, are now at home balancing school and labor.
We’ve heard from so many of our girls—as young as 12 and 13—the new roles that they’re juggling while at home under lockdown. They have become the dominant care-provider for younger children in their homes, helping siblings adjust to home-school-style learning, aiding in the morning and nighttime routines, and assisting with homework help. They are supervising playtimes, changing diapers, mixing bottles, and putting babies down for naps. And they’ve been showing up for elderly grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles, too: supporting them in complex medication regimens, preparing their meals, aiding them in getting dressed and moving around.
And beyond just their homes, they are stepping up to support child care and elderly care efforts in their communities, for neighbors and community members who are essential workers, and must leave home during the crisis, with no other access to home care. Middle and high-school girls, unpaid, are working around the clock to support their families and communities.
While there is no clear solution to this dilemma, it’s important to understand the implications. It’s important for teachers and school leaders across the country to deeply understand that the circumstances of students across their virtual classrooms are not the same. Shifting education from classrooms to living rooms is not just a change in location—the COVID-19 crisis has changed the responsibilities and priorities of so many families, including young girls.While there are indeed homes across the U.S. where children can remain mostly-sheltered from the many impacts of this crisis—where a change in daily routine does not mean a change in duties or labor—that’s just not the reality for too many girls of color. So, let’s see girls for their leadership—when they rise to the occasion because they want to, or because they have. And let’s provide them with the additional support that they’ll need—mentorship, additional academic support, trauma-informed approaches to instruction, grace—to persevere through these times.
To learn more about Crittenton Service of Greater Washington and to support their work, please visit their website.
Siobhan Davenport is President and CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington and has more than 16 years of experience working with youth that face structural barriers. With her leadership, CSGW launched its Declare Equity Initiative, focused on the inequities that girls of color face in schools through D.C. Metropolitan Area.
The CORONA-VIRUS outbreak has exacerbated many of the issues that educators and community leaders face under normal circumstances. Here’s how they can adjust their programming to support vulnerable communities.
SIOBHAN DAVENPORT Crittenton Services of Greater Washington
As federal, state, and local authorities work around the clock to mitigate the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), those of us who work in education and other community-based sectors grapple with a new reality: How do we adequately care for the young people we’ve pledged to serve?
Identifying solutions is the top priority for Crittenton Services of Greater Washington. At Crittenton, we empower girls to overcome obstacles, make positive choices, and achieve their goals. We work with nearly 600 young women from the 6th to 12th grades, many of whom face structural barriers at the intersections of their race, gender, and zip codes.
We are fully aware of the challenges and barriers our girls face under normal circumstances. Through research from our Declare Equity for Girls report, we learned from young women—the experts in their own lives—that school environments, home and community stressors, and high rates of absenteeism all contribute to low academic achievement. The COVID-19 outbreak has only exacerbated these issues.
Here are the key ways to ease the transition for the communities we serve.
1. Set and maintain a consistent presence and schedule
Prior to COVID-19, our program leaders ran weekly group sessions in schools with our girls, focused on leadership, advocacy, and social and emotional learning. We created space for girls to connect, learn, and thrive. Now, with D.C. schools closed, girls are adjusting to countless shifts in the normalcy of their lives—interrupted learning and diminished access to resources.
For many girls, they’ve been pulled away from the relationships that ground them. This comes with the backdrop of parents being furloughed, taking unpaid leave, or losing jobs, and families balancing the competing needs of childcare and parent-care in multigenerational homes. For all of us, crisis and uncertainty brings stress and anxiety that can be tough without adequate access to mental health services. At Crittenton, this is a time to show up with and for our girls now more than ever. We’ve continued our program in a virtual format during the shutdown in order to remain a stabilizing force in the girls’ lives. We’re meditating together, discussing self-care, and creating accountability groups. We’re working to bridge technology gaps so all of our girls can have this access and support.
2. Adopt multiple modes of communication
Inequities can grow when we’re all in crisis. The digital divide in the U.S. will leave many students behind as society transitions to remote life and distance learning. My team has resorted to email, texts, individual phone calls, video chats, and group chats with apps like House Party, to keep in regular communication with our girls in lieu of in-person contact. All modes are necessary because digital integration is limited and inconsistent within the communities we serve.
According to Pew Research, 26 percent of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are “smartphone-dependent,” 46 percent lack a traditional computer, and 44 percent don’t have access to home broadband service. Thankfully, numerous telecommunications companies have stepped up to offer free internet service to allow more families to connect during the outbreak, but that is just one piece of the puzzle.
3. Be a resource for timely and credible information
In less than three weeks, the COVID-19 situation has devolved from “take precautionary measures” to nearly every state issuing shelter-in-place orders. It is easy to get lost in the abundance, speed, and accuracy of information. In our case, one of our girls posted in a group chat that she read on the internet that the coronavirus comes from Chinese food. Before school closures, another student shared that her class went into a frenzy after a student sneezed from seasonal allergies. Everyone, especially those of us in leadership positions, must be discerning with our words and the information we share.
At Crittenton, we’ve chosen to only share information directly published from our local government, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and trusted affiliate organizations. We find families want information about COVID-19 protocols, education plans, and meal distribution and other support sites should they experience an emergency. We’ve had 15 families, 115 adults, children, and babies run out of food and two students lose their jobs in less than a week.
Normalcy, reliability, and predictability are some of our greatest comforts in uncertain times. While we don’t know how long the COVID-19 outbreak will last, I have full confidence that my fellow educators and community leaders will do what we’ve always done—rise to the occasion.
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington students (Image: Crittenton Services of Greater Washington)
America’s education system has been disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis. As a result of the new normal, underserved students and their families are heavily relying on educators, family support specialists, and agencies for educational support and access to basic essentials.
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington is a 132-year-old organization that supports 600 girls in the Washington metropolitan area. The organization’s mission is to empower teens to overcome obstacles, make positive choices, and achieve their goals through strategic programming and resources. The organization houses a team of researchers that focuses on equity for young women of color within the education system. In their latest study, The Declare Equity Report, the organization highlighted the disparities that young women living in vulnerable communities face like safety concerns within the household, and being distracted at school because of the need to assume adult responsibilities, and push out.
Amid the current health crisis, we spoke with Siobhan Davenport, president and executive director of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, about how she and her team are finding ways to engage program participants, creating digital communities/safe spaces during social distancing, and partnering with parents to help their children continue their education during this time of uncertainty.
Siobhan Davenport, President and Executive Director of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington
SHOWING UP FOR THE COMMUNITY
How are school closures impacting the young women that Crittenton serves?
During this COVID-19 pandemic shut down, we are specifically concerned about the young ladies that we serve and keeping them engaged in school. March 13th is when our schools were closed suddenly. And one of our funders reached out to us and we had a conversation about what role we can play just besides delivering our programs. We talked about some of the factors that we knew our teen girls face in their family, so they gifted us a $5,000 grant called The Emergency COVID-19 Funds. And immediately on that Friday, our girls were reaching out to us.
They wanted to ensure that we were still going to have programs because in some cases our program leaders are their trusted adult. They meet with them weekly throughout the entire school year in groups of about 15 to 18 teen girls. So, there’s a lot of trust in built up in those groups. And of course, it’s a safe space for our teen girls.
We immediately said, Yes, we will continue to deliver programs, we’re just going to have to do it a little bit differently and be creative in that way.
The COVID-19 crisis adds another layer of trauma and anxiety for many underserved communities. How is your team responding to the young women and their families who are facing new insecurities because of the school closures?
The girls were reaching out and were concerned about food insecurity. We had three girls who lost their jobs. Restaurants were closed and a lot of our girls work in entry-level jobs. And for our girls, those part-time jobs actually contribute to the well-being of their household. So, this is a major blow to the family.
Parents have reported to us job loss as well and reached out to say, ‘can we get emergency food and essential supplies,’ which we were able to do and thus far we’ve helped 40 families and 181 parents, children, and babies.
Our young ladies have reported inadequate Wi-Fi access or just simply not having a device computer in the home. Both of our school districts are looking at ways in which to distribute tablets, but we had to kind of fill in the gap and we let one of our families borrow a Chromebook because the dad needed to apply for unemployment benefits and didn’t have access to that.
CREATING SAFE SPACES
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington students (Image: Crittenton Services of Greater Washington)
School is a safe haven for many students and a reliable resource for parents as they work. What are some of the ways that the organization is helping students and their families adapt to being home together?
We have a very structured curriculum, and it just so happened that part of the curriculum currently is on what is a healthy relationship, and that means your family, your friends, and of course significant others. Our program leaders are putting a heavy emphasis on that.
We’re really focusing on healthy relationships and communication. The program is steeped in social-emotional learning core competencies. We talk about identifying emotions. We’re all at high emotion at this point in time. We’re intentionally starting each session with self-awareness check-ins.
Our program leaders are helping our students with self-meditation, deep breathing exercises, and challenging them to continue to practice that throughout the week and then report in through the group chat or when they’re on a Zoom call to talk about how they’re managing their stress in a positive, productive way.
Family support is critical during this time as parents and guardians adjust their lives to become substitute teachers, providers, and everything in between. How can organizations like Crittenton support families during these times?
A big concern for parents is that the school structure is being lost. Parents are depending upon teachers to be the source of help for their children. And now all of a sudden, they’re thrust in that role.
We have parents who have English as a second language. They’ve actually come to our program leaders to have them translate how to access information for their children. There’s a lot of responsibilities that parents are taking on. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to go in learning what the schools are doing, what our school systems are asking for, and be able to help parents and guide them as they try to navigate the website and access the work that their daughters are doing. We’ve been on multiple fronts trying to anticipate and be a source of trusted information. For our families and our teen girls.
STAYING CONNECTED DURING ISOLATION
At Crittenton,young women are able to build community. How is the organization maintaining that sense of connectedness during social distancing?
Part of positive youth development principles is letting the youth lead. When we initially started conversations with our girls, we talked to them about how they want groups to meet. We were experiential and just tried different methodologies of reaching the girls.
Some program leaders said, ‘I’m just going to switch my platform to Zoom whereas other program leaders have said, the girls said they don’t want to download anything else taking up more memory on their phone and they’re already on Instagram Live and we’ve had a great response reaching them there.
As it relates to social-emotional learning, how is Crittenton helping the young woman understand this national moment of crisis, with all of the different layers of trauma that are experienced?
Our program leaders have been having conversations with our girls so that they get a sense that this [the pandemic] is bigger than their community. That part of social awareness of social-emotional learning is key in building empathy.
It is our obligation to follow those social distancing rules. I know it’s inconvenient and it’s not how they want to communicate. They actually want to be in school. They are reporting that they are bored, want structure, and want to be able to see their friends face to face.
We’re trying to help them understand that we are actually doing each other a great service by maintaining the social distance.
If you are interested in learning more about the resources offered by Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, visit its website for free tools and resources.
With schools being out due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, organizations that support students, like Crittenton Services of Greater Washington (CSGW), have had to find creative ways to engage and encourage their youth, while staying true to its mission. Despite the unique issues presented with the unprecedented spread of the virus and new demand for “social distancing”, CSGW, a program that helps vulnerable girls in sixth through 12th grades, and its President and CEO Siobhan Davenport, are committed to helping their pupils and even providing further support outside of their normal work during this difficult time in the city, nation and world.
“We have moved our school based programs online and are meeting weekly with our teen girls, using various social media platforms [including] Party House and MeetMe apps, Skype, Zoom, etc.,” Davenport told the AFRO in an exclusive interview. “For some of our most vulnerable girls, we are providing a daily check in via individual phone calls or text.”
These larger group and personal check-ins, as a result of coronavirus, have become a digital subset of CSGW’s 132-year-old program and the larger National Crittenton organization, which comprises of 26 sister agencies, with a base in Portland, Oregon. There are 600 girls ages 12-19 in CSGW’s program, from Washington, D.C. (primarily Wards 5,7 and 8) and Montgomery County.
Under normal circumstances, Crittenton Services of Greater Washington “meets weekly over nine months in 43 groups of teen girls from the sixth through 12th grades,” Davenport said. “We offer a curriculum that is based on social and emotional practices, trauma informed, and incorporates positive youth development principles.”
Despite the new style of support and mentorship, CSGW’S mission and commitment continues.
The online and virtual programming, as well as regular check-ins through phone calls and text, have been integral for both the girls and the staff at CSGW. However, not all students have digital capabilities.
“According to Pew Research, 29 percent of adults with household income below $30,000 don’t own a smartphone, 44 percent don’t have broadband service, and 46 percent lack a traditional computer. Our educators and leaders must think about accessibility and equity in this environment,” Davenport said.
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington is stepping in where digital access is limited.
“We are providing chromebooks for any of our girls who are participating in distance learning or need to complete schoolwork at home. For girls in need of Internet access, we are providing free or reduced priced Internet resources to them and their families, such as Comcast Internet Essentials. The abruptness of the move to distance-learning has really exposed the digital divide that exists in this country,” Davenport said.
As the young ladies often turn to CSGW for help and solutions, remaining a reliable source of information has also been key to their digital transition.
“There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet right now so it’s more important than ever for us to communicate timely and reliable information,” Davenport said. “We have created a list on our website of valuable resources, such as up-to-date COVID-19 information and food distribution sites for our teen girls and their families. Additionally, we have adopted a multi-channel outreach plan (email, phone, text, social, group chat, etc.) to ensure our girls and their guardians have multiple touch points.”
As many of the girls in the program already face challenges, the coronavirus pandemic has become yet another trial for the young women to face.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated many of the challenges our girls faced under normal circumstances. So we are emphasizing routines and self-care and resources for stress management, (including five core competencies: Self Awareness, Self Management, Responsible Decision Making, Relationship Skills, and Social Awareness),” Davenport explained. “This helps the girls maintain a routine and give some semblance of order.”
With some of the financial hardhships, CSGW is stepping in.
“Schools are closed, which means access to nutritious food is limited. We have been able to provide non-perishable food items, water, diapers, formula, wipes and gas cards to 21 families, impacting 100 adults and children,” she said.
“In the last few days, we have been made aware that some parents and guardians, in addition to our teen girls have either lost their jobs or had their hours severely reduced. Our teens work to help support their households so this loss of income is devastating,” Davenport added.
The organization received a $5,000 donation from V&S Foundation, which they used to create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support some of the girls. “We are looking to match funds and raise $10,000 total,” Davenport said.
Girls at several middle and high schools in Washington, D.C., in wards 5, 7 and 8 were already handling more challenges in their lives than many teens face.
They live in neighborhoods with high crime, high unemployment and low incomes.
Some have responsibilities at home caring for younger siblings, filling in for parents who are working. Some are teen parents themselves.
When schools closed a week ago and many businesses followed suit, the challenges increased. High school girls began to lose their jobs, said Siobhan Davenport, executive director of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington. The organization provides youth development programming for girls in eight D.C. and twelve Montgomery County, Md., schools.
On Monday, at least two girls in the program lost their part-time jobs at Burger King and Subway as those businesses closed, she said. Other girls scrambled to understand what was happening. They worried that their families wouldn’t have enough money for food, Davenport said.
Eight program leaders at Crittenton Services run the weekly after-school programs that provide girls with support in overcoming obstacles, making positive choices and reaching their goals, according to the organization.
When leaders checked in with the girls via phone and text, there were plenty of questions, Davenport said. How does coronavirus spread, exactly? Can you get it from Chinese food? (The answer is no.) One girl left her laptop computer at school. How would she get it?
Crittenton focused on providing accurate information about the virus on its website and through program staff.
Initially program leaders rushed to address problems such as whether the girls had the supplies they need for an extended period without school. Another problem they saw was that schools might not even have updated contact information on all their students because of address and phone number changes, Davenport said.
“Girls were concerned about food scarcity,” she said. Almost immediately, program staff delivered gas cards and food to 12 families, she said.
Program leaders are checking in with the students using text messages and various apps. They’re looking at using multiple channels of communication, Davenport said. They’re emphasizing self-care and maintaining a consistent schedule, even as they worry about girls in difficult home situations.
“For some of our girls, their home environment is not a safe place,” Davenport said, referring to emotionally abusive relationships.
Program leaders may be the only — or one of the few — trusted adult in the lives of some of the girls, she said. The leaders also are concerned that girls practice social distancing and avoid getting together with friends in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
GIRLS DON’T FEEL SAFE AT SCHOOL, HOME
A survey of 71 girls and additional alumnae of the program, published in 2018 as the “Declare Equity for Girls” report, presented girls’ view of conditions in their schools and community.
Girls said they were frequently “put down,” as fellow students and adults make comments about their bodies and clothes. These comments reinforced negative stereotypes experienced by black girls, the report said. Girls described their schools as places of “drama” involving bullying and fighting.
They said their school environment was not conducive to learning and that their home and family environment added to the challenge. They said they don’t feel safe and respected in their school or neighborhood.
Program leaders at Crittenton plan to hold their weekly group meetings using various online apps, Davenport said. It’s important to maintain these key connections, she said. As the coronavirus pandemic changes daily life for everyone, the organization is doing its best to respond.
“We’re all trying to figure this out. We’re building the airplane as we’re flying it,” she said.
Learn more about who we serve , our programs, vision to have a greater impact in the Greater Washington area and more about how we support teen girls in the 6th through 12th grades by downloading the report here: Crittenton’s 2019-2019 Annual Report
100 more teen girls ready to join the Crittenton family
Crittenton cannot grow fast enough to meet the needs of teen girls in our community. The good news is that we are ready to take a big step forward and expand our circle of support to reach 100 more teens this coming school year. The only thing stopping us: resources.
To overcome this challenge, we have launched a new community-initiative to increase the money to raise opportunity for teen girls. Help us reach our goal by giving to the 100 Bright Futures campaign.
This coming school year, Crittenton will increase the number of teen girls we are able to reach in District Wards 5, 7, and 8. We will launch an expansion of our Montgomery County programs to reach teens in the Eastern part of the county. Crittenton is also moving from pilot to fully-fledged program of our Peer Advocates initiative – student leaders in schools.
The sum total of all of this growth will be 100 more teens (600 hundred Crittenton teens total) who will be working hard to envision, plan for, and make reality their own bright future.
Already, a coalition of public and private support has accelerated our ability to fund our campaign. But it will take the entire Crittenton Community to help us fully fund the 100 Bright Futures campaign.
Be part of a growing crowd of supporters ready and willing to cheer on more teen girls to reach their potential.
For more information on the 100 Bright Futures campaign, please contact Megan Rognrud at email@example.com