Organization Supports Young Girls

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

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.”

Despite social distancing and distance learning, Crittenton Services of Greater Washington (CSGW) is working to support their 600 teen girls and creating programming and funding to further assist them during this trying time. (Courtesy Photo)

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.

To support CSGW’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund efforts visit: https://crittentonservices.org/?page_id=2279.

Leaders of Crittenton Program in Washington, D.C., Scramble to Help Girls Losing Jobs to COVID-19

Youth Today Logo

By Stell Simonton

Posted on March 19, 2020

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

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.

100 Bright Futures Campaign

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 mrognrud@crittentonservices.org