Part 2: Exciting beginnings, bungled implementation
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the District had extreme difficulty providing community based care.
“The whole notion was to privatize that process by selecting agencies that had a proven track record,” says Bob Brown, who helped lead the DC YouthLink design team.
The plan generated tremendous excitement. Based on research, it had broad support from both officials at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), which DC YouthLink falls under, and key community stakeholders. Most people still consider the idea to be a good one, as it has helped reverse the city’s “overreliance on incarceration,” says Joe Tulman, a professor at the University of the District of Columbia.
Unfortunately, the city bungled its implementation, Brown says. The design team called for planning and pilot periods, but they never happened. The DYRS Director at the time, Vincent Schiraldi, was so hot on the idea that he pushed it forward without policies and procedures in place. The city jumped into the deep end, before working out the kinks. Schiraldi would not return phone calls seeking comment.
There was another problem. The city had to choose two nonprofits to run DC YouthLink. These groups would go on to control where the youths – and the money – went. It picked Progressive Life Center (PLC) for the western part of the city and East of the River Clergy-Police-Community Partnership (ERCPCP) for the eastern part.
But according to several people directly involved in the selection process, ERCPCP did not have the highest score among the applicants for that job. In fact, a panel had ranked it a distant third. Sources, who signed a confidentiality agreement and could not speak publicly, say that contract was ultimately awarded behind closed doors.
Brown says since the rushed implementation and shady selection process, he hasn’t had any involvement with DC YouthLink. Upset that the city bastardized the original plan, he only knows what he has heard from friends: “It’s a far cry from what was intended.”
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