Alright, I would like to get started and it’s my pleasure to introduce Jennifer Welsch who is first deputy commissioner, she will explain what all of that is about, of Chicago Department of Family and Support services. We met at an event about a year ago or something like that.
[Professor] I had mentioned the fact that we were going to be developing this course, maybe even two years ago. and mentioned that we were developing this course to where we are trying to figure out how government, business and nonprofits can work together to solve societal problems. And I asked Jennifer if she would be interested in maybe participating in the class and here you are! We are excited you are here to share from the government lens about how you solve societal issues that are facing the city of Chicago. And we will have some time for questions and answers. Welcome.
Thank you for having me. Ok so just to explain my role at DFSS - I am the first deputy commissioner that means I am second in command. The way that I explain it to my boss who is the commissioner is that it is my job to deal with anything before it goes to him - like, I try to stop problems before they become catastrophes. If I averted a catastrophe, then I have had a decent day. Which given the scope of our services averting a catastrophe is not an easy thing.
So Department of Family and Support Services serves Chicago's most vulnerable citizens. We do everything from early childhood services and that is for children in poverty to home delivered meals for homebound seniors and pretty much every vulnerable population in between. We’re talking about homelessness, domestic violence, ex-offenders returning to the workforce, veterans trying to reintegrate into society, opportunity youth (which we used to call at risk youth until we realized we had to define it into a positive - so sometimes I may go back to the old phrase on that), youth and adults who have been involved in the criminal and legal system and are trying to reintegrate - pretty much every vulnerable population comes within the scope of Department of Family and support services. It's a very challenging group. Especially, I was telling our colleague here, especially right now when the economy still sucks and the not-for-profit community is beleaguered by the funding situation, the economic crisis, and the crisis from Springfield that is hurting their funding more.
A little bit more about our department: three is like the magic number for us. It just turns out that way. We end up helping about 300,000 people every year and that just gives you an idea of the scope of people that we are dealing with. We have just over 300 delegate agencies in the City of Chicago we call our grantees - delegate agencies because we are delegating the responsibility of doing the work. Even though I ran the domestic violence division, I can do domestic violence work. I funded agencies to do the direct services whether that is a state-run hotline or court services. So, we delegate the work and our budget actually now is a little over 400 million dollars. So we have this massive budget to do all of these services to the again, most vulnerable people, the people who really need the most from the City of Chicago. They don't just need roads and schools like you and I do, they also need a counselor to find housing, they need permanent supportive housing, they need job training to help them reintegrate into society.
[Speaker] Just giving you an idea of the population. An interesting fact: the vast majority of our department of our 330 is grants, so other governments give us money to take care of these populations. The Feds probably give us about 50% and that's through community development block grants, community service block grant, tons of grants come from the Feds to the city to take care of this and a significant amount come from the state. We're essentially spending other people's money. The mayor is never going to balance the budget on us because very little money comes from the city of Chicago. We also get private grant funds from foundations and corporations to pull off some of our projects and that is what I am going to talk about today.
Just to give you a little bit more of an overview… So, these are the seven program areas that we have today, I think I've mentioned them. Today I'm going to focus on two program areas. I'm going to focus on youth and domestic violence because these are two great examples that have public-private partnerships that have made a vast difference in the City of Chicago. So first, an overview of youth services. For most of our programs our goal is very simple, it's keeping youth safe. Really, even though we're not doing violence prevention services directly, we look at all our services through a violence prevention lens, and that's both who we choose to serve and what we choose to do with our time and money, especially with our afterschool programs and out of school, summer break and workforce programs, we're focusing on the challenges youth face.
We acknowledge that it can be challenging being a youth in Chicago, especially a youth of color, and that's primarily who we are focused on serving here. About 150 agencies, if you remember I said our department has about 300 delegates, half of them are right here in the youth arena. This is really where we're dealing with the most community agencies and when I talk to City Council I can say, "We're in your community and I can prove it because I have a made a map of 77 community areas and I draw youth from every single one of those community areas." When I put that map up I think the Alderman is a little surprised because they think, “Oh you're not working in my community area…" but we are, we're in every community area in the City of Chicago.
Two hundred different programs… So, we have some agencies that are so good or so experienced in it we're giving them funding for multiple funding program models that we have here. We have services in 51 of the 77, but I draw youth from all areas and last year we served more than 12,000 kids. Again, we are focusing on the most vulnerable or the most at risk youth. The program we are very focused on is our summer youth employment area. This kid was great [pointing to picture on slide]. He actually painted a viaduct with the mayor last summer. He seriously painted everything - like himself, the ground… it was really fun. What we do for our summer program is provide jobs. Youth in Chicago is very broadly defined. It is defined as anyone aged 14-24. Certainly before I came to the city of Chicago I don't know if I would have defined youth as ages 14-24, but we're trying to serve that whole population.
[Speaker] The goal is to increase employability; to give them job readiness experience, to teach them about getting into the work force; to give them their first step into that; to develop transferable skills and the added benefit, the not so secret benefit, is to keep youth off the street; to keep them engaged in their community and to help move money into their community economies because these youth self-report that they’re spending money on helping out with rent; helping out with food; helping out with household expenses. They’re spending money in their communities so it’s just a massive employment and community revitalization program that we’re putting together.
This photo [on the screen] is from the Infrastructure program we did this summer. We call the whole project “One Summer Chicago”. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this logo around. You’ll see it coming up pretty soon because it’s time for kids to start applying for summer jobs. You’ll see this on buses, viaducts… [student says, “T-shirts” and Jennifer agrees] …t-shirts right, bright orange t-shirts. In fact, I might have a picture of a group of kids getting those t-shirts.
So what we do through One Summer is a very good indication of what my department does in this role and what we do is coordinate through multiple levels of government. So not just the Department of Family and Support Services but the Buildings Department of the City of Chicago, the Streets and Sands, so just imagine the line-up of city departments that might be involved in this.
A lot of youth work at libraries over the summer. Obviously a ton of youth work at Chicago Parks District because they’re youth counsellors for younger kids. So, we bring together not only what we call our sister agencies in the City of Chicago but then agencies in Cook County like the Cook County Forest Reserves. Again, the kids are working at those locations in the summer.
And more important to your purpose, the other piece we bring in is the private businesses. And that’s private businesses to help place the youth in employment and to help fund the project. So the Magic Johnson Foundation gave millions of dollars to this project two years ago. We’re still using the funds that that Foundation gave to this project. City Bank, TFC Bank and others so private industry has dedicated funding to this because they’re committed to violence prevention in the City of Chicago and also because they’re trying to build up a viable workforce for the future by training Chicagoans right now. So it works out really usefully for everyone. Other private industries that are involved – Walmart, Starbucks. Starbucks has a massive workforce program for opportunity youth in the City of Chicago and they don’t just fund the project but they had special training for our youth. They did a massive one-day job fair for our youth. I wish, I should have had that number. It was a really lovely number that made our Youth Deputy happy. You know, you do this whole massive one-day job fair and I wish, I could say it was 200 but I think that is way too optimistic. But… just a number of youth left that day with jobs at Starbucks, which are all over the place, so it’s easy for them to get to in their own communities.