Social Work: the Latin American Youth Center

Today, in relation to social work field, many organizations seek to help individuals, families, couples, groups, and communities to improve their quality of life and wellbeing. This goal is accomplished through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis, and intervention. Some communities try to address social problems with the help of the community they are located in or with the help of private funding (Latin American Youth Center, 2012).

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The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) was designed to help Latin youths in the Columbia Heights Community. In 1968, LAYC was put in place to fight the nonexistence of services in the rising Latino society. Many immigrants’ youths in the area were involved in or were at risk of violence, drugs, and gangs. The lack of resources in Columbia Heights Community made it hard for Latino youths to improve their lifestyle. According to a peer reviewed article by Gudino, Nadeem, Katoaka, and Lau (2011), Latino youths in low-income urban community are at risk of exposure to violence. There are many factors that explain the causes of before, during, and after migration. These factors include acculturation stress, language proficiency, and parental separations (Gudino et al., 2011).

Apparently, the attitude regarding migrants has currently improved following the establishment of policies such as the National Origins Formula, which have enhanced immigration opportunities while at the same time paving a way for more social services to cater for the rising population. Compared to the past, many individuals have access to services from private and non-governmental organizations, as well as non-profit organizations. The can get services that they cannot reach elsewhere. Social policies have been improved to change racist thinking between minority groups. They have helped to reduce conflicts between immigrants, hence facilitating the efforts of social workers. The need to mitigate in the vulnerable areas and solve social injustices was inevitable. Social workers focused on these areas. Therefore, this paper will focus on one particular organization, which is the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), which operates as a non-profit organization.

Historical Review of Agency

Prior to opening its door as the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in 1974, this organization offered assistance with education, after-school activities, and career enhancement programs. As indicated in the institution’s web page, LAYC’s mission “is to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths’ social, academic, and career needs” (LAYC Inc., 2013, Para. 1). LAYC focuses on helping youths with an array of services that range from social needs to academic assistance. In 2001, LAYC established the “Latin American Montessori Bilingual (LAMB) public charter school, which is the second public bilingual Montessori school in the USA and the first one in the District of Columbia” (LAYC Inc., 2013, Para. 3).

Besides, LAYC developed into a multicultural child and relations improvement base that served Latino teenagers while at the same time operating as a connection to the teenagers’ neighborhood. According to the LAYC, Lori Kaplan assumed the position of the administrative chief of the Latin American Youth Center during the close of 1980s (LAYC Inc., 2013; Latin American Youth Center, n.d). As LAYC continued to grow, this association incorporated itself as a non-profit organization. Through his guidance, LAYC has managed to nurture many less-privileged teenagers through promising job openings while establishing revolutionary associations and learning centers (Latin American Youth Center, n.d). Because of the inadequate back up from communal and confidential financiers, LAYC began to get city finances to improve teenage courses.

Delivery of Services

The LAYC organization has varieties of programs and target groups. I has set asides programs for college and employment preparation for high school seniors (Workforce Investment Act, College Access, Upward Bound), tutoring for middle-school students (AmeriCorps), gang prevention, arts projects, after-school programs, and tutoring for high-school students (Leaders Like Me, YETS). Other programs that the organization has implemented include transitional housing for the homeless and runaway youth (Host Homes, parent advocacy (Parents As Leaders), case management, counseling, Promoters Pathways), educational services (LAYC Charter School, AmeriCorps, GED programs), healthcare, awareness, and advocacy (Community Wellness, DC Prevention Center, Project STRIPES).

LAYC focuses heavily on youth empowerment. Youth empowerment includes “providing involvement opportunities, role modeling, knowledge, skill enhancement, and/or building a sense of personal agency or self-efficacy” (Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research, 2010). This approach is visible in the programming process by the curriculums that have been set in place for this plan. For educational programs at LAYC, literacy and mathematical skills are sharpened.

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Moreover, several other strategies are incorporated to ensure that the participants complete the programs as competent individuals. Such strategies include the use of modern technology and updated curricula that match the requirements of the corporate world. Many of LAYC’s curricula involve life skills lessons, education about post-secondary alternatives, as well as career advancement training. This programming not only gives participants knowledge, but also imparts confidence that they need to make their own decisions and/or determine what is best for themselves.

Data collection is done through an online system, namely ‘efforts to outcome’, which records efforts, demographics, and outcomes. The system is used when requesting funding, reporting to funders, and promoting LAYC’s mission. In 1996, LAYC received its first federal grant for job training through AmeriCorps and Youth Build. LAYC also gets centralized, home, and classified financial support from the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services. The fund allows the organization to “launch youth programs in automobile mechanics, catering, and clerical skills” (LAYC Inc., 2013, Para. 5). Work instruction comprises lessons about English as a foreign tongue, a course to assist Latino teenagers to acquire a GED, post-education work opportunities, and an off-session teenage course.

The Adelante Program

In the Adelante Program, both Washington University and the Office of Health Disparities with NIH have partnered to provide funds to the Maryland Multicultural Youth Center (MMYC) to run this program (LAYC Inc., 2013).

The course is a research program that focuses on youth whose ages range between 14-24 years and their family members who not only live in the Langley Park area, but also are at risk of substance abuse and violence. The program takes a strength-based approach in addressing proficiency, input, and associates (LAYC Inc., 2013). The Adelante program offers opportunities such as leadership forums, family relationships, community development, and awareness programs. Some of the program’s expectations include realizing all grant requirements and providing case management to 150 youths. The expectations also include organizing community events that can increase the competence, connection, and contribution of youths in the Langley Park community (LAYC Inc., 2013).

Some desired outcomes include the reduction of risky sexual behavior and eliminating substance abuse and violence. For eighth-grade students, the desired outcomes include assisting in the successful transition to the tenth grade to prevent dropouts. Expectations in regards to high-school students include serving 75 youths and ensuring that they make a successful transition to their tenth and eleventh grade. In addition, these students are supposed to be equipped with life skills that will enable and empower them to become successful in life. To achieve these objectives, Adelante Program Manager plans to collaborate with another existing program at LAYC. This plan is enhanced by the fact that participants in the Adelante Program can access the services in various ways. For instance, some students voluntarily decide to join while others are required to attend by their institutions because of their grades or behavior (LAYC Inc., 2013).

Furthermore, the standards differ for each program based on the grant. However, for the Workforce Program, the requirements are stricter. The Workforce Program provides a holistic assistance in terms of career development such as interviewing skills, goal setting, life skills, communication, and conflict management. In addition, the program offers case management for youths to ensure successful transition to the corporate world. However, a criterion is used to gauge learners who are fit to join the program. For instance, students must be high school seniors in the corresponding county. They should be eligible to work in the United States. Besides, they must qualify as low-income families while at the same time demonstrating a challenge such as living in a single parent household or having a cumulative GPA below 2.0. They are required to provide any documentation that can prove that they are challenged. Thereafter, they are required to fill a packet of approximately 40 pages of paperwork.

Generally, staff members’ eligibility is based on their expertise and experience such as a Bachelor’s Degree in social work and some experience in working with children. In addition, their ability to follow and model positive youth development, being kind, caring, and being firm are other desired traits. Staff members must also demonstrate the capacity to successfully pass a background check. The main detail is the staff’s passion and commitment to making a difference in the lives of the participants.

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Additionally, when LAYC loses a grant, it also suffers a loss of staff members. Therefore, staff members are sometimes brought into work from other programs or other sites. Each program has case managers, outreach workers, and program directors each of which has a crucial role to play in realizing the program’s agenda. For instance, the case managers work directly with the students in ensuring that they (students) are meeting the goals of a specific program. If any specific needs arise, they assist the students either with acquiring the appropriate services or passing along information to them on how they can obtain the required services. The outreach workers are in charge of recruiting students for the program.

They may take on various other tasks such as event planning and administrative tasks. Outreach workers usually have few cases of their own, but not as many as what case managers have. The program directors ensure that their staff members are focused on their task and that their clients’ needs are met. The social workers find it rewarding to see their students making progress and/or exiting the program as better people than they were at the commencement of the program.

However, there is no guarantee that students who end up benefiting from this program, probably due to family issues, will cease being part of the program. This observation is among the challenges that social workers at LAYC face. As much as they are willing to help, internal and external conflicts compel students to terminate the programs prematurely. Poor public transportation to access the suburbs is another challenge that LAYC workers encounter. LAYC has selected sites near transport hubs to help in overcoming the transportation challenge. Real estate around the LAYC structures is quite expensive, thus making it difficult to find enough space for youth programming.

Social Policy

One of the social policies that LAYC adopted to help in its operation was the Federal Fund Gang Prevention Initiative (FGPI) in the Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. This regulation was developed in 2010 by President Barrack Obama’s administration. FGPI advanced a consolidation of career development programs, which enabled youths to attain jobs in the public service domain, as well as the private sector. This initiative aimed to streamline prevention operations to improve regional safety while at the same time keeping communities secure. It also aimed at engaging the youths in productive activities. LAYC management announced the plans at the Langley Park Community Center, which focused on engaging youths in safe alternative activities to ward them off from crime and gang affiliation (LAYC Inc., 2013).

Federal and local government provided funding for general operating expenditures. Local communities used these funds to improve their neighborhoods by supporting programs for prevention and intervention efforts. The programs were to be administered in various institutions among them being the LAYC. With the funding criterion that was transcribed in the policy guidelines, LAYC was elevated in a position to improve its services whilst offering high-standard training to the youths.

The social work practice was highly boosted by this new initiative, which enhanced service delivery due to the increased efficient structures. This social policy was necessary since it assisted in the acquisition of funds. In return, LAYC provided safe and stable homes for the youths to thrive. Achieving this goal happened in various ways. For instance, after the youths were provided with the right support services, most of them were able to gain positive development to become successful individuals in the society. This policy is critical in guiding service delivery to the youths by the social service workers. It emphasized equal chances to quality education, training, and job opportunities, particularly to the less privileged section of the community (Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, 2015).

This policy enhanced child protection. It also eased the issue of mainstreaming of students with disabilities. This social policy later led to a significant change in the populations of Latin America and beyond. LAYC’s management largely focused on improving social worker skills in a bid to provide more constructive outlets for youths into the corporate society. This move substantially reduced the threat of gang activities in the society and in a very organized manner. With adequate funds, LAYC will be better placed to create a more defined organization, which will demand worker accountability, efficiency, transparency, and integrity. This outcome will translate into a better organization after LAYC workers manifest compliance with the provisions of the Federal Fund Gang Prevention Act.


The organization does a great job by not only meeting the students’ needs, but also empowering them to become motivated and equipped young adults who cannot only improve their quality of life but also influence the quality of other peoples’ lives. Many staff members at LAYC are former participants of one or more of the organization’s programs. They are aware of the impact they make on participants’ lives. Hence, they are always willing to go above and beyond their job description for each participant. Services at LAYC are not simply afterschool activities to entertain youth. Rather, they are life-long skills and services that are meant to help youths to become successful in life.

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As stated before, staffing can have drastic changes due to losing or acquiring grants, which can also have an effect on the participants and their willingness to return to the center after such staff changes. Overall, LAYC is a great non-profit organization that has helped many youths to develop and improve their lifestyle.

LAYC has been around for many years where it has been providing services for youths who are at high risk of drug abuse, gangs, and violence. This organization provides great varieties of services that help Latino youths to meet their social needs. LAYC majors much on teenage capacity building, including availing participation chances and convenient positive role models, information, and talent expansion. Through its many branches, the organization has been considered a breakthrough to the surrounding societies since they have gained significantly from it. Many youths who come from low-class families end up in drugs after missing opportunities to further their education. The stress that builds up in them pushes them to join counterproductive groups. However, through LAYC, many youths from this class have obtained sufficient skills and knowledge, which they can deploy to live an independent and constructive life.

Reference List

Confronting Suburban Poverty in America. (2015). Latin American Youth Center: Adapting Urban Social Services for Suburban Communities. Web.

Gudino, G., Nadeem, E., Kataoka, H., & Lau, S. (2011). Relative impact of violence exposure and immigrant stressors on Latino youth psychopathology. Journal of Community Psychology, 39(3), 316-335. Web.

Latin American Youth Center. (2012). LAYC Partners with DC SCORES Through Social Innovation Fund Sub-Grant from U.S. Soccer Foundation to Support Soccer for Success. Web.

Latin American Youth Center. (n.d). Overview. Web.

LAYC Inc. (2013). Bienvenidos. Web.

Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research. (2010). Youth empowerment. Web.

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