A Message From Our Executive Director
We know the District’s young people can accomplish anything when given a fair chance. And we also know how much stands in their way—particularly those most affected by poverty and racism. These are powerful injustices, and they must be met with an equally powerful response.
In this five-year strategic plan, we've refined our approach to collective action advocacy, emphasizing anti-racism, and coupled it with a comprehensive set of policy solutions driven by community insights to tackle the root causes. It's imperative to understand that the institutional racism and systematic disinvestment that have afflicted generations of Washingtonians were constructed over centuries. While we aspire to bring about change more rapidly, we acknowledge that it won't happen overnight, and we cannot do it alone.
Since DC Action for Children and the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates merged in 2020 to form DC Action, we have expanded our scope from expectant parents through early adulthood. We recognize that creating opportunities and positive outcomes for our young people starts before they are born and continues through well into their 20s. Our collective advocacy has resulted in some successes for District families. During the pandemic we worked to make sure families had income support, housing assistance, and other basic needs met. We’ve advanced implementation of the Birth-to-Three Act to deliver fair pay and compensation to early childhood educators, adding $15 million to the District’s budget for the out-of-school-time system to ensure more families have access to safe and affordable programs, and preserving investments in education and health.
Yet, challenges persist, particularly for Black and brown families. For example,
- While overall poverty has decreased some in recent years, over one in five Black households still live below the poverty line, in contrast to just six percent of white District residents. The disparities are even more pronounced among children.
- Youth homelessness surged by at least 15% in 2023. The high cost of living in the District, along with unmet needs for workforce development programs and mental health services, are driving this crisis. Nearly three-quarters of young people who are experiencing homelessness are fleeing from violent situations.
- Afterschool programs currently serve less than half of the District's students, leaving more than 52,000 students missing out on essential opportunities for growth and development.
- According to recent PARCC assessment results published by the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 23% of Black students and 32% of Latine students showed proficiency in reading, compared to 82% of their white classmates. And, 11% of Black students and 19% of Latine students demonstrated proficiency in math, compared with 75% of white peers.
Fortunately, DC Action is expanding our expertise and capacity to meet these challenges head on. We’ve spent the past three years listening directly to the opinions and ideas of young people, through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Our new youth economic justice portfolio has evolved as a direct response to the challenges articulated by young people, and we will continue to seek their input on programs and policies that affect them.
Our advocacy work now includes an in-depth examination and evaluation of the systems and structures that children, youth, and families rely on from early childhood through young adulthood.
Our team here at DC Action is unwavering in our commitment to dismantling racist policies and practices while building just and equitable systems. We proudly engage in this work as part of a broader movement, both locally and nationally, to advance racial equity. Our journey towards equity is firmly grounded in data, and the voices and experiences of those who face the greatest challenges.
We advocate and collaborate with numerous statewide coalitions and campaigns that share our belief that all children and youth should grow up safe, resilient, empowered, and heard.
Kimberly Perry, Executive Director