Last year, Washington, D.C.’s Mayor and Council enacted ground-breaking legislation that sets the city on a path to creating a strong and equitable foundation for its youngest residents. The Birth-to-Three For All DC Act of 2018 is a blueprint for comprehensive education and health services for infants and toddlers that seeks to end the stark inequities in services, supports and opportunities that exist — by race and income — for children and families in our community.

Washington, D.C. — After months of debate over Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposal, the Council of the District of Columbia passed a $15-billion budget for fiscal year 2020. This historic budget includes significant funding for capital improvements, education and health care. Despite record-high revenues, new data released today show that approximately 26 percent of D.C. children live in poverty, a figure that remains the same as it was in 1990 and far above the national average of 18 percent.

The Council of the District of Columbia passed a nearly $16 million investment as a partial yet key down payment on the Birth-to-Three for All DC Act of 2018. The Council’s commitment will fund measures to ensure healthier birth outcomes and supports for the District’s youngest residents to grow and thrive. Collective advocacy to hold the Council accountable to the promise of the unanimous passage of the Birth to Three for All DC Act resulted in this partial funding but more money is needed to fully implement the new law. 

We are pleased to contribute to the discussion about the Qualified High Technology Company (QHTC) tax incentive program through the fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget[1]. As researchers and advocates working on behalf of the District’s children, we know the difference that public funding can make in the lives of DC’s residents. In a city where access to opportunity has always been rife with systemic inequities, we have a responsibility to use our resources to dismantle barriers. This means regularly reviewing the ways that we spend our money and ensuring funds are used in the best interests of District residents.

Thank you for your continued commitment to improving the lives of young children in the District, and for your dedication to making high-quality home visiting programs available for the families that want and need them. Low-income, first time mothers – whom this bill seeks to support through home visiting – are an important population that often faces structural barriers to opportunity, and the District must be responsive to how they want and need to be supported.

Over the years, DC Action has looked closely at the assessment results for the District’s third-graders. While no assessment captures the true ability and aptitude of students, these are tools that provide some insight into the learning experiences of children. In February 2016, DC Action released a policy brief examining trends in third grade reading performance in the District. Despite a wide array of educational reforms under the DC Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA), our analysis of DC CAS scores found that third grade reading proficiency did not improve for students citywide between 2007 and 2014.

Last summer, the DC Council demonstrated a commitment to young children and their families by unanimously passing the Birth-to-Three for All DC (B3 DC). We are grateful for the work the Councilmembers did to pass this law and to allocate a small amount of local revenue to support it in FY 2019. However, as currently drafted, we are concerned that the proposed FY2020 budget leaves out the District’s youngest residents and their families. In particular, this budget does not grow investment in B3 DC, leaving development of a comprehensive early childhood system largely unfunded. We hope that you and your Council colleagues will work identify ways to fund this incredible legislation in FY2020. Our children and families need these services as they also contribute to improving family outcomes and success.

Washington, D.C. — Children in the District of Columbia’s foster care system are increasingly likely to live in families according to the “Keeping Kids in Families: Trends in Placement of Young People in Foster Care in the United States,” a new data snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of KIDS COUNT® project. Using data from the child welfare system across all 50 states and the District of Columbia over a 10-year period to look at how placements for young people in foster care have changed, the report finds that the District placed 90 percent of these children in families in 2017, compared with 73 percent in 2007.

Since 1992, DC Action for Children has served as a leading voice working on behalf of DC children and families. Through research and advocacy for equitable policies, we work to ensure that all DC children have the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their race/ethnicity, zip code or family’s income. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child well-being in the District.

This is an important time for DC’s young children, pregnant women and their families. DC is growing rapidly, and more and more young children are calling DC home: currently, 45,000 children under age five live in the District. In 2016, the District saw 9,858 births across the city. With such a large and growing population of children, it is crucial that DC is an excellent place to parent and a great place to be a kid. The research is clear that children reach significant developmental milestones between birth and age 5 and that those milestones are influenced dramatically by a family’s access to resources. In a city where almost 20% of children under 5 live below the poverty level, home visiting and other resources within a coordinated system of care and support are especially relevant to reducing disparities.