Council Testimony: Leverage for Our Future Act of 2019
Testimony of Ruqiyyah Abu-Anbar
Director of Early Childhood Policy and Programs
DC Action for Children
Health Public Hearing
“Leverage for Our Future Act of 2019”
Before the Committee on Health
Council of the District of Columbia
April 23, 2019
Good morning, Chairperson Gray, Councilmember Nadeau and members of the Committee on Health. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council as it reviews the “Leverage for Our Future Act of 2019.” My name is Ruqiyyah Abu-Anbar, and I am the Director of Early Childhood Policy and Programs at DC Action for Children and a proud Ward 1 resident.
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.
DC Action is part of the Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance which is committed to transforming how DC invests in infants, toddlers, and families starting prenatally through age three. Alongside our Policy Alliance partners, we applauded the Council’s unanimous passage of the Birth-to-Three for All Act last year and look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure full funding for that program.
DC Action for Children also serves on the DC Home Visiting Council with other advocates, community-based providers and agency leaders. This body works to strengthen home visiting in the District by building a cross-sector network of support for programs, advocating for resources and funding for their stability and growth, and collaborating to address system-wide challenges to the implementation of home visiting services.
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.
In DC, 2,655 first-time mothers lived in low-income households- these mothers accounted for about 13% of all live births in the District in 2015-2016. Based on this information, and in order to ensure that this bill to address the needs of pregnant people, young children, and their families, we believe it will be important for the Council to seek answers to the following questions as it evaluates this bill:
- What gap would this new program fill that cannot be addressed by existing programs and supports?
- Given the relatively small population of low-income, first time mothers in the city, it will be important that the organization that implements the program is able to reach them. Are there organizations with existing relationships with communities where low-income District residents have their first pregnancies? Do those organizations have the capacity to reach and enroll pregnant people prior to their 28th week of pregnancy?
We are supportive of programs that meet the needs of the community they are intended to serve and that are appropriate for our local context. We look forward to learning more about the program proposed in this bill and how it might support DC families.
Finally, we believe this bill makes a needed amendment to the Birth-to-Three for All DC. The clear intention of this law was to place both Early Head Start programs (one for immigrant families and one for families experiencing homelessness) at the Office of the State Superintendent for Education. As the home of the District’s Head Start State Collaboration Office, we believe that OSSE is the best agency to administer EHS programs and we strongly support this change.
Once again, we thank the Council for your dedication to ensuring that pregnant people and young children living in the District have the opportunity to meet their full potential. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the District breaks down barriers to these opportunities. I am happy to answer any questions.