DC Works Hard to Support Young Children and their Families
During the month of April, DC Action for Children joined District agencies and other partner organizations in celebrating the “Month of the Young Child.” The “Month of the Young Child” not only emphasizes the importance of early care and education for the well-being of children, but also highlights the important role that educators and families play in the lives of our youngest residents.
Taking the time to focus on young children living in DC has become increasingly relevant. As we highlighted in our 2016 Ward Snapshots, our young child population is booming. In fact, almost 40% of children living in the District are under five.
We know that equitable access to high quality early care and education programs are key to the well-being and success of future generation of Washingtonians– making it even more crucial that we continue to invest in the programs and supports that exist in the District for young children and their families. Below we’ve highlighted some of the programs that DC Action has supported, participated in and advocated for over the last few years:
1) Home Visiting
Home visiting programs provide support to families through visits to their homes by trained staff. These programs serve families with pregnant women, infants and toddlers up to age five. Home visiting staff work with parents to improve their children’s home environments by building their parenting skills and knowledge of child development. Many home visiting programs also provide a wide range of support services that include health and developmental screenings for children. Though they vary by program, positive outcomes associated with home visiting include improved maternal and newborn health, decreased rates of child maltreatment and injury, improved school readiness and long-term academic achievement as well as higher rates of overall family self-sufficiency and success.
Currently, 1,300 families can receive home visiting services, even though the 2016 Status Report on Home Visiting in the District (HVSR) reported that more than 6,300 families could potentially benefit. Given the substantial evidence to support home visiting, DC Action will continue to advocate for increased access to these services through our engagement with the DC Home Visiting Council. By serving parents and children through robust home visiting services, we can empower families while promoting health, education and stability.
2) The Quality Improvement Network (QIN) Initiative
As the systems evaluators for the QIN, DC Action has written about this initiative quite a bit. It’s worth mentioning again because once it is fully implemented throughout the District, the QIN will have increased access to and enhanced the quality of early care and education for our infants and toddlers. The QIN is unique in that it also provides resources to the families and child care providers of those enrolled in this program. Prior to the QIN, the supply of quality infant-toddler care was limited, particularly in low-income communities. The success of the QIN is critically important to creating the systems and infrastructure necessary to build early learning opportunities for DC’s infants and toddlers and their families.
3) Early Literacy/Reading Proficiency
The early elementary grades are a critical time for students, as they develop the academic and developmental building blocks needed to succeed in school. As shared in DC Action’s Trends in Third Grade Reading Proficiency released in 2016, learning to read proficiently by the end of third grade is one of the best predictors of a student’s future academic success. We also emphatically support efforts being made to ensure that our youngest children have access to reading materials as they grow and develop. One such effort is DC’s Public Library (DCPL) Books from Birth program which mails all enrolled children a free book each month until they turn five. During its first 13 months, 147,525 books were mailed to nearly 22,000 children!
The programs we’ve mentioned above are only three of many that exist across the District. To learn more, you can visit a new online initiative, launched May 1st called, Thrive by 5 DC. According to Mayor Bowser, it’s a “one-stop service center that will help parents and caretakers navigate the city’s wide range of early health and learning resources”. Thrive by 5 DC’s purpose is to connect families with resources that support maternal and child health, behavioral health and early education.
The more we know about young children in the District, the more effectively we can advocate for programs and supports that will best suit their individual needs within their Wards and neighborhoods. The entire DC Action team is committed to advocating for equitable access to early education and family support programs – because DC children are our future!