Highlighting the Month of the Young Child at the Ward-level
As data lovers, we at DC Action look forward to the annual release of our KIDS COUNT Ward Snapshots -- and this year we’re even more excited because this report coincides with Month of the Young Child. Spending the month of April to focus on the well-being of DC’s youngest citizens is key, because one of the most important changes we’re seeing is the continued increase of young children (under 5) across the District. Specifically, the most significant young child population growth over the last five years has occurred in Ward 5 (+54%), Ward 1 (+36%) and Ward 3 (+26%). Even with these increases, Ward 8 continues to have the largest population of children under 5.
With this “baby boom”, it’s important to emphasize the fact that early life experiences are critical for healthy brain development. Much of what a child needs to succeed in life is established before entering kindergarten and because of this, young children who participate in early care and education programs have better language outcomes and improved social competence., Knowing where most young children live and where young child populations are increasing, District officials have an opportunity to make sure Wards experiencing growth are equipped to support this influx of children (and their families!). As the District continues to welcome more young children, it’s imperative for DC to ensure that our early care and education system is strong, effective and one that invests in the whole child. We want to celebrate this “baby boom” by making sure that all DC children and families have access to any supports and services that are needed.
It’s also important to highlight that, while the District’s median household income has risen nearly 25% since 2010, disparities between Wards persist. Even with slight declines in child poverty, the percentage of children living in poverty varies widely from ward to ward (ranging from 3% to 50%). In areas with higher rates of child and household poverty, continued investment in community-based supports and programs, such as home visiting , the Quality Improvement Network (QIN), and other comprehensive services, are approaches we as a city can take to support early childhood success.
We feel that it is particularly appropriate to be releasing our 2016 Ward Snapshots during the Month of the Young Child – and we hope that these data points will be used as a reference for DC residents, policymakers, service providers and advocates alike as we aim to effectively support DC’s youngest children.
 Lee, S-Y., Benson, S.M., Klein, S.M., & Franke, T.M. (2015). Accessing quality early care and education for children in child welfare: Stakeholders’ perspectives on barriers and opportunities for interagency collaboration. Children and Youth Services Review, 55, 170 – 181.
 Heckman, J.J. (2012). Invest in early childhood development: Reduce deficits, strengthen the economy. Retrieved from: https://heckmanequation.org/assets/2013/07/F_HeckmanDeficitPieceCUSTOM-Generic_052714-3-1.pdf.
 Ratcliffe, C. (2015). What affects the future success of poor children? Urban Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/urban-wire/what-affects-future-success-poor-children.