Early Childhood

Learning begins at birth and continues throughout the lifespan.

DC Action for Children works to eliminate disparities and strengthen our early childhood system so it can support families with young children from birth through age 8.

Every child in the District deserves a high-quality education and a strong start in life. Birth to age three are critical years of social, emotional and cognitive development that ready children for school and beyond. Underinvestment in early childhood education creates barriers to school success, has damaging life-long effects, and intensifies racial and economic inequities in DC.


Where DC Stands

  • Too many DC families struggle to afford child care, especially low and middle income families. Center-based care for an infant costs DC families an average of $23,000 a year. A single mother of two making just over $63,000 does not qualify for child care subsidies, but quality care still takes up an enormous share of her income. 


  • The current number of high-quality early education slots is too low compared to the number of children who need them. Most child care facilities in the District are too small and under-resourced to provide all of the supports and services that children and their families need.


  • Early educators in DC’s community-based organizations, who care for most infants and toddlers in the District, earn an average salary of only $29,000—far less than they deserve and far less than their peers in DC Public Schools or public charter preschools. Yet many child care directors are already struggling to make ends meet, in part because the city’s child care subsidy rates for low-income children do not cover the high costs of quality care.


  • Families of young children in the District must navigate complex systems and periods of transition that can be overwhelming. Many families need help to understand and support their children’s health and development. Existing home visiting services do not reach all of the families who could most benefit from them, and the District’s local investment in home visiting is too low to adequately support home visiting programs and their workforce.


Our Early Childhood Agenda


1. Fully fund the Birth to Three for All DC Act

In 2018, the District of Columbia adopted a legislative blueprint to give every child a strong start, beginning at birth. The Birth-to-Three for All DC Act of 2018 advances policies to promote early childhood health and education in the District. This legislation will improve school readiness, strengthen the quality of early education, raise compensation to support a skilled early education workforce, make child care more affordable, expand home visiting and community resource navigation, and provide better social-emotional health and coordinated medical services for young children and families.


2. Strengthen home visiting programs for families with young children, when they are needed most

Home visiting programs support expectant parents and the families of young children before childbirth and in the earliest months and years of a child's life. In these programs, trained family support workers visit families in their homes, or wherever families are most comfortable, and provide a wide variety of services meant to help families meet their goals. Services are different in every program and for every family, but often include:

  • Understanding prenatal care and preparing for birth
  • Building confidence in child health and development
  • Skill-building in positive parenting practices and building a safe home environment
  • Support for parents during the postpartum period
  • Referrals to other programs and services that families need (such as health insurance or WIC)


Our Campaigns and Initiatives

Under 3 DC

The Under 3 DC Coalition is a signature campaign of DC Action for Children. The Coalition harnesses the voices and power of parents with young children, early educators, and community-based organizations to shine a spotlight on the need for more public investments in high-quality, equitable early care and education.

DC Action chairs the Under 3 DC Executive Committee which includes the DC Early Learning Collaborative, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the Early Childhood Innovation Network, Jews United for Justice, and SPACEs in Action. 

You can join Under 3 DC by contacting Ronald Jarrett at rjarrett@dckids.org


DC Home Visiting Council

The DC Home Visiting Council is a coalition of home visiting programs, local government agency representatives, early childhood advocates, managed care organizations, and community stakeholders.

Members of the Council work to strengthen the understanding, implementation, and sustainability of home visiting as a strategy to support positive child and family outcomes. 

​Since 2016, the Home Visiting Council has been chaired and staffed by DC Action for Children. You can join the Home Visiting Council by contacting Nisa Hussain at nhussain@dckids.org


What You Can Do

  1. Join us in building support for these critical investments.
  2. Urge your Councilmembers to support and fully fund these priorities.





D.C. Can’t Have Economic Recovery Without Child Care Investments

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and compounded existing issues of access, quality, equity and funding in the District of Columbia’s early learning (or “child care”)1 system for families with infants, toddlers and children too young to attend elementary school. Investments in our early learning system are a necessity for reopening the District and supporting long-term economic recovery. This system was already fragile financially before the pandemic — with programs operating on thin margins — and will not survive unless dedicated recovery funding is provided. Workers with young children will not return to work without safe and affordable child care.


Child Care Subsidy

The Child Care Subsidy Program, which uses both federal and local funds, helps qualified families pay child care tuition.


2019 Annual Report of the District of Columbia Home Visiting Council 

While we are midway through a tumultuous 2020, and at the end of an unusually long budget season, this report provides an opportunity to reflect on the important work that home visiting programs do to support families, even when a pandemic is not raging. 



Significant Birth to Three Funding Passes in the DC Council

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. Community 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 program. 


Angelique Speight: Full funding for Birth-to-Three law would expand the synergetic effect of high-quality, home-based child care centers (DC LINE) 

Thanks to our partners at SPACEs in Action

“Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy.” It’s a common refrain touted by politicians, news outlets and others. So why don’t I, the owner of a family child care business, feel a sense of pride and recognition when I hear it?


2018 Home Visiting Council Annual Report

As 2019 takes off at full speed, we are pleased to announce the release of a new resource for DC early childhood policymakers, providers, and stakeholders: the 2018 Annual Report of the District of Columbia Home Visiting Council. This report combines the most up-to-date information about home visiting programs and funding in DC with the HV Council’s analysis of opportunities to strengthen home visiting.


Health Public Hearing: “Leverage for Our Future Act of 2019”

...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:


Public Oversight Roundtable: The Status of Home Visiting Services in the District

Home visiting is a key strategy for supporting pregnant women, young children, and their families, because it provides education, coaching, parenting techniques and resources. In these evidence-based programs, trained home visitors work collaboratively with families who are expecting or who already have young children to achieve improved outcomes in school readiness and/or child health and development and prevent child abuse and neglect. These programs also provide much-needed social support and serve to connect participants to other families, as well as to community resources that promote positive health, developmental and well-being outcomes for children and families. Additionally, these programs are especially valuable in facilitating engagement with expectant women and families who are traditionally difficult to reach and establish strong rapport with, as these families are often at the greatest risk for negative outcomes.


Piecing Together: Completing the Early Childhood System Puzzle in the District

The District’s landscape of programs and services for families with young children contains a variety of assets. With a constellation of proven programs, innovative initiatives and evidence-based strategies undergirded by robust investments, the District has many of the key pieces needed to build a coordinated early childhood system. However, stakeholders have long acknowledged that DC has yet to achieve this goal. For years, providers, teachers, advocates and government officials have discussed and debated approaches to reducing silos and integrating efforts to transform this disparate landscape into a high-functioning system. Given the current attention and legislative efforts focused on early childhood, the city has an opportunity to build a strong, coordinated early childhood system that responds to the needs of families, uses resources wisely, promotes racial equity and adequately prepares young children for the future.


Quality Improvement Network: A Systems Evaluation Mid-Year Report

One of the primary goals of the Quality Improvement Network (QIN) systems evaluation is to provide timely and actionable data and analysis to support the QIN in its development and evolution. To this end, DC Action for Children (DC Action) produced a mid-year report for The BUILD Initiative to review at the midpoint of the evaluation’s first year.


Home Visiting Literature Review

In anticipation of a report on the status of home visiting in the District, to be conducted by DC Action for Children at the request of the DC Auditor, this literature review seeks to understand what evidence of effectiveness exists for the different home visiting programs that currently exist or that have the potential to be implemented in DC. Outcomes categories analyzed in this search include school readiness, child welfare, and maternal and child health. Outcomes are analyzed by category for each program model selected for review.


Visit our DC KIDS COUNT Data Center



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