Today, DC’s fiscal year 2020 budget passed—and we’re celebrating major victories!
In the past four months, CLC’s policy team pored over more than 3,000 pages of budget documents and wrote 216 pages of testimony.
That’s nearly the equivalent of reading the entire Harry Potter series—if the books were full of the economic data and budget plans that will impact DC children and families for years to come.
We also spent countless hours educating councilmembers and the Mayor and working with our allies. We did this because we know how powerful the budget’s impact is on children’s health, education and family lives.
Here are just a few of the priorities we focused on and wins that resulted from that hard work.
Student Fair Access to School
At CLC, we advocate for kids who are suspended and expelled at rates much higher than their peers—children of color, with disabilities and in foster care—children like Almard. In schools that suspend kids frequently, studies show ALL students’ academic achievement suffers. That’s why we campaigned last year for the Student Fair Access to School Act, which passed unanimously. This groundbreaking legislation will keep thousands of DC students in school, learning.
This year, we focused on ensuring the legislation was fully funded in the FY20 budget. The Council vote today achieved this goal, giving schools the flexibility and supports they need to implement positive alternatives to suspension. A life-changing victory for DC students!
School-based Mental Health
Experts agree that trauma significantly impedes a child’s ability to progress at school. Traumatized children often spend the school day focusing solely on what’s going on at home—making it impossible to learn. That’s why last fall, with input from CLC, DC began expanding mental health supports available in school—an opportunity to make sure children dealing with trauma at home and in their community can get the help they need during the school day.
We fought for these reforms because one of the best ways to improve access to mental health care for children is to provide services where they are.
This year, we advocated for more funding for these mental health initiatives—and won!
We believe these reforms are critical to improve academic performance, reduce disruptive behavior and give children the opportunity to learn and thrive.
Birth to Three for All DC
The Birth to Three for all DC Act envisions an innovative early childhood system in DC that spans learning, health and family support services. HealthySteps, a program proven to get results, is just one of the programs it supports. HealthySteps:
- provides supports to parents and caregivers in their pediatrician’s office
- ensures that infants and toddlers are nurtured and have healthy development
- works to prevent adverse childhood experiences that can lead to lasting trauma
- strengthens families and leads to long-term benefits and healthy development for kids
That’s why our team fought tenaciously for Birth to Three and the funding HealthySteps needs. And DC Council funded this program’s expansion to two new locations!
More Wins for DC Children
Within DC’s close-to $15 billion budget, even the less debated wins can make a big difference for our city’s children. Our attorneys, investigators, social workers and other staff are on the ground every day seeing firsthand which programs and services can change a life. Below are just a few more wins with impact that can last a lifetime.
School Safety Omnibus Act
The School Safety Act raises the bar for how DC schools prevent, address and report sexual abuse of students. We fought for this legislation because we know every student must always feel safe in their school. We’re thankful for funding that supports this goal.
Child and Family Services Agency Prevention Services Grants Act of 2019
The Child and Family Services Agency Prevention Services Grants Act awards competitive grants to support several important programs, including:
- services for youth who are, have been, or are at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims
- programs that help fathers gain the knowledge and skills they need to improve their involvement and connection with their children through voluntary home visits, parenting supports and more
- supports for parenting groups and home visits for families with an emphasis on moms who are homeless, victims of domestic violence and reuniting with their children after incarceration
These are powerful initiatives that will strengthen families and improve outcomes for DC children.
Close Relative Caregivers Subsidies Amendment Act
During our more than 20 years of advocacy, we’ve served hundreds of adult relative caregivers in our shared advocacy for children—from older siblings and grandparents to aunts, uncles and cousins.
Through this work, we’ve witnessed the significant amount of financial stress that many relative caregivers experience.
When a caregiver is struggling financially, it makes young children more at risk for academic failure. Research also shows that low-income children are at greater risk for experiencing chronic health conditions.
With the Close Relative Caregivers Subsidies Amendment Act now funded, relatives (other than grandparents) are eligible to receive funds that will help them care for their young relatives. We’re thrilled that caregivers can now access supports that are so critical for their families!
We couldn’t do it without you!
These victories are as much yours as they are ours. Your support and partnership provides the resources and expertise for us to continue advocating for DC children and families. We can then take what we learn working with more than 5,000 children and families each year and turn it into city-wide solutions for even more children—and a DC government budget to turn ideas into action.