As we entered the DC budget season, we anticipated an uphill battle.
More than a year after the pandemic began, the outlook for the District was still uncertain: A looming end to the eviction moratorium, parents concerned about their children’s physical and mental health and a social safety net stretched to the breaking point.
Our greatest challenge was ensuring the final budget prioritized these urgent needs while not losing momentum on the long-term efforts already underway.
Yesterday, the DC Council finalized the Fiscal Year 2022 budget – and we’re proud to share that our hard work resulted in transformative wins for DC kids and families!
In partnership with clients and allies, we advocated for increased funding and leveraged newly available federal funds. Our goal: a budget that prioritized the needs of DC kids and families most impacted by the pandemic while also investing in the programs, services and supports for which we’ve long advocated.
And we succeeded!
We are particularly excited that these following priorities crossed the finish line:
- The Office of the Ombudsperson for Children – Recognizing that kids and families in the District’s child welfare system face many obstacles to their long-term success, we worked closely with the Council to establish and fund the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children. This critical office will resolve day-to-day problems and tackle systemic issues affecting DC foster children.
- School-Based Mental Health – Thousands of DC kids struggle to access the behavioral health services they need. For years, we have advocated to improve DC’s behavioral healthcare system, and we knew we couldn’t lose momentum when children’s access to behavioral health is more important than ever. It’s why we’re thrilled the budget fully funds expansion of the School-Based Mental Health program so that students in every DC public school can access a behavioral health clinician.
- Police-Free Schools – Over the years, we’ve advocated to reform school discipline and ensure schools are safe, welcoming environments. As students return to in-person learning carrying the stress and trauma of the last year, we joined voices with our allies to say that police should not be part of a school’s discipline response. This budget is a first step in the right direction as the use of School Resources Officers in public schools will be phased out over the next four years.
- The Department of Buildings – We’ve seen firsthand the detrimental impact of unhealthy housing on the children we serve for far too long, which is why we’ve been pushing for the creation of a tenant-focused agency. The new Department of Buildings will better serve DC kids and families by meaningfully enforcing housing codes and remedying violations before they cause harm to children.
- Healthy Futures and HealthySteps DC – It’s proven that early intervention programs can make a significant difference to the health and well-being of the District’s most vulnerable kids. Our longstanding advocacy for Healthy Futures and HealthySteps DC resulted in investments that will help meet the increased demand for these vital programs.
But even with these wins, we had concerns that one-time federal emergency funds wouldn’t be enough to create a more equitable future for DC kids. It’s why we supported the Home and Hearts Amendment Act, a modest tax increase on DC’s highest earners. We applaud the DC Council for increasing funds for housing supports that will help end chronic homelessness, expanding childcare supports and establishing a basic monthly income for our neighbors most in need.
While the future is uncertain, we know that – because of your support – we will always be here fighting for DC children.
Our Impact: Systemic Reform
Our systemic advocacy is grounded in the experience we have gained helping more than 40,000 District children and families since our founding in 1996. We use this expertise to advocate for city-wide solutions that better serve children’s needs. Learn more on how we work to change laws, policies and practice and appellate caselaw.