This time next year, a third grader struggling with trauma will be able to connect with a therapist more easily than she could today because of increased investments in the School-Based Behavioral Health Program. More families who once faced homelessness will have stable housing through permanent housing vouchers. And DC kids in foster care and their families will have new supports to help them address systemic issues thanks to a dedicated Ombudsperson for Children.
This is what we’re celebrating at Children’s Law Center. For us, last week’s DC budget wins go right to the heart of why we do what we do every day – fighting for a brighter future for DC kids and families.
We’re excited to share our Fiscal Year 2023 DC budget wins!
Our wins this year represent the critical need for long, sustained commitments. Some of our hard-fought gains from last year were in danger of being reversed and – at the same time – the urgent needs of DC’s children and families were greater because of the inequities exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.
We partnered with the children and families we serve and our community allies to overcome these challenges and successfully advocate for solutions that would better support kids. We’re proud our budget wins will help ensure DC kids and families have the programs, services and supports they need to have a stable family, good health and quality education.
Three specific wins highlight how important it is to stay focused on our long-term goals:
- The Mayor’s initial budget eliminated all funding for the new Office of the Ombudsperson for Children – a new Office that help CFSA-involved kids and families resolve day-to-day problems and tackle systemic issues that affect outcomes for kids in foster care. Thankfully, we were able to work with the DC Council to restore this funding – just in time for the Council to name a new Ombudsperson.
- Although the Mayor and Council committed to and funded the expansion of the School-Based Behavioral Health Program (SBBH) last year with the goal of placing at least one clinician in every DC public school, SBBH’s lack of long-term, sustainable funding left the goal unfulfilled. Recognizing that children’s access to behavioral health is critical, we advocated to restore grant amounts for full-time SBBH clinicians (the Mayor’s proposed budget reduced these grants) and secured funding for a comprehensive cost-study needed to ensure the Program’s longevity.
- We know from our work with DC kids and from expert recommendations by the DC Police Reform Commission that providing students – particularly students of color and students with disabilities – with police-free schools gives them a safer space to focus on learning. However, despite the Council’s commitment last year to gradually phase-out School Resource Officers from DC public schools by 2025, this measure was at risk of being reversed. In partnership with dozens of advocates, we ensured the phase out continued as planned.
Looking forward, we know that even seemingly settled gains may be vulnerable the next year. But our unwavering commitment to DC children keeps us going. Today, we’re celebrating these wins and stand fortified knowing that – by this time next year – kids and families will be reaping the rewards of these successes.
Read our Budget Oversight Testimony
Curious to learn more about what happens behind the scenes to make these budget wins a reality? Read some of our FY23 Budget Oversight testimony here!