Children’s Law Center executive director Judith Sandalow testified before the DC Council Committee of the Whole at the public hearing for the fiscal year 2014 budget legislation, the Budget Request Act and the Budget Support Act. Read a summary below or her full written testimony as submitted to the committee.
Each year, Children’s Law Center represents more than 2,000 low-income children and families in DC, focusing on children in foster care and children who have disabilities. Our clients, like all of DC’s children, have great potential to grow up to be healthy and productive citizens. But like many children in DC, they are also at risk of growing up into adults who remain crippled by the long-term effects of childhood poverty, trauma, and inadequate education. In our work every day, we see how the harm done to children 10, 20, or 30 years ago repeats itself: many of the abused and neglected children we represent were born to parents who were themselves abused or neglected, and many of the struggling students we represent were born to parents who never learned to read or multiply.
Interventions during childhood – or even for parents – can interrupt these cycles of poverty, trauma, and underachievement. Doing so is a moral imperative and a wise financial decision. Reforms to the preventative “front end” of a system can lead to better outcomes and cost savings, as we’ve seen with DC’s Child and Family Services Agency.
The proposed budget contains several important “intervention” investments, but there are many areas where the budget missed major opportunities to positively affect children’s futures. The lack of funding for TANF exemptions for families with major impediments to work readiness, the lack of funding to improve and expand access to child care, and the flat funding for school-based and early childhood mental health programs all put children at risk.