DC Action is the new KIDS COUNT grantee for the District

The word is out: DC Action is the new Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT grantee for the District. What does this mean for our organization and for our city? It means that we will be focusing a lot more on data to track childhood well-being and using that data to help shape effective policies for the District's children, youth and families. If the indicators do not show improvement over time, we are failing our children and we need to collectively re-examine our approach.

The most recent KIDS COUNT report for the District reflects a mixed picture of childhood well-being in the nation's capital. (Download a PDF of the report here.) On one hand, children born and raised in the nation's capital face increasingly difficult odds, including rising rates of child abuse and neglect. Substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect increased by 27 percent in 2009, according to data from the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency.

Meanwhile, one in three children in the District live in poverty, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged. However, for black children in our city, the rate has sharply increased to 43 percent in 2009, according to the latest census figures. For the third year in a row, more families with children applied for and received Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, with the 2010 caseload the largest since 2005. As of July 2010, 28,752 children in the District received TANF support.

On the positive side, the report highlighted increased enrollment in the District's federally funded Head Start and public preschool and Pre-K programs, which has been DC Action's main focus. Over the past few years, efforts tp bolster access to high-quality early care and education has brightened priorities for the District's youngest citizens, and it is a key priority for Mayor Gray.  

Needless to say, we are thrilled to be part of a national network of grantees committed to improving outcomes for young people. Our Executive Director HyeSook Chung said it best: "Thanks to KIDS COUNT, the District has a wealth of data on the changing status of children across the city going back more than a decade. Most importantly, the 2010 report shows us where we are desperately failing our children. As we build on this well-established data, we need to ensure that we use it to drive changes that truly make an impact for children and families in our city."

Our newest staffer, Senior Policy Analyst Sumeira Kashim, will be leading our KIDS COUNT data effort, working in partnership with researchers at the NeighborhoodInfo DC, a program at the Urban Institute. I will be working closely with our web firm, The Bivings Group, to bring the data alive on our website and through social media. Look out for updates soon, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest.

And let us know your thoughts. What would you like to see from the KIDS COUNT project for the District?