Reflections on the 2016 National Data Book
Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2016 National KIDS COUNT Data Book. I look forward to the release each year because it provides a snapshot of how kids are faring in the District and around the United States. This year was particularly interesting as children in the District of Columbia saw many improvements. However, changes to these indicators have me cautiously optimistic about the lives of children and youth in our city.
Although many of the indicators improved, the numbers show that we can do much more to support children and their families. The percentage of children living in poverty remained the same between 2008 and 2014; more than one in four children under the age of 18 live in poverty. Furthermore, 40% of children live in families where parents lack secure employment. When parents lack access to opportunities to achieve economic security, it is difficult for children to have all of the supports they need to reach their full potential.
So how can we make a meaningful impact on child poverty in the District of Columbia? This is one of the guiding questions for our work at DC Action for Children. There are a variety of ways that we can address these challenges, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation offers a number of recommendations for how policy makers can ensure that all children are prepared for the future:
· OPPORTUNITY: Increase opportunity by expanding access to high-quality early care and education programs so that all children are prepared to succeed in school. In addition, expand access to higher education and job training so that children and parents in low-income families have a fair chance to succeed and thrive.
· SECURITY: Increase policies that ensure all families have a measure of security, particularly low-income parents of young children, by providing paid family leave that supports parents as they balance their responsibilities at home and in the workplace.
I hope that we will continue to see improvements to these indicators again next year. The next generations of Washingtonian deserve to grow up in neighborhoods, communities and a city that recognizes their unique needs and supports their growth and development through adulthood.