The first 1,000 days of a child's life are critical to a child's education and health, and families need support to make the most out of these days. Yet the availability of supports, services and programs for young children is directly related to race, place and income. As a city, we simply aren’t doing enough to reduce these racial inequities. Many vital health and parental support programs remain inaccessible to the families that need them most, and the high cost, uneven quality, and demand for child care are an enormous burden on all.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We need the Mayor and Council to act now to fully fund the Birth-to-Three for All DC Act of 2018, which passed unanimously last year and will support all families from before and after the birth or adoption of their child. Doing so will set up children for educational and developmental success, create a caring economy that works for all, including raising wages for workers and reduce health disparities. This is especially important for Black and Brown families who face some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in our city.
The success of the Birth-to-Three for All legislation truly affects all of us. From families who worry about their children’s future, to child and health care providers who can’t keep up with demand, businesses who rely on employees having reliable child care options to get the job done, and early childhood educators workers who have struggled for far too long to make ends meet, we all have a stake in this. Investing in and strengthening programs that support all children and families from birth to age three is essential to reducing racial inequities in education and health. We can’t have a city that works for all of us, if we don’t all start strong.
Racial Equity: A Core Principle
In recent years, Washington, DC has increasingly become a tale of two cities. While vast inequalities have plagued the District for decades, rapid gentrification and the failure of our city’s leaders to address this challenge have only exacerbated the problem. Without critical interventions, the gap between White residents, and Black and Brown residents--in education, housing, income and wealth, and health--will only continue to worsen. This is particularly true when it comes to children’s healthy development and their ability to succeed in school and life.
The consequences of these gaps have lifelong repercussions, which is why the Birth-to-Three for All Act is so critical. Early engagement is needed from before birth, or children of color will face serious education and health disparities that will only widen by the time they start school. In order to address these racial inequities, we must make an explicit commitment to doing so in our approach to organizing and policy.
We are committed to building a campaign that reflects this commitment to racial equity. The campaign will center people of color and be led by a majority Black-and Brown-led organizations.
Throughout our work, we will apply a racial equity assessment tool to judge our internal efforts, drawing from respected models such as those created by Race Forward and the Western States Center. We will use these tools to ensure we are meeting our racial equity goals, including who the decision makers are, who speaks for the campaign, and who and how we organize. These tools will be employed throughout the campaign, but they will be especially important at key decision making moments.
We will also apply a racial equity tool in determining the campaign’s budgetary and policy goals. This will ensure that we prioritize the interests of Black and Brown residents, which is critical to building and maintaining the political will to implement the program and defend it once it’s in place.