- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

More than a quarter of the District’s children under five live in poor neighborhoods and have a higher chance of being missed in the upcoming 2020 national census, potentially costs the city millions of dollars in funding for federal support services, according to a city advocacy group for children citing new data being released Wednesday.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation on Wednesday is releasing its 2018 survey of child well-being nationally, with both good and bad news for the city. But activists say an inaccurate count of the city’s population in 2020 could put some of the recent gains in jeopardy.

“If we want to mitigate racial and economic disparities and increase opportunity, then we must take steps to ensure that all D.C. children and their families complete the census,” said Shana Bartley, acting director of D.C. Action for Children, in a statement accompanying the release of the latest “Kids Count Data Book.” “The census most often misses children of color, children from low-income families, and children living in immigrant families.”

In fiscal year 2015, the District took in some $612.8 million in federal dollars to fund child well-being programs. Among the programs that could be shortchanged are Medicaid and Head Start.

The Casey Foundation report offered a number of recommendations to improve the accuracy of Census counts for hard-to-reach populations, including more resources for the federal Census Bureau; funding state and local outreach programs to increase awareness of the census; digital services and online connectivity for low-income families at local libraries and schools; and programs to reassure those concerned with privacy issues related to Census data.



“The Census most often misses children of color, children from low-income families, and children living in immigrant families; this puts D.C.’s advancements in child well-being at risk as vital federal programs face reductions in funding,” said Ms. Bartley.

Kindred, a nonprofit that works with diverse communities and schools in the city, helps parents understand how policy affects their role in society.

“We can ensure that families better understand the role that the Census plays in helping their children,” said Kindred founder Laura Wilson Phelan, a Ward 1 member of the D.C. State Board of Education member, noting that many immigrant families can still go undercounted in the census.

“Families who are undocumented are deeply concerned that the information they give could potentially separate parents from their children,” Ms. Phelan said.

Despite a booming local economy, the Casey Foundation survey found a number of measures where the District’s children are lagging. Some 27 percent of the city’s children live in “high-poverty areas,” and a tenth of the city’s newborns suffer from low birth weights.

But the report cited upward trends in child well-being, trends that could be put at risk by an inaccurate population count.

The number of District children living in poverty fell 13 percent from 2010 to 2016, while the number of D.C. children living in households where no parent had full-time, year-round employment dropped by 18 percent between 2010 and 2016.

The current controversies of immigration policies at the Mexico border have left many immigrant families even more hesitant to participate in the census, Ms. Phelan said.

The 2018 Kids Count Data Book is being released Wednesday at the Casey Foundation website — www.aecf.org.

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