News Release

New data: DC is working to support young children but can do more to improve infant and toddler health

Feb 26, 2019

New research from early childhood experts at Child Trends and Zero to Three finds that the District of Columbia is working to improve outcomes for infant and toddlers but can do more to support them. DC is included in a group of 13 states that rank in the second-best of four categories measuring how effectively states support childrepn during the first three years of their lives. Neighboring state Virginia ranked in the second-lowest category, and Maryland ranked in the highest.

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 compiles and examines more than 60 policies and indicators related to infant and toddler well-being in three categories (health, family supports, and early education) to rank states by how effectively they support children during their first three years. The report emphasizes that the state in which a child is born and spends the first three years of their life has a significant impact on their future health, well-being, and success.

While low-income families in the District make up a relatively high percentage of all families, DC’s infants and toddlers fare better than the national average in access to family supports. For example:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): 42 percent of Washingtonian infants and toddlers in families with income below the federal poverty line receive TANF benefits, compared to the national average of 21 percent.
  • Early Head Start: 19 percent of DC’s infants and toddlers in families with income below the federal poverty line have access to Early Head Start, compared to the national average of 7 percent.

While DC has strong policies related to family supports, the research also highlights areas in which the District can better support its youngest residents. For example, DC’s infants and toddlers fare worse than the national average among some key indicators of well-being. For example:

  • Prenatal care: 9 percent of mothers in DC received late or no prenatal care, compared to the national average of 6 percent.
  • Low birthweight: 10 percent of young children in DC were born at a low birthweight, compared to the national average of 8 percent.
  • Infant mortality: The infant mortality rate in DC is 8.8 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to the national average of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 births.

“The first three years of life are a critical period that impacts a child’s lifelong health, well-being, and success. This report can help public officials and advocates make sure their state is doing everything possible to support children’s development from their very first moments in the world,” said Sarah Daily, a lead author on the report and early childhood expert at Child Trends. “Every state has room to grow to make sure that children can have a strong start in life, no matter where they are born.”

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 is a collaborative effort between Zero to Three, an early childhood development nonprofit, and Child Trends, a nonpartisan research organization. The Yearbook was produced as part of Zero to Three’s Think Babies campaign.

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