Washington, D.C., Increases Investment in Its Youngest Residents

By Rucker, Tonja | Nation's Cities Weekly, October 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Washington, D.C., Increases Investment in Its Youngest Residents


Rucker, Tonja, Nation's Cities Weekly


Under the leadership of Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and with strong support from the city council, the nation's capital added $37 million to the budget for early childhood services beginning in 2005.

The Early Care and Education Administration (ECEA), a branch within the district's Department of Human Services, is using the influx of funding to support several unique early care and education programs and forging partnerships to accomplish its mission.

"Through partnerships with the legal community, the finance and banking communities and the architectural community, we were able to add 1,000 new child care slots for infants and toddlers over a two-year period," said Barbara Ferguson Kamara, ECEA administrator. "Our partners have helped us tremendously, and they have benefited as well, since they employ individuals who need infant care."

ECEA has used this funding to formulate an effective continuum of services and care for the district's youth.

Eliminating Waiting Lists

The district eliminated the city's child care waiting list, providing subsidized child care services for more than 21,000 children of low-income parents. The city also expanded non-traditional licensed child care slots by 1,500 in 2005, including 500 slots that provide parents with child care during the evenings, weekends, holidays and for overnight stays.

School Readiness Standards

To help ensure that children enter school ready to learn, ECEA established a comprehensive set of standards designed to improve the quality of early learning experiences for children.

This year, 3- and 4-year-olds who attend the district's subsidized pre-kindergarten programs will be taught using one of seven ECEA-approved curricula.

"This policy change is a part of our continuing efforts to improve program quality, to ensure school readiness and to serve as a building block for K-12 educational reform," said Kamara.

Professional Development

To boost the education of child care providers, ECEA provides training and professional development opportunities to the early care and education community through the Early Childhood Leadership Institute at the University of the District of Columbia. …

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