Tessa Buttram and Kylie Hunter

CWLA President & CEO Chris James-Brown presented to Capitol Hill during a congressional briefing hosted by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) titled “Cutting Child Poverty in Half within a Decade” held on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The briefing organized by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) discussed the recently released National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, “A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty”.

The presentation was moderated John Roman, NORC at the University of Chicago, and included NAS Study Committee Members Christine James-Brown, CWLA, Dr. Bernard Dreyer, NYU School of Medicine, and Dr. Angela Diaz, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. The opening statement came from Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children. He emphasized the significant costs of child poverty to the nation, totaling more than a one trillion dollars a year. He also discussed the significance of having a study by such a prestigious group recognizing that there are approaches that can in fact reduce poverty by more than half in ten years.

CWLA President Christine James-Brown spoke about some of the challenges and limitations of the study, one of the biggest being the ten-year time constraint. She also noted the need for concrete, causal evidence of programs that will meet the goal as opposed to spurious correlations. She discussed the linkage between child poverty and child well-being. James-Brown also discussed how a number of programs that practitioners believe do have a positive and long-term impact on children and in reducing poverty such as early childhood education and home visiting programs were not included in the study due to some of modeling and evaluation methodology which required a ten-year result in reducing poverty in half.

Dr. Dreyer highlighted the fact that reducing income poverty improves child outcomes. He noted that two out of the four policy program packages met the 50% child poverty reduction goal – The Universal Supports and Work Package and the Means-Tested Supports and Work Package.

Dr. Diaz of Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City highlighted the developmental impact of poverty-related trauma on youth and adolescents. Giving a perspective of her own work and experiences in New York City she gave examples that included the impact of child sexual abuse and its impact on cognitive-behavioral issues throughout the victim’s life.

After the initial discussion an audience of approximately 150 people had several questions that centered around what are the tangible efforts that can be made toward advocating for a reduction of child poverty at the state and federal level. Panelists stated that the report speaks for itself and that utilizing the evidence presented can provide weight for advocates’ initiatives. Several members of the House of Representatives are working on expanding some of the policies that contributes to reducing child poverty like an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) that focus on early childhood education.

Investments in reducing child poverty improve children’s health, nutrition and educational outcomes and have long-term positive impacts on a child’s health and economic contributions. John Roman reiterated the famous quote by Frederick Douglass, “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” that speaks to the return on investment of the $90-$100 billion cost and political will.

If you missed the House briefing, stay tuned for more information for the Senate briefing for Tuesday, April 2nd at 2pm – more details to come.