Boycotting the Census is not the Answer #CountDMVIn

Last Thursday, the Census 2020 working group we are part of organized a conference for Grantee Partners and non-profit organizations serving hard-to-count populations. Participants had the opportunity to network and connect with members of the Complete Count Committee of their jurisdiction, brainstorm strategies to count vulnerable populations, and learn about the consequences an inaccurate count will have on the distribution of federal funds the next ten years.

We kicked-off the day with a keynote speech by Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights. In her remarks, Ms. Gupta talked about the unprecedented challenges and threats to accuracy the 2020 Census is facing. A last minute introduction of a citizenship question—still being contested—will make the population harder to count, but so too will major demographic changes over the past decade, a lack of predictable funding, and changes in the process that have not been tested adequately.

She assured attendees now is the time to get involved, to identify and engage trusted messengers in the community, and to spread the word about the importance of a fair count. While she acknowledged that the concerns of immigrant communities are very real, she also warned that boycotting the census is not the answer. It would only reinforce a concerted effort to construct a whiter electorate, diminishing diverse communities’ political voice and shared funding. For immigrant communities, participating in the census is about not being invisible. It is a way to say, “I am here, I count.” Ms. Gupta ended her statement making a call to philanthropy to join the effort and to invest in building capacity to engage in census outreach in community organizations that serve populations at risk of underrepresentation.

The Census 2020 working group is aware that funder engagement in support of the census is more important than ever. It is creating a space for funders to learn, strategize, and plan investments together and is actively creating resources and opportunities for grantee partners and non-profit organizations in our region to encourage participation among their staff, clients, families, and communities.

To keep the momentum going the working group wrapped-up the conference by opening a request for proposals for the fund Count DMV In, which will support projects related to outreach, education, and direct assistance focused on hard to count communities. It also released a set of fact sheets with information on basics you need to know about the census next year, including a timeline, ways you can help, and data on census tracks at risk of undercounting in each jurisdiction of the greater Washington region.

We all have a role to play in the 2020 Census. Whether you can commit to a sustained effort or can spare only a couple hours, you can participate in multiple ways—starting today. All hands on deck!

Here are three ways to get involved:

  • Follow @CensusCounts and spread the word about how the census is easy, safe, and important. Use the hashtag #CountDMVIn to raise awareness about the importance of an accurate count in our region.
  • Convene workshops and webinars to develop solutions to Census 2020 challenges in your community, to share resources and information, and to receive important updates.
  • Join the Census 2020 working group or consider investing directly or with other foundations and donors through CountDMVIn—a pooled fund housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation dedicated to Census 2020.

Maryland Makes the Health of Women and Families a Priority

At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we believe access to quality, affordable health care is essential for women to thrive. Access to contraception is a key component of overall health care. Family planning services, including both privately and publicly funded services, are critical to ensuring women and families have the ability to plan if and when to have children.

Federal Title X funding helps ensure that women are able to access reproductive health care services, regardless of race, income level, gender identity, location, or insurance status.

The Trump-Pence administration recently issued a new rule imposing harmful standards of care on patients by limiting what doctors in Title X clinics can say to their patients about contraception. Open conversations are essential to improving health outcomes. This “gag rule” not only prohibits doctors from giving women full information about their reproductive health care options, but it also redirects  funding from clinics with a range of options available onsite, toward ideologically motivated, single-method providers—or crisis pregnancy centers—thus diminishing access to affordable health care services for millions of women.

The rule will have devastating effects on populations that are already facing significant barriers to accessing health care services. Decades of systemic inequities and racism in the operation of programs and policies have imposed barriers on certain populations— young women, women of color, LGBTQ people, low-income women, and women in rural areas— limiting their access to health care. In our region, many women who rely on Title X funding to access contraception and other essential health care services are women of color who face overlapping barriers to accessing health care, education, and childcare. Without access to Title X funded clinics, they would be unable to afford these health services on their own.

There are several legal challenges to the rule pending, and it will most likely end up before the Supreme Court. Public health organizations and elected officials, including mayors, governors, and state legislators have come out in opposition to the rule and are actively urging the administration to reconsider its position.

In the meantime, Maryland has made the health of women and families a priority by being the first state in the nation to formally opt-out of Title X federal funding.  The state legislature approved preemptive legislation that guarantees funding, at the same level as the prior fiscal year, for all family planning centers in the state if the rule moves forward. With this provision, Maryland is leading the way for the nation to defend the integrity of the Title X program and ensure basic reproductive health provisions for the women who need it most.

titlex-01

Claudia Williams manages a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the work of The Women’s Foundation 

Census 2020: Let’s Ensure a Complete Count!

The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States every ten years, but its goal is much more than just a head count. Census data plays a crucial role in the apportionment of congress and the allocation of federal resources across the country.  Businesses also use it to drive key decisions, like where to ship products or where to build new stores. Philanthropy and non-profit organizations rely on Census data to inform their objectives and initiatives. At The Women’s Foundation, we use it frequently to understand how women and girls are faring in our region, and to inform our goals, strategy, grantmaking, and evaluation. (Click here to check out some of the reports and fact sheets we have prepared using data from the Census and the American Community Survey).

An undercount of the population will have far-reaching implications for communities living at the margins. Because of a combination of factors, including structural discrimination, inequitable policies, distrust in the government, and access barriers, census counts disproportionately overlook people of color, people with lower-incomes, children, people with mental and physical disabilities, transient and recently rehoused populations, and non-English speakers.  (Explore this map to see where the hardest-to-count census tracts are in the Washington region.)

This time around, a fraught political climate and a growing digital divide—the 2020 census will be the first to allow residents to respond online—are boosting the odds against an accurate count. It is still unclear whether the census will include the controversial citizenship question the Trump administration proposed to add, but several advocacy organizations have pointed out that the mere proposal of including this question has already deterred many communities from responding.

We believe disaggregated, accurate, accessible, and current data are essential to identifying gaps, understanding which populations experiencing vulnerability need special interventions, and designing and adapting programs and policies that can sustain positive change. To support an accurate census count in our region, the Women’s Foundation joined a group of local funders leveraging resources to make sure everyone counts and everyone is counted.

Along with WRAG, Metropolitan Council of Governments, and 13 other foundations, we are organizing a daylong forum on June 6, 2019, for our Grantee Partners and non-profit organizations in our community to identify and discuss strategies to reach-out to hard-to-count communities. If you are interested in learning more about opportunities to help with outreach, you want everyone in your community to get counted, and you would like to meet members of your jurisdiction’s complete count committees, make sure you register for “Interventions that Work: 2020 Census and Hard-to-Reach Communities” before May 30.

timeline2-01

At the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Philanthropy: Engaging Women of Color in Philanthropy

Women have a long history of volunteering their time, talent, and treasure to support worthy causes and solve some of the great challenges our communities face.

Like never before, women of different backgrounds have rising economic, financial, social, and political power thanks to their increased participation in the workforce, educational attainment, and leadership roles. With direct influence over how wealth is spent, the face of philanthropy is changing with women from many cultures and communities of color—Black, Asian, Latina, American Indian, Pacific Islanders, and more—actively participating in giving and volunteering.

As a women’s foundation, centering women as the donors and recipients of funds, we recognize the critical importance of engaging and leveraging the philanthropic potential of all women in our region, and understanding how giving connects them to each other and to the causes they support.

A new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Women Give 2019: Gender and Giving across Communities of Color, is the first to explore philanthropy at the intersection of race and gender. The report finds that gender differences are consistent across racial groups—women are more likely to give than men are—but, unlike gender, a donor’s race does not have a significant effect on the amount given to charity. When we take into consideration factors like gender, wealth, income, and education, race does not significantly influence giving.

The report challenges common perceptions about who our society sees as philanthropists, and explores the ways in which race influences how organizations engage donors from diverse backgrounds. For example, the report reveals that fundraisers are less likely to approach philanthropists of color. Women Give 2019 highlight studies that show African Americans would donate more if organizations asked them more often, and that Latinos are highly interested in charitable giving, but organizations are less likely to engage with them as often or with the same relationship depth as White donors.

infographic

In addition to highlighting findings from quantitative data, the authors of the report conducted six in-depth interviews with women of color philanthropists. In sharing their stories, it is clear that for these women, gender and racial identities shape and guide their philanthropic work. These stories also surface some of the different pathways women take to establish their philanthropy, the unique perspectives and experiences they bring to giving, and highlights the importance of doing more to mentor and engage women of color in philanthropic endeavors.

The biggest challenge facing our community is not a lack of strategies to address the needs of women and girls who are vulnerable to experiencing economic insecurity, but a lack of resources. Women Give 2019 suggests untapped opportunities to increase and catalyze these resources.

Creating a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive culture in philanthropy is also about creating space and opportunities for communities of color, and in particular, women of color, to participate as donors.

Claudia Williams manages a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the work of The Women’s Foundation 

Recommendations to Facilitate Accessible & Affordable Mental Health Services for Young Women of Color in the District of Columbia

Centering the voices and lived experiences of young women of color in identifying challenges and solutions to improve their lives is critical to developing effective interventions to bring about change. Last year, as part of the Young Women’s Initiative, The Women’s Foundation facilitated conversations and conducted interviews with young women of color across DC to learn about their assets and potential, and to understand what challenges inhibit their success.

In these conversations, participants acknowledged the need for prioritizing affordable and accessible mental health and counseling services in DC. The urgency of this unmet need came up in nearly every topic The Women’s Foundation explored. Whether discussing bullying at school, the aftermath of violence, or involvement with the juvenile justice and foster care systems, young women of color talked about mental health supports as an option they need to start a healing journey and move forward.

Mental health supports are critical components of navigating trauma, but the lack of economic resources, narrow provider networks, and high out-of-pocket costs, as well as stigma around mental health issues prevent young women of color from seeking help.

wawf-blueprint-mentalhealth

Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that in DC young women of color are not receiving the support they need. A high percent of young women of color attending high school, in particular Latinas, experience mental health disorders that prevent them from doing some of their usual activities. In 2017, one out of every ten Latinas attempted suicide, about a quarter seriously considered attempting suicide, and close to half of all interviewed said they felt sad or hopeless.

During May, organizations across the country are rising awareness about mental health, and advocating for policies that support people with mental illnesses and their families. Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and about 75 percent by age 24. Early interventions for young women of color are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.

Some recommendations to facilitate accessible and affordable mental health services for young women of color in the District of Columbia include:

For school systems:

  • Expand the number of youth-friendly, gender-responsive, trauma-Informed, culturally and linguistically competent counselors available to young women of color all the way from elementary school to college.

For community and youth-serving organizations:

  • Offer free counseling services for young women of color who cannot afford them.
  • Facilitate nonjudgmental and nondiscriminatory peer support among young women of color.

For funders:

  • Invest in cutting-edge research to better understand the mental health needs of young women of color in DC.

For government:

  • Increase and protect funding to provide mental health support and treatment to youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system.

For legislators and policymakers:

  • Remove barriers to access and participation of mental health services.

 

To read more recommendations and to learn more about ways to support young women of color in DC, click here.

Claudia Williams manages a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the Foundation’s mission.

DC Government Takes Steps to Advance Racial Equity

Racism in the United States has shaped institutions, policies, and practices in a way that creates, maintains, and perpetuates racial inequities. Because of this backdrop, racial disparities across every indicator for success are more likely to be the norm rather than the exception. In DC, young women of color live in communities with fewer resources and opportunities, and are vulnerable to experiencing higher rates of poverty, violence, and involvement in foster care and the criminal justice system.

Our local government, in partnership with philanthropy, businesses, and nonprofits, has the ability and responsibility to change this.

Mayor Bowser and the DC City Council can focus on tackling the roots of these disparate outcomes by taking actions that disrupt the underlying systems perpetuating inequity. While this will require a significant adjustment in the way the District operates and allocates resources, the good news is the City is starting to take some important first steps to address ongoing racial injustices.

Last Thursday, the City Council held a hearing on the Racial Equity Achieve Results Amendment Act (REAR Act). The legislation, introduced by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, proposes to operationalize racial equity by requiring the Office of Budget and Planning to design and implement a racial equity tool, adding racial equity performance measures to agency performance plans, and providing racial equity training for all DC government employees, among other things.

Implementing a framework that integrates explicit considerations of racial equity in DC’s decision-making would bring awareness of the policies and practices whose effects may seem neutral but that disproportionately impact people of color.

blog-graphic

This year, for example, the proposed budget cut to the New Heights Program for expectant and parenting students, disproportionally affects young women of color. Teen births for Latinas and Black young women in the District are nearly 25 times that of White young women. These births primarily occur among young women attending poorly resourced schools, living in neighborhoods with maternal care and food deserts, and limited transportation options.

Moving forward, City Council can enhance the REAR Act by expanding the scope of the racial equity toolkit to explore the unintended negative outcomes of policies and programs at the intersection of other identities, for example, race, gender, disability, and immigration status. The Council can also deepen DC government’s commitment to racial equity by engaging more deeply with communities of color to center their lived experiences, and ensure they participate in taking decisions that affect them.

We applaud the steps DC government is taking to dismantle systems and practices that create inequity and exclusion, and look forward to working with city leaders and our community partners to advance opportunities for all.

Claudia Williams manages a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the Foundation’s mission.

Take Action To Support DC’s Pregnant & Parenting Teens

Our city’s budget decisions have a profound impact on our everyday lives. Affecting everything from trash pick-up to library and recreation center services, DC budget decisions are at the center of community well-being.  Mayor Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget allocates some very needed resources to help families and neighborhoods thrive. However, it also includes a significant reduction in funding for an important, evidence-based program that has succeeded in changing the odds for young pregnant and parenting teens in the District.

In recent years, the New Heights Program for Expectant and Parenting Students inexplicably has required an annual battle for funding.  The New Heights Program helps students navigate the challenges of pregnancy, parenthood, and completing high school under challenging circumstances. It is a voluntary school-based program that provides one-on-one intensive supports.  It currently serves students in 15 DC public high schools, as well as a few public middle schools. The program’s goal is to increase school engagement, credit accumulation, and progress toward graduation for expectant and parenting students. In addition, it focuses on building teen parents’ self-sufficiency and resilience, improving and maintaining their and their babies’ health, and preventing secondary teen pregnancies … and it is succeeding in meeting these goals.

Expectant and parenting students are at high risk of poor school attendance and of ultimately dropping out of school, which limits their future economic opportunities. The New Heights program matches expectant and parenting students with a school-based coordinator to integrate advocacy, case management, weekly educational workshops, and incentives into the students’ school day.

Many of the teens who take advantage of the New Heights program are on their own with little to no family support, many without parents nearby. Coordinators take time to get to know students, understand them, and gain their trust. They become part of their village and in some instances their only source of support. A Mathematica Policy Research evaluation concluded that New Heights provides quality work based on a youth development, strength-based approach. It praised the program’s committed team of coordinators, who build strong relationships with students by being present, available, non-judgmental and supportive when pregnant and parenting adolescents ask for help.

This school year alone, the program has served more than 180 expectant and parenting students.  In order for New Heights to continue to provide quality, effective, one-on-one support and services, an additional $375,000 must be added to the program’s FY 2020 budget. These additional funds will allow the program to maintain its current staffing level of seven coordinators (the minimum necessary to ensure continued quality services) as well as provide funding for a database improvement, supplies and incentives. Without appropriate staffing levels, the program will lose its ability to have coordinators available for students when they ask for help – the very thing that makes it effective.

We are disappointed that Mayor Bowser’s FY2020 budget for the DC Public Schools cuts three coordinators from this successful program. Budget cutbacks to New Heights are particularly perplexing given the city’s focus on improving maternal and infant health and well-being.  It makes no sense to hamstring programs that are succeeding in improving the lives of young mothers and their babies. The Women’s Foundation wrote a letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson; Committee on Education Chairman, David Grosso; and Committee on Human Services Chairwoman Brianne Nadeau earlier this month to encourage the Council to identify the $375,000 necessary to fully fund this program.  Additionally, members of our Young Women’s Advisory Council also wrote letters of support for the program and encouraged DC City Councilmembers to restore needed funding to support their efforts to successfully thrive in DC.

If you agree that this important program should be fully funded in the FY 2020 DC Budget, we urge you to take one (or more) of the following actions today!

1)      Contact your City Council Member and the four Council Members highlighted below.  Ask them to support the New Heights program with an additional $375,000 which will fund the three staff positions that were cut in the DCPS budget, as well as an update for their data base, incentives and supplies (which the New Heights coordinators have been paying out of their own pockets!).

2)     Share this information with friends and urge them also to send emails or make calls.

3)      Post this information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media.

3)     Sign up to testify at the DC Council Committee of the Whole hearing on Friday,  April 26 at 10:00 a.m. by contacting Chairman Mendelson’s office (at 202-724-8032 or pmendelson@dccouncil.us)

Claudia Williams manage’s a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the Foundation’s mission. 

Highlights from The Women’s Foundation’s Analysis of 2015 Poverty Data

Our analysis of the newly released data from the American Community Survey found women’s poverty rates during 2015 continue to be substantially above the poverty rates for men; that among women, single women with children and women of color are more likely to live below the poverty threshold; and that poverty rates vary considerably across jurisdictions. The Washington Region faces some of the largest disparities in women’s poverty in the United States.

poverty-graph-high

  • Poverty rates have fluctuated with the economy, but no substantial long-term progress has been made across the region overall or in any particular jurisdiction.
  • The percent of women and girls living in poverty in our region decreased in every jurisdiction during 2015 except in Montgomery County. Overall, the poverty rate for women and girls in the region went from 10.6 percent in 2014 to 10 percent last year.
  • The poverty rate for men and boys in 2015, 8.1 percent, also diminished from 8.3 percent in 2014.
  • Women’s poverty rate in the District of Columbia (18.4 percent) is by far the highest poverty rate for women and girls among the jurisdictions that comprise the Washington region.
  • Prince George’s County (10.4 percent) and the City of Alexandria (9.7 percent) have the highest poverty rates for women after the District of Columbia. Women living in Fairfax County (6.7 percent) are the least likely to be poor.
  • Women’s poverty has been steadily increasing in Montgomery County for most of the past decade. With the exception of 2011, women’s poverty has increased year after year, while men’s poverty has decreased several times since 2010.
  • Female-headed households with children reached a poverty rate of 26.6 percent while only 3.2 percent of married-couple families in a comparable group lived below poverty across the region. In the District of Columbia the poverty rate for female-headed households was 40.3 percent. The lowest rate was 14.2 percent in Arlington County.
  • Of families with children living in poverty in the Washington Region, 66.8 percent were headed by single women. The jurisdictions with the largest share of poor families headed by single women were the District of Columbia (82.5 percent) and Alexandria (75.4 percent).
  • About 15.1 percent of Black women and 14.7 percent of Latinas in the region lived below the poverty level, a considerably higher rate than the 4.9 percent for White, non-Hispanic women.
  • The District of Columbia has the largest concentration of Black women in poverty (27.9 percent) while Prince George’s County has the largest concentration of White (7.8 percent) and Latina women in poverty (19.7 percent).

The Women’s Foundation is committed to building pathways out of poverty for women and girls across our region. As we work to achieve our mission, we recognize the value of having the most updated data on the status of women and girls in our community at our fingertips. We constantly analyze and disaggregate survey data to shed light on the issues that impact the program areas we direct our grant investments. We hope this knowledge becomes a valuable resource to our Grantee Partners and organizations that share our mission to help support a woman’s journey to economic security.

 

Highlights from The Women’s Foundation’s Analysis of 2014 Poverty Data

Our latest detailed analysis on women’s poverty (available in a series of fact sheets on our website!) found women’s poverty rates continue to be substantially above the poverty rates for men; that among women, single women with children and women of color are more likely to live below the poverty threshold; and that poverty rates vary considerably across jurisdictions. The Washington Region faces some of the largest disparities in women’s poverty in the United States.

WAWF Poverty Rates

  • Poverty rates have fluctuated with the economy, but no substantial long-term progress has been made across the region overall or in any particular jurisdiction.
  • The percent of women and girls living in poverty in our region is at its highest point since 2005, increasing from 8.8 percent in that year to 10.6 percent in 2014.
  • The poverty rate for men and boys in 2014, 8.3 percent, was lower than for women and girls and has remained steady since 2010.
  • Women’s poverty rate in the District of Columbia (19.2 percent) is by far the highest poverty rate for women and girls among the jurisdictions that comprise the Washington region—almost twice as large as the average poverty rate for women across the region (10.6 percent).
  • Women’s poverty has been steadily increasing in Montgomery County for the past nine years. With the exception of 2011, women’s poverty has increased year after year, while men’s poverty has decreased several times since 2010.
  • Female-headed households with children reached a poverty rate of 25.1 percent while only four percent of married-couple families in a comparable group lived below poverty across the region. In the District of Columbia the poverty rate for female-headed households was 38.5 percent. The lowest rate was 17.6 percent in Prince George’s County.
  • Of families with children living in poverty in the Washington Region, 63.3 percent were headed by single women. The largest share of these families was concentrated in the District of Columbia (81.5 percent) and Alexandria (63.6 percent).
  • About 15.0 percent of Black women and 13.2 percent of Latinas in the region lived below the poverty level, a considerably higher rate than the 5.2 percent for White, non-Hispanic women.
  • The District of Columbia has the largest concentration of Black women in poverty (27.3 percent) while Prince George’s County has the largest concentration of White (9.2 percent) and Latina women in poverty (20.5 percent).

The Women’s Foundation is committed to building pathways out of poverty for women and girls across our region. As we work to achieve our mission, we recognize the value of having the most updated data on the status of women and girls in our community at our fingertips. We constantly analyze and disaggregate survey data to shed light on the issues that impact the program areas we direct our grant investments. We hope this knowledge becomes a valuable resource to our Grantee Partners and organizations that share our mission to help support a woman’s journey to economic security.

Women’s Poverty on the Rise

The Women’s Foundation is committed to building pathways out of poverty for women and girls across our region. As we work to achieve our mission, we recognize the value of having the most updated data on the status of women and girls in our community at our fingertips. We constantly analyze and disaggregate survey data to shed light on the issues that impact the program areas we direct our grant investments. This knowledge enables us to be better positioned to invest in programs and strategies that effectively support a woman’s journey to economic security.

Our latest analysis on women’s poverty (available in a series of fact sheets on our website!) reveals a discouraging but well-known story for those of us interested in the issue. Years into the economic recovery and poverty rates are still on the rise for women. The number of women living in poverty in our region increased once again—from 10.2 percent in 2013 to 10.6 percent in 2014. While women’s poverty rates continues to rise, the poverty rate for men in our region has remained steady at 8.3 percent since 2010.

PoveTrend

Single women with children and women of color face a higher risk of falling below the poverty threshold—$19,790 for a family of three in 2014. Currently, 25.1 percent of the female-headed households with children in our region are raising their families in poverty. Overall, about 15 percent of Black women and 13.2 percent of Latinas are struggling with economic hardship across the region as well.

There are many reasons why women fall below the poverty threshold, including unemployment, barriers to accessing education, lack of affordable childcare, and discrimination and the persistent gender wage gap. But one of the key factors is low-quality and low-income jobs. Many women in our region are working more than full-time at poverty-level wages with little to no benefits. The cost of living in the Washington region makes it nearly impossible for these women and their families to make ends meet. For instance, a family of three (one adult and two children) living below the poverty line in the District of Columbia earns only about $19,790 in a year; but, in order to meet basic needs, that same family would require an annual income of at least $85,000.

There are some key steps we can take to help women on the path to economic security, including: adopting critical policies and supports like quality, affordable early care and education; strengthening available safety net programs, and encouraging jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits. We must also raise awareness about the needs and vulnerabilities of women with the recognition that their economic security isn’t just a “women’s issue.”

Our latest analysis on women’s poverty is an important reminder that the work we do together is crucial to our community. In collaboration with our Grantee Partners and our Donors, we are helping women access basic education, enroll in workforce development programs, get new jobs, access financial education programs and find high-quality and affordable early care and education for their children. Recognizing that gender matters, we are investing in women, and in doing so we impact entire families and communities.