Screening for Poverty

Helping neighborhood residents create good places to live, work, raise children and conduct business is what LISC is all about.

We support initiatives that enable families to not only live with stability and security in their neighborhoods, but also to thrive there as well.

So, when we learned that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is encouraging a new policy – screening children for poverty – by having pediatricians ask parents if they are able to meet their family’s financial needs, LISC took notice.

The “screening children for poverty” initiative spearheaded by the nation’s leading pediatric group is part of a larger effort to improve public health and mental health outcomes in children.

The AAP recognizes that poverty can create toxic stress, which impacts how well a child learns and how they behave, as well as their relationships.  In other words, poverty is unhealthy. Extreme poverty leads to extreme stress, and toxic stressful environments have a devastating impact on children.


Research shows that adverse experiences during one’s childhood such as poverty, abuse, neglect and household dysfunction (e.g. substance abuse, domestic violence, etc.) often lead to violence, incarceration, etc. in one’s adulthood. The challenges poor parents face in creating a positive environment for their children have adverse impacts on the physical and cognitive development of their children.  On average vulnerable DC children have 10 adverse childhood experiences, which not only affect how well they function in school, but also has a tremendous impact on their life outcomes.

The daily stresses of poverty make it hard for parents to make sound and enterprising decisions.  In other words, if a parent must choose between paying the heat bill and buying groceries, in either scenario, his or her children will suffer from lacking one of the two necessities.  Increasing a family’s income – even by a small amount – improves a range of outcomes for poor children.

During her recent State of the District Address, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed to send legislation to the Council to increase DC’s minimum wage to fifteen dollars by 2020. She also committed to $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), a $75 million increase in public education, and $3.6 million towards childcare.

In addition, Mayor Bowser signaled that she would sign legislation extending the District’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. If approved by the Council, these budget items will go a long way in making sure children living in poverty have their most basic needs met and are put on the path towards breaking the cycle of poverty.

LISC DC’s investments in early childhood education, affordable housing, healthcare facilities, arts venues and programs, community centers, shopping plazas, and programs for low-income DC residents are helping to make it possible for children living in impoverished households to grow into fully functioning and thriving adults who have the opportunity to create the very best life outcomes. We are glad that the AAP is screening for poverty, and hope that by continuing to work with our partners, and with support from legislators, this screening process will no longer be necessary.