by: Kathryn Blankenship, Jordyn Florance, Stephanie Lobo, Brittany Walsh
American University: Education Policy & Leadership

Executive Summary

This report was commissioned in partnership with a cohort of master-level students from American University School of Education to examine the role First Focus and its staff played over a two-decade period to persuade the federal government to enact meaningful tax credit reforms to reduce chronic childhood poverty endemic throughout the United States. Methods of analysis employed by the students to examine First Focus’s role include a literature review of the Child Tax Credit, Child Care, and Development Tax Credit, and alternative poverty-reducing reforms as well as conducting interviews with former and current staff and coalition partners.

This report is comprised of three parts:

  • Part 1 – Making the Case to Address Child Poverty and the Establishment & History of the Child Tax Credit
  • Part 2 – The Child Tax Credit from 2019 – 2021 and First Focus as a Coalition Leader
  • Part 3 – Current Status & Efficacy of the CTC on Reducing Child Poverty and Next Steps: 2021 Onwards

With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, both the Child Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit underwent major reforms which are anticipated to positively impact 80 % and 13% of low-income families with children, respectively. However, these reforms received a mere one-year authorization, therefore continued advocacy and leadership is needed to advance a permanent authorization. To that end, First Focus has launched its campaign to #commit2kids and urge members of Congress to support the American Family Act of 2021.

The report finds First Focus played an integral role in advancing poverty-reducing national policy reforms, especially where the Child Tax Credit is concerned. Through thoughtful leadership, issue-area expertise, persistence, and coalition leadership, First Focus mobilized child advocates spanning the child advocacy spectrum to coalesce around a shared vision of national reform with the goal of elevating 45% of children out of poverty over a five-year period.