Baby Bonds and the Power to Thrive

By Dr. Monette Ferguson | January 16, 2024

Dr. Monette Ferguson (second from right) and fellow allies and advocates host then Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn Wooden for a press conference about Baby Bonds, in October 2021, at Alliance for Community Empowerment in Bridgewater, Connecticut

Baby Bonds are an increasingly popular government policy in which every child born into poverty receives a publicly funded trust account at birth, providing them with “start-up capital” to pursue fulfilling, productive, prosperous, and self-directed lives. Follow our Baby Blogs series to learn about the vision, politics, and people behind Baby Bonds and their transformative impact on the lives of young people, their families, and communities.

In this installment of Baby Blogs, Dr. Monette Ferguson of Alliance for Community Empowerment (ACE) reflects on the “good fight” for Baby Bonds in Connecticut and how they can help people not just survive, but thrive. 

I am the proud descendant of slaves; slaves who were considered as property with no intellectual value. Generations later, I was born to a single, black mother who raised me in poverty. Had it not been for my family support and the daily mantra of “you can do anything you put your mind to,” I may have been a statistic—and not a good one.

Today I stand 6 feet tall (literally) and join the thousands of Black female doctors, lawyers, and everything in between that make this world spin to a dope hip hop beat. My history leads to my love and respect for Baby Bonds. Baby Bonds provide a hand up, not a handout, just like those many hands that have supported me for decades: neighbors, family, friends, relatives, teachers, preachers, and all those who had a part in molding my fearless leadership journey.  There were no Baby Bonds when I grew up, but the community I grew up in relied on the bonds that tied us together in the struggle and victory over poverty. 

Fast forward to 2021 when I first learned of this program called “Baby Bonds”which is not just a program, but a game changer. This idea was imagined and written about by the guru of economics, Dr. Darrick Hamilton. He’s the Black Superman in my eyes. 

In the fall of 2021, during the height of the pandemic, I remember being contacted by past- Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn Wooden’s team and asked to host the press conference for the launch announcement. Little did I know that the idea of Baby Bonds would morph into a movement that for folks like me, made a dream come true. Over the years I have fought and supported a few good ideas that make sense for my community, but this one was different. 

I loved the power that was being built for families with the promise of Baby Bonds. I loved the uncomfortable conversations it created when some folks were against it. I loved the hope it hinted to for those who would qualify. I was just in love. As a community action agency director, I have made it my career to serve thousands of low-income community members to help them thrive, not just survive. So Baby Bonds was right up my ally. It was my new cause. Not just because, but because I—and all of us—needed a modern-day win for the many of us left behind in this economy. And this fit the bill. 

It took bold legislation and hard work to move Baby Bonds into the realm of reality. And just when we thought we’d won and the bill was passed, the start date was pushed back a year. Powers that be were afraid to fund it and push back on the demon of poverty for thousands of our neighbors today and into the future. A dream deferred…again. 

But there was still hope, and we kept up the fight. Connecticut loves to be first at things and we eventually were officially the first to fund and begin Baby Bonds on July 1, 2023. My heart was full at the announcement with Governor Lamont, Treasurer Russell, legislative leaders, and community partners. Strong advocacy, voice, and sheer will made it happen. Many good people pulled together to make a difference for children who happen to be born into poverty in my state. I am proud once again to be from Connecticut. While Baby Bonds will be incredible, I know it won’t solve all the world’s issues. I’m already searching for the next good fight. 

Dr. Monette Ferguson has worked in the non-profit sector for almost 20 years at Alliance for Community Empowerment (ACE), an urban community action agency designed as the anti-poverty agency for the Greater Bridgeport Area in Connecticut by the Office of Economic Opportunity. Now Executive Director of ACE, Dr. Ferguson was born and raised in the same community of Bridgeport, where she serves the most vulnerable community members with life changing resources.

If you missed previous installments of our Baby Blogs series, read them here

To share feedback on this blog, or for questions about Baby Bonds, email David Radcliffe at [email protected].

To learn more, explore our Baby Bonds resources.