Investing in Our People, Investing in Our Future

By Will Jawando | April 17, 2024

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando

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, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando discusses the vision behind the recently introduced Child Investment Fund (CIF), which would make Montgomery County, Maryland the first county in the U.S. to create a Baby Bonds fund.

Growing up, I had a close friend named Kalfani. We met on the basketball court in fifth grade, where we bonded over our love of the game and dreams of making it big. Those dreams were tragically cut short when he was shot and killed as a teenager. His death is a painful reminder of how systemic racism and lack of opportunity steal the potential of our young people, especially in Black and Brown communities. Kalfani’s story is part of what drives me to use my platform as a Montgomery County Councilmember to fight for policies that will close the racial wealth gap and create more opportunities for the next generation.

As a policymaker, I believe we must address the stark racial wealth gap in our country. White households in the United States have roughly nine times as much wealth as Black households and five times as much as Hispanic households. These disparities are the direct result of decades of discriminatory policies and practices, from redlining and racial covenants that denied communities of color access to homeownership to over-policing that has stripped wealth from these same communities. The wealth gap robs far too many young people of the chance to imagine a future where they can own a home, start a business, or attend college without crushing debt.

That is why I worked with my colleague, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, to introduce the Child Investment Fund (CIF). This transformative policy would make Montgomery County the first local jurisdiction in the nation with a fund dedicated to creating economic opportunity for the next generation. The Fund is built on the premise that every child born in Montgomery County should have the chance to live, thrive, and build generational wealth in our County. Inspired by Baby Bonds and adapted to the specific regulations of the County charter, we have created one of the most inclusive proposals to date—and the only non-federal proposal with universal eligibility.

The CIF establishes a dedicated fund that grows over time for each child born in the County. Upon reaching adulthood, these young people can access the funds to pursue opportunities otherwise out of reach. Whether pursuing higher education, starting a business, buying a home in the County, or investing in their retirement, the CIF will empower them to build a solid foundation and serve as an incentive to contribute to the community’s growth.

While federal and state initiatives are crucial in addressing systemic issues, local governments have a unique ability to impact the lives of their residents directly. We understand the specific needs and challenges faced by our communities, and we can implement innovative solutions with more agility. As local leaders, we are responsible for being proactive, innovative, and bold in offering solutions that may not move as quickly at larger scales. The Child Investment Fund is an example of local leadership driving positive change.

Ultimately, the proposed CIF is not just about financial investment; it’s about investing in people. It’s about sending a message to every child in Montgomery County that we believe in them, we value their dreams, and we are committed to creating a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. 

Kalfani’s story will always remind me of the urgency of this work. We must keep working to break the cycle of poverty and limited opportunity. The CIF is a step towards a future where every child has the chance to dream and achieve. 

Will Jawando is an attorney, an activist, a community leader, and a councilmember in Montgomery County, Maryland, a diverse community of more than one million residents. Called “the progressive leader we need” by the late congressman John Lewis, Jawando has worked with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Sherrod Brown, and President Barack Obama. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post and The Root and on, and his work has been featured in The New York Times and New York magazine and on NPR, NBC News, and MTV. He regularly appears on CNN, MSNBC and other media outlets.

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

Learn more about Baby Bonds in Maryland.

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