Children and Obesity Prevention – What Works

healthy_eating_kidsWe’ve seen recent numbers showing that rates of obesity are continuing to increase among some low-income children ages 2-5 – but there is hope on the horizon.

New results from the first of its kind study show that obesity measures significantly improved among children ages 2-5 who participate in Head Start Center-based nutrition and healthy living programming, such as Thriving Communities, Thriving Children (TC2), when compared to children not in the program.

This is both a welcome relief and an upcoming challenge as government funding for these critical health and nutrition programs come under fire.

Special funding partners like the Kellogg Foundation have been making great strides with these programs in states like Mississippi and Louisiana, which expand previous school-based obesity prevention efforts by focusing on several key factors at Head Start Centers:

  • Addressing foods served by Head Start Centers,
  • Food-based education
  • Daily physical activity, and
  • Health education.

Child Care Aware® of America recently received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to expand technical assistance activities in targeted states along the same lines – focusing on health, nutrition and obesity prevention as part of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).

We’re excited to launch this partnership and do the important work of educating CCR&Rs and community partners on health and early care and education.

Let's MoveIn the meantime, here are a couple of our go-to resources for health and nutrition information for kids:

Top photo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, via Flickr

2015 State Fact Sheets: Highlighting A Complex Early Care Landscape

SFS2Each week, millions of children are shuffled between child care providers due to unpredictable schedules and limited child care availability. The landscape for child care and early education is evolving as more families rely on two-parent incomes, and costs for early care increases. States have a pivotal role in implementing policies that aim to improve the quality of early care and ease of access for millions of families across the country.

The 2015 State Fact Sheets, released today, will provide community leaders and policymakers with important data regarding the state of quality child care and early learning in their respective states.

The fact sheets detail services provided by Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, costs, health and safety, the supply and demand of child care in individual states, as well as family characteristics related to the need of child care, and the child care workforce. These fact sheets are particularly important this year given the passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant 2014 Reauthorization and as states plan for implementation of its requirements.

We at Child Care Aware® of America will continue to make the investment in data to improve and expand the quality of child care and early learning.

Please share the 2015 State Fact Sheets with those in your community!

_SB15778CCAofA Daycare 11.08.14

Celebrate the National Day of Summer Learning

The nationwide Day of Summer Learning is Friday, June 19, 2015! This is a national advocacy day led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) and meant to show the importance of continuing learning, safety and wellness for children during the summer months.

While participation in summer learning programs has increased, there is still a tremendous unmet demand for more programs according to a new America After 3PM study, which shows that 33 percent of families say that at least one of their children participated in a summer program in 2013 while 51% of parents say they want their children in a summer program.

Some of the demographics of children in summer learning programs, according to the America After 3PM study:

  • 42% are African-American
  • 39% are Hispanic
  • 34% are in a federal free or reduced-price lunch program

According to NSLA:

Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put our nation’s youth at risk for falling behind – year after year – in core subjects like math and reading. The math and reading skills low-income students lose each summer are cumulative and contribute significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids.

Our children need support and resources to help close the achievement gap and give them a chance to move ahead, not play catch up! As a supporter of early education initiatives and childhood learning, Child Care Aware® of America would like to join NSLA in asking everyone to take the pledge to #KeepKidsLearning this the summer. You can find events around the country taking place on Friday, June 19!

AA3_summer-learning

New Report Could Be a Game Changer for the Child Care Workforce

IOM_Birth to 8_hi res cover

IOM (Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research Council). 2015. Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

We have long known that adults who interact with young children have the potential to add significant value to their development and overall health and well-being. Much is known about what works, what children need to thrive and what professionals who work with children need to know and be able to do. However, until now, we have not had a blueprint for action to guide us from aspiration to reality. Until now!

Earlier this month, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) released its long anticipated report “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation”, which, if adopted by local, state and national policymakers, educators, and the early childhood field, could prove to be one of the most important studies of the child care workforce in our nation’s history.

The report, which explores the science of child development and the implications for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8, offers 13 policy recommendations that connect science, practice and policy with a goal of moving us from what “should be” to “what is”.

Noting the challenging nature of strengthening the ECCE workforce due in part to the diverse and often decentralized roles, systems and services, the report emphasizes the importance of bringing local, state, and national leadership together in support of a unified approach. Done correctly, the ECCE workforce improvements will not only create a more cohesive system to support children birth through eight, but also support effective, research-based practices that reinforce quality early care and education for our nation’s youngest learners.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Improving higher education and professional learning for all sectors who work with young children with specific training and learning supports based on professional roles;
  • Strengthening qualification requirements based on knowledge competencies that provide phased, multiyear pathways to transition to a minimum bachelor’s degree requirement; and
  • Developing new approaches for assessing and evaluating professional practice that leads to continuous quality improvements.

The science is clear on this. Children begin learning at birth. The only way to give children the start in life that they deserve is to ensure that the workforce nurturing them is receiving the support it needs to thrive. The IOM/NRC report provides a unique opportunity in this moment in time to let go of the status quo and embrace the new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Child Care Aware® of America is actively working at the state, local and national levels to change the conversation and create an environment where we can transform the workforce!

Learn more about the report and create a free account to download the full PDF version for free from the Institute of Medicine website.

Office of Science and Technology Policy Spotlights the Importance of Early Literacy

Editor’s Note: This guest blog was written by Child Care Aware of America staff member Michelle McCready. Michelle is our Director of Public Policy, a working mother to her young son, Aiden, and a dedicated advocate for child care policy.

Yesterday Child Care Aware of America joined the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy to highlight early literacy challenges and successes in communities across the country and share best practices and lessons learned. The word gap refers to children in low income communities starting school with 30 million less words  than their peers of higher socioeconomic status. The day consisted of advocates, led by Too Small to Fail, alongside top researchers and scientists, as well as federal and local policymakers, discussing the importance of creating a strong literacy foundation for all children.

Panelists

This strong literacy foundation helps prepare students for kindergarten and  sets children up for better outcomes throughout their life. This foundation also supports a workforce needed to compete in the global economy and create a prosperous future for generations to come. In the first three years of life early language and rich literacy experiences are especially important. As research has proven, the brain undergoes its most dramatic development during this time as children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. As a mother of a 19 month-old son, I get to witness this dramatic development every day. On our ride home from child care, I talk, read, and sing with him and see how his vocabulary is exponentially blossoming.

But it’s not just my son. On a typical day more than 11 million children under age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in the care of someone other than their mother. About one-quarter of these children are in multiple child care arrangements. In these settings, children are naturally communicating with their caregivers on what they think, feel and are experiencing. This “conversational duet” not only promotes language skills, but also critical thinking skills, and strong social and emotional development.

Speaking and honoring home language is also critical.  Children  need to have lots of fun and meaningful chances to talk, read, and pretend-write in their home language. Each of the opportunities to interact build skills that will help all children be prepared for a successful life.

Make sure to visit ChildCareAware.org to get more information on how you and your child’s caregiver can best build your child’s early reading and writing skills. A call to your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R) can give you additional information about literacy resources.

Also, make sure to check out what some of our coalition partners are doing: Too Small to Fail’s Talk, Read, Sing Campaign http://talkreadsing.org/. And ZERO TO THREE’s new web portal, Beyond the Word Gap http://www.zerotothree.org/policy/beyond-the-word-gap/, which offers multimedia resources to help parents, professionals, and policymakers to support early language and literacy.

Supporters rally for change at first-ever Family Advocacy Summit

Parents and real families are a powerful voice for children and child care. Many of our parent and family advocates have participated at past Symposiums, sharing their stories with Members of Congress and strengthening their advocacy skills through workshops and training. This year we decided to do things a little differently and hold another kind of event, separate from Symposium, fully focused on families and amplifying their messages. If you weren’t able to participate, here’s a quick run-down of the two-day Summit.

Parent Advocates

Parents and quality child care advocates from all across the country landed in Washington D.C. as early as Sunday for the first-ever Family Advocacy Summit.  Monday morning kicked off with an advocacy training presented by Jennifer Greppi, Efuru Lynch and Michelle Garcilazo of Parent Voices of California. Advocacy leaders Efuru and Michelle spoke to fellow family advocates on developing brief but powerful personal testimonies.

Here’s a quick rundown of their surefire tips for capturing the attention of policymakers:

  1. Start with the basics. State your name, the state you’re from, and what groups you are connected to (i.e. I am Jane Doe, a family advocate and member of Child Care Aware® of America/Parent Voices/etc. from Virginia).
  2. Follow with why you took the time to reach out to them. Paint a clear picture of the issue you want addressed and how it is affecting you and those in your community or state (i.e. I am here because last May, I was forced to leave my job because I had no access to quality, affordable child care…)
  3. Finally, leave the policymaker with a call to action. Tell them what they can do to help solve the issues you’re facing (i.e. reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant this November).

Efuru and Michelle also reminded family advocates to share their plans for following up, especially if the meeting is with policymaker staff rather than the elected official. By letting staff know when to expect your call or email, it gives them a deadline for regrouping with his or policymaker to gather his response to your message.

Efuru speaks to the crowd

After the first workshop ended, parents Avonda Fox, from Texas, Vicky Dougherty from Pennsylvania, and Elly Lafkin, of Virginia shared their own compelling and inspiring child care experiences with the group during a panel discussion. Avonda talked about her efforts to pass Jacob’s Law on behalf of her son, who died from heatstroke after his caregiver left him in a van for an unknown period of time in 103 degree temperatures. Vicky, who lost her son Warren when he was placed to sleep in a faulty crib, discussed her grassroots advocacy for the licensing and inspections of all child care providers. And Elly, an experienced campaigner for comprehensive background checks, discussed her experiences working with press and the media to gain exposure on the tragic and preventable death of her daughter Camden. Elly and her husband helped pass Cami’s Law in 2013, after their daughter died in the home of a provider who used five different aliases to hide a criminal history. All three of these women demonstrated their courage and conviction by sharing their tragedy and committing to taking powerful action toward change.

Parents Efuru and Avonda

Staffers from U.S. Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) offices joined the group for lunch. Both talked hopefully about the passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant when Congress returns from recess in November, and shared updates on what their respective officials were doing to support quality child care and early learning.

In the afternoon, parents gathered for a facilitated discussion around building a national policy agenda that would reflect child care and early learning issues facing parents from all walks of life. Health, safety, access and quality were key themes of the conversation. The parents also came up with solutions and advice they would give to all working families grappling with finding and affording quality child care. The discourse was thoughtful and eye-opening and left us energized as we concluded the day with preparation meetings for the following day on the Hill.

Parent Advocates

The next morning, over sixteen family advocates from eight different states boarded a bus with Child Care Aware® of America staff and travelled just over the Arlington Country line into D.C. The advocates separated into small groups as we all arrived at Capitol Hill and the families dispersed for their respective meetings with Congressional staff. As each group returned, they recounted their stories on camera and to each other. Together the families celebrated an overwhelming feeling of progress as a result of sharing their voice.


families and bus

The Family Advocacy Summit attendees returned to Arlington for lunch with the former Child Care Aware® of America executive director and current Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development for the Administration for Children and Families. The conversation ranged from the progress the Administration has made on issues related to children and families, to how our parent group could be an action task force for child care across this nation.

The Family Advocacy Summit was an incredible success and left both our family advocates and Child Care Aware® of America staff with renewed energy to work toward solving the complex issues with our current child care system. Our first hurdle is just around the corner, as we continue to push for the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) when Congress returns from recess in November. We know one thing for sure, without our exceptional  family advocates we would not be on the brink of celebrating such a win for millions of children and families across this nation.

family advocates

We hope that those of you who were unable to attend the Summit will be inspired by the work and dedication of these families to take action in your own way and help us in the campaign to strengthen the quality of child care for working families in every state.

We look forward to sharing important updates on CCDBG in November, and in the meantime, ask you to keep your advocacy efforts going. Child Care Aware® of America will continue to share ways for you to raise the volume on child care and early learning issues. Be sure to bookmark usa.childcareaware.org and watch for video clips from the Summit coming soon, including videos of our families telling their story on Capitol Hill.

Building Relationships with Exceptional Families

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog by Richard Schott, Senior Chief of National Programs at Child Care Aware® of America. Rich is a 25-year veteran and retired colonel in the United States Marine Corps.

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting Langley Air Force Base to take a deeper dive into Child Care Aware® of America’s U.S. Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).  For those of you not already familiar, the Air Force EFMP serves approximately 736 families stationed throughout the country in need of quality child care services. Many of these families have children diagnosed with moderate or severe special needs that require unique child care considerations and sometimes require specialized continuity of care. This program, free for eligible families, provides parents with brief, but vital relief from the daily tasks that come with a special needs child.

Upon arriving at Langley I met with Ursula Santiago, a U.S. Air Force EFMP-Family Support Liaison.  As an EFMP liaison, Ursula regularly attends Langley Air Force Base newcomer orientations with the responsibility of making parents aware of the EFMP program and encouraging eligible families to participate. Ursula showed a wealth of enthusiasm toward the work that she does.  As a mother of an EFMP child herself, Ursula understands first-hand how a little bit of time to yourself or with a spouse can make a world of difference.

“We try to fill in the gap and connect military families with what they need. I can honestly say that everyone involved has a heart to help. The Respite Care program gives families relief when they need it most.” said Santiago. “It has saved marriages.”

While at Langley, I also had the pleasure to meet with staff from The Planning Council, Child Care Aware® of America’s partner agency.  I visited their office and had a chance to speak with some of the case managers who work with EFMP child care providers, Air Force families at Langley, and Navy EFMP families in Norfolk, Virginia.  This dedicated group of individuals listen with intensity and work with sensitivity when connecting parents with their ideal provider.  The intake process may start with simple paperwork, but it moves quickly to over-the-phone conversations and in-person meetings between case managers and families. Case managers make every effort to completely understand the needs of the child, the capabilities of the provider, and the type of support both need to maintain such a close relationship for many years.

Everything I’d seen that day—from Ursula, to the case managers, to my own work—came together when I met Emma.  Emma is a child enrolled in the Navy Exceptional Family Member Program. She has a condition that requires her to wear a back brace.  I met Emma in her home, along with her mother and child care provider.  Emma’s happy interactions with them made it clear that her provider was more than an occasional caregiver, but a trusted partner in Emma’s care and a critical relationship in her development.  In one month, they would celebrate five years together. And those five years are what make the of the EFMP liaisons, The Planning Council, and everything that we do here at Child Care Aware® of America so inspiring. I returned home with a deeper sense of both pride and responsibility. The Exceptional Family Member Program is an invaluable system of support for families. To the providers, it’s more than just a job; it is about the relationships and the commitment to care. And to me, it’s a promise to building relationships that will positively impact the lives of children and families.