Full text, Ann O’Leary’s opening keynote at 2014 Symposium

This blog is republished from the Next Generation blog dated April 2.

NOTE: The remarks below were delivered by Ann O’Leary on April 2, 2014 when she opened the 2014 Child Care Aware of America Symposium on early education policy, research, and practice. 

_SB11777Child Care Aware America 3.02.14 Barrett

Thank you Lynette for inviting me here today and to the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, led by Linda Asato, for encouraging me to join you.  And thank you to Linda Smith for your leadership inside the government to make quality child care a priority.

Lynette told you a bit about my professional background, but let me tell you how my professional background aided me in being a mother and a child care consumer.

In 1997, just after the Child Care Development Block Grant was last updated, I started working on education, early learning and childcare policy in the Clinton Administration.  It was such an exciting time because it was when we were learning about how rapidly the brain was growing in the first years of life and how much these early years really mattered.  I personally learned at that time about the importance of talking to your baby from the earliest days and about how challenging it was for parents to get access to high-quality child care.

Ten years later – in 2007 – I had my first child.  And it was these professional credentials that had me calling up child care providers to get on the wait list just after telling my friends and family the news that I was expecting.  I remember going to the National Education of Young Children (NAEYC’s) website to find which child care centers in my area were NAEYC certified.

The former director of the infant/toddler program at my chosen preschool in Berkeley still tells the story of me showing up at her doorstep every day when I was nine+ months pregnant to find out if I’d be able to get off the wait list.  She finally was so worried that I was showing up at her doorstep every day instead of getting some rest before the baby came, that she relented and gave me a spot.  My daughter, now seven, was lucky to be able to attend the school for five years and my son, who is four years old, is still there.

Everything about my experience is something I wish for all parents.  To be able to search online for a quality child care center and really know that licensing or certification means something.  It means that the center is safe, the child care providers are professionals who have real training to work with young children, and that together you’ll be able to work as a team to support your child’s development and early learning.

But I also want families to benefit from some of the things that schools don’t offer, but that states should provide to families as child care consumers. States should do unannounced inspections so that they can find small and larger things for the school to correct—from ensuring that parents really do sign in and sign out our children, to ensuring that the school has appropriate safeguards on all the doors so that children can’t get out without an adult.

Together, the school—with its amazing focus on child-centered learning and the scaffolding children need to develop in these early years—and the basic promises made to ensure that licensing means my child will be safe while my husband and I are at work, is what every parent deserves.

Everyone needs and deserves minimum levels of safety and quality standards.  And YOU are making sure that is happening.  I applaud you wholeheartedly for what you have done to ensure passage of the Child Care Development Block Grant in the Senate and the work you are doing in the House to make these critical changes the law of the land.

CHALLENGES

When we started Too Small to Fail, which is a joint initiative of Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of our youngest children, we really looked hard at what we know about children today and what we knew about the investments needed to address the challenges faced by children.

We were motivated by three big challenges:

  1. That we have a changing demographic in America that makes the educational achievement gap between minorities and whites no longer just a civil rights issue, but an issue that must be addressed as an economic imperative;
  2. That more than a quarter of our children—which is a doubling from the early 1990s—now have a chronic health condition from asthma to autism to obesity.
  3. That despite important investments in poverty alleviation, we still have persistently high childhood poverty and poverty still remains that best indicator of a child’s educational success.

But we were also incredibly motivated by what we saw as a tipping point moment in the early learning field.  Because today, we know more than ever about the importance of early education.

Brain scientists have documented what we have long intuited: talking, hugging, singing, and playing build critical hardware in a baby’s brain.

Leading economists tell us that investments in the early years provide a tremendous return. The likelihood of a child achieving success in school and in the workforce is largely set before her first day of kindergarten.

We have better and more sophisticated ways of reaching parents than every before thanks to technology and behavioral science.

WORD GAP

We were also very struck by the important new research coming from Harvard University Professor Robert Putnam. Dr. Putnam is studying today how economic pressures on parents translate into less time and support for kids who start off behind and struggle to catch up.  In the 1960s and ‘70s, parents with different income and educational achievement levels were all spending similar amounts of time reading to their children, but over time, a gap emerged.  Dr. Putnam and his team have looked at what they call “Diaper Time,” when parents address the immediate needs of their young children, and they’ve also looked at what they call “Good Night Moon Time,” when they talk, read, and interact with their kids.

Now the research shows that nearly everyone does Diaper Time. But parents with lower income, less education, who struggle to work two jobs with few benefits or flexibility—many of them single moms, and parents without strong support networks—they are spending significantly less Good Night Moon Time each day than more affluent families and less than parents in comparable positions did 30 and 40 years ago.  This lost time adds up.

You all know that children build their vocabularies by listening to and interacting with their parents and caregivers, and by age four, children from low income families with less Good Night Moon Time have learned, on average, half as many words as children from middle and upper income families, so that by the time they enter school, they have substantially smaller vocabularies than many of their classmates.  Experts call this the “word gap.”

Studies have found that by a child’s fourth birthday, children in well-off families have heard 30 million more words than children from lower-income families. This disparity in hearing words from parents and caregivers translates directly into a disparity in learning words.  In fact, on average, higher income four-year-olds know an average of 1100 words compared to just 500 words for lower-income children.

This research has been replicated and strengthened in recent years by Professor Anne Fernald at Stanford University who has shown that not only is there a word gap, but that there is already a gap in language comprehension of six months by the time a child is two years old.  And we know from another Stanford Professor – Sean Reardon – that this early gap in learning is the best predictor for the persistent educational achievement gap in the K-12 system.

And that puts our children born with the fewest advantages even further behind.

So we decided to focus our Too Small to Fail efforts on closing the word gap.  But to close the gap, you have to understand the barriers.  There are two large barriers:

First, many low-income parents and caregivers are simply not aware of the importance of talking directly to their babies and toddlers to build their brains and prepare them for later learning and good health outcomes.

Time and again, we have heard parents express surprise when told that by talking, reading, and singing to their babies from birth, they can actually build up their child’s vocabulary and help develop their brain.

We have an enormous opportunity to empower parents and help them understand how their simple actions can have a large impact.

Our goal is to help parents integrate talking, reading, and singing into their everyday routine with their children – just as they would brush their child’s teeth before bed.

The campaign is focused on examples of simple actions – talking during bath time, telling a story while changing a diaper, singing in the car, playing peek-a-boo – that can help prepare children for academic success.

This is why a strong partnership between families and child care providers is so critical. Parents look for information about their children’s well-being from family, friends, and trusted sources such as pediatricians and child care providers.  We need your help to close this gap.

I just got back from Tulsa, OK, where we launched our first local campaign called “Talking is Teaching.” (You can watch a video of the event here.)

 

We are partnering with local community organizations —engaging pediatricians, business leaders, librarians and others—to empower parents and caregivers to boost young children’s brain development and build their vocabularies by increasing the number of words they hear spoken to them every day.

According to recent field research conducted among low-income parents, grandparents and other caregivers in Tulsa, approximately 90 percent recognize that they personally have an impact on their child’s brain development.  Yet, many of those surveyed admit that they could be doing more on a daily basis to help their children increase their vocabulary:

  • Only 55 percent of parents and 47 percent of grandparents report reading to their children every day.
  • Fewer than half report telling their children a story, singing a song or playing a non-electronic game every day.

Our “Talking is Teaching” campaign will show how simple actions—like describing objects seen on a bus ride, singing songs, or telling stories for just five minutes—can significantly improve a baby’s ability to learn new words and concepts.

Creative messages will appear as ads on public buses, billboards, grocery carts and in places where Tulsa families congregate.

Community partners will talk directly to parents and caregivers using family toolkits developed with Sesame Workshop; and to pediatricians using clinical toolkits on early literacy developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The campaign will also test new technology developed by the Bezos Family Foundation that will help parents remember to build these activities into their daily lives.

We hope that our work in Tulsa will serve as a model for other communities across the country to motivate increased talking, reading and singing to babies and toddlers. And Too Small to Fail will launch additional campaigns in several more cities this year.

In addition, we are working to magnify attention to the word gap through media partnerships with Univision and show integration with Hollywood.

But we know that the second reason for the word gap, is that there is simply a lack of access to high-quality child care and preschool.  With parents working, we simply cannot afford not to invest in high-quality child care that is available from infancy onward.

Just the other day I was driving home after picking up my children and my son, who just turned four, started kicking the back of my seat and laughing and then he yelled “AVALANCHE.” And I asked him how he knew the word avalanche.  He told me that he had heard it in a book his teacher read him at school.

There has to be a continuum and a partnership between parental action and high quality child care and this takes real public investments.

In 1971, the year I was born, President Richard Nixon famously declared that universal child care would have “family-weakening implications” as he wielded his veto pen to block a universal child care bill passed by Congress.

We may look back on this moment with disbelief, but at the time – it really was a close call for America with real divisions about whether women should work outside the home. Those conversations may still occur among the elite, but nearly everyone else is working.

Today, over 70 percent of families are headed by two working parents or a single working parent – compared to under 40 percent in the early 1970s.

Unfortunately, President Nixon’s veto of universal child care became the last best chance for decades for the federal government to support working moms and dads trying to raise their children and earn a living at the same time.

We are here because today is FINALLY our moment to make greater access to child care and early childhood education a reality.

FUTURE VISION

While we have made progress, it is clear that we need more of our leaders to fully embrace early learning as central to the future of our children and our economy.

The Senate’s recent passage of the Child Care Development Block Grant bill is a great step in the right direction – and with such a strong, bipartisan vote! The President is using his bully pulpit to push for change.  But it is up to us to make it happen.   And it will truly take all of us.

If we set our sights on a vision that includes these three principles, I believe we will be able to fully support families to help children thrive in the early years and beyond:

1. We need a common understanding of the importance of early child development

  • All Americans should have a deep appreciation of the importance of brain development of very young children – not just among advocates and researchers, but among grocery store managers, elementary school administrators, public transit operators, and governors.
  • I believe that understanding will lead to more family interaction that supports children. It will lead to workplace changes that support families. And it will lead to federal policies that better support our child care providers.

2.  We need more training for those who care for infants and toddlers

  • There must be a much greater support system to provide training and guidance to all who provide care and teach our youngest children, including parents.
  • Throughout training, care givers should hear about the importance of talking, singing, hugging, and playing, as a critical component of brain development and life-long learning.

3.  We need a robust, high-quality system of infant and toddler care

  • The United States must distinguish itself as a country that values quality learning for young children, as evidenced by high quality child care centers.
  • Parents, providers, and policymakers should develop a common, evidence-based definition of quality. Families should be able to enroll their young children in programs with confidence. And state- and federally-funded reimbursement rates should reward high quality programs.
  • Low-income families should have the same range of choice as upper and middle-class families, so that their children can also receive the type of support that is best for them.

To get there, we must start with a clear vision and set of convictions: our country can and should take a stand on early learning and development. Through thoughtful and collaborative work, we can continue a nationwide conversation about these issues.

That is why it is so critical that you have all travelled here to DC to share your message with our legislators. But you must carry the message back home with you as well.

Conversations about early development belong in every doctor’s office, place of worship, grocery store, and barbershop. Only when communities are reminded and convinced of the long-term gains made when we invest in young children will our politicians respond.

So I hope you will join us in partnership at http://www.toosmall.org to work together on closing the word gap and creating an early learning nation.

 

Ann O’Leary is vice president and director of the children and families program for Next Generation,  which includes spearheading “Too Small to Fail”—Next Generation’s joint initiative with the Clinton Foundation to help parents and businesses take meaningful actions to improve the health and well-being of children ages zero to five.  

Recap all of the 2014 Symposium.

2014 Symposium – Day 2 and 3

Recap Day 1: 2014 Symposium Kicks off to Great Start

Day 2
Thursday began early when Senators Barbara Mikulski and Richard Burr were honored during breakfast with the Working for Working Families Award, kicking off day two of the Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium.

Burr attended breakfast with symposium attendees to receive the award, where he offered this:

Burr 2014 Symposium Award 2“I’d like to make this challenge,” he said. “I’m not going to wait 20 years to reauthorize [the Child Care and Development Block Grant] again. My challenge to you is to begin as soon as this bill becomes law, to figure out what changes need to be made so a long time in advance we can look at how to enhance the outcome of the next generation.”

 

He closed with thanks to the Child Care Resource and Referral community, “There’s one thing I’m certain of,” he said. “We can make an impact on the lives and futures of my children and grandchildren, and yours. And for that, I’m here to say thank you.”

Symposium group photo 2014Day on the Hill
Attendees from all over the country met with their congressional members that afternoon. Starting with a celebratory photo, they returned to Symposium having made more than 347 visits with members of congress.

“It was really exciting to go to the Hill and talk about why early childhood is so important and hear why they believed it was important as well,” said one attendee, Caroline, who came to Symposium from Florida.

#RYH4ChildCare
Those hill visits helped everyone move significantly closer to the 1K for Kids goal, bringing the total actions taken for children through social media over the first two days of Symposium to more than 800. By the end of Symposium, attendees and virtual participants had sent more than 1,500 social media actions, letters, visits and donations on behalf of children.

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_SB12263Child Care Aware America reception Barrett 3.03.14 _1Evening reception and awards
That evening, during a reception filled with dinner and dessert, we honored Congressman George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) with Lifetime Achievement Awards for all of their work on behalf of children during their careers.

"Children deserve quality, no matter where they receive their care," Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor

“Children deserve quality, no matter where they receive their care,” Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor

 

Day 3
We couldn’t have picked a better closing keynote speaker than Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, Executive Director for Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood. She received a standing ovation for her talk about innovating for the future of children and families, and for supporting the value that we must make the child care system work for families.

 

Symposium Carol gavel 2014

 

Annual Meeting
The annual meeting included a farewell from Michael Olenick. He concluded his term as board president of Child Care Aware® of America and handed the gavel to Dr. L. Carol Scott, CEO of Child Care Aware® of Missouri.

The Raising of America
Symposium Raising of America panelSymposium ended with a special screening of the forthcoming documentary, The Raising of America.

The film explores how a strong start for all children leads not only to better individual life course outcomes (learning, earning and physical and mental health) but also to a healthier, safer, better educated and more prosperous and equitable America.

After the screening, Dr. Jones-Taylor joined a discussion panel that included Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of ZERO TO THREE; and Dr. Renee Boynton-Jarrett, Associate Professor  of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, who also appeared in the film.

Dr. Boynton-Jarrett, a mom of three, thanked the attendees saying, “I wouldn’t be doing this work if I didn’t have child care providers who made us  comfortable and confident in their care.”

Matthew urged attendees to create local movements to support the discussions about early childhood that the film will generate. “The film does a great job of making the case between early education and inter-generational transitions,” he said. “If we can get the broader world to understand this, we can make a difference. We need public investment to make change.”

Dr. Jones-Taylor spoke to the role of families, “How do we help raise the voice of parents, understanding they are very busy? The child care system must work ultimately, for them.”

Dr. Boynton-Jarrett closed the discussion paying respect to those early childhood educators who help all of us on our education journey, “We must do better giving credit to early childhood educators for helping children succeed long term.”

What was your favorite moment from the 2014 Symposium? We’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Thank you to all our attendees, sponsors and presenter s who made the 2014 Symposium one of our best year’s ever. Stay tuned for more!

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2014 Symposium kicks off with a great start

Read about days 2 and 3 of the 2014 Symposium

Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(HHS), received the Sandra J. Skolnik Public Policy Leadership Award during the opening session for the Child Care Aware of America 2014 Symposium, Wed April 2.

symposium 4Linda’s acceptance speech brought the nearly 300 attendees to their feet as she praised the Child Care Resource and Referral Community for their hard work to help the country advance its child care policies, as evidenced by the Senate passing the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Reauthorization just weeks ago. “The country understands the importance of quality child care,” Linda said.

symposium 1The day was filled with celebratory moments. From photos with the Walkaround Cookie Monster provided by Sesame Workshop to simply being in the nation’s capitol for the first time.

“The opening was very well done,” said Yuoeven Whistler, with Crystal Stairs, Inc in Los Angeles, CA. “The award for Linda was very moving and a great way to start the day.”

Too Small to Fail
symposium 5 Ann O’Leary, Vice President of Next Generation and Co-Director of Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, opened the event as the first keynote speaker.

“Children can make terrific gains if they have access to high quality child care,” she said.

Recalling her experience trying to get her child on a wait list for a quality child care center she said, “My wish for all parents is that they can search online and know they can find licensed child care and that a license means something.”

Ann added, “Quality early learning is not only about bridging an achievement gap, but it’s an economic issue.”

Breakout sessions
With nine breakout sessions following the opening luncheon, attendees had lots of options. From Family Engagement to Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships to Coaching Preschool Providers to success – every session was full.

“I could have listened for another hour,” said Nancy Thomson, from Child Care Connection in New Jersey. “With all the resource and referral agencies doing the technical assistance for QRIS, the session by Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) really showed an ideal picture of what we all should have. They have a lot of financial resources and put a lot of professional development into the staff working with the providers.”

 symposium 7Federal Panel
The day ended with a Federal policy update from Shannon Rudisill, Director of the Office of Child Care in the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Steven Hicks, Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Many questions surrounded the Early Head Start- Child Care Parnterships. The panelists said they were encouraged that the program would help build relationship between EHS and child care advocates. Learn more about EHS-CC.

symposium 6Preparing for Day on the Hill
A room packed full of representatives from states across the country gathered for the final meeting of the day to prepare for Day on the Hill. They prepared their talking points and picked up their Hill packets. But mostly, they were ready to thank Congress for supporting CCDBG and the many other positive policy actions taken throughout the past year on behalf of children and families.

1K for Kids
For those here in DC and at home, we’ve challenged eveveyone to make their voice heard for children. We’re asking everyone to help generate 1,000 actions for kids – or 1K for Kids – throughout Symposium.

In just a few hours we were nearly a quarter of the way to our goal! You generated more than 220 tweets, facebook posts, likes, and shares with #RYH4ChildCare.

But we have a long way to go. Learn how you can help grow our voice for children and get entered to win some fun prizes. Visit symposium.usa.childcareaware.org.

Meanwhile, find your photo from Sesame Street’s Walkaround Cookie Monster photo booth!

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Partnering for families with Sesame Workshop

We are so pleased to collaborate  with Sesame Workshop to distribute free resources through our membership from trusted characters children know and love! A big welcome to Sesame Workshop as part of Child Care Aware® of America’s official partner.  ~ Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director, Child Care Aware® of America.

Guest blog by Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President, Community and Family Engagement, Sesame Workshop

Sesame Workshop

Thanks to Child Care Aware® of America, Sesame Workshop’s Little Children, Big Challenges resources will reach more parents and educators than ever before, to help children develop the resilience they need to overcome everyday challenges. From saying goodbye to a parent in the morning, being patient, overcoming bedtime blues, sibling rivalry, and even relocating, the lovable and relatable Sesame Street Muppets™ can show them how. Many people think that resilience is an innate part of a child’s personality, but by helping children cope with the challenges that come their way, children can actually learn the skills they need to build resilience, and in turn grow healthy and school ready.

To help parents and children make everyday challenges into learning moments, Sesame Workshop has created bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia resources including Sesame Street videos, print resources, and a guide for educators to use in the classroom.

We want to do everything possible to make sure our resources are accessible to families when and where they need them. That’s why a dedicated partner like Child Care Aware® of America is such an important relationship to the Workshop. With their established network through the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&Rs) field, our multimedia materials about resilience will reach more than 860,000 families per year, and we can continue to develop and improve our resources using feedback from those families. This pilot program will allow CCR&Rs who are members of Child Care Aware® of America to submit requests for proposal to participate in the pilot, and distribute materials to children and families in their community. Updates around the rollout of materials and how to submit requests for proposal will be announced on this blog.

For more than four decades, the Workshop has been focused on helping children achieve their highest potential. Today we continue our efforts, with the help of partners like Child Care Aware® of America, by tackling essential skills that can help children learn and grow as they encounter new challenges every day; they also provide the adults in their lives with tools to help young children build these crucial skills in a fun and furry way that only Sesame Street can – with the help of Grover and the rest of the Sesame Street Muppets.

Sesame Workshop’s Little Children, Big Challenges initiative seeks to help children ages 2-5 in military, veteran and general public families build important resilience and perseverance skills that allow them to overcome challenges large and small. One of the most important factors in building these skills is the presence of a caring, supportive adult. This is why this new initiative is providing tools for adults to empower the children in their lives to transform everyday challenges into opportunities for growth, development, and lifelong success.

Dr. Betancourt has directed Sesame Workshop Outreach projects in the areas of bilingual education, literacy, music, health and safety, resiliency, and child care.  She has overseen content development for Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat and advised on Dragon Tales. She is also the series content advisor for the award-winning parenting programs A Place of Our Own and Los Niños en su Casa.

Sesame Street Walkaround character at 2014 Symposium
Press Release: Announcing partnership with Sesame Workshop

1K for Kids: Participate in Symposium from home!

This year at Symposium, we’re asking everyone to help continue the momentum for children in child care.

You created a social stir during our Reddit AMA event and helped generate thousands of emails to push the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) through the Senate.

Now, you can join us for Symposium wherever you are. We’re challenging everyone who cares about children to help generate 1,000 actions for children, or 1K for Kids.

What’s an “action”?
That’s easy. Each of these actions will help us reach the goal.

• Tweet using #RYH4ChildCare
• Mention @USAChildCare in a tweet
• Retweet a #RYH4ChildCare tweet
• Like or share our Facebook status
• Post a photo on Instagram with #RYH4ChildCare
• Post about Symposium on LinkedIn
• Send a message to Congress through our Action Center
• Attend a Hill meeting at Day on the Hill or visit your state legislature
• Send a press release about your organization’s participation
Donate to support Child Care Aware® of America’s advocacy efforts

How’s it work?
Every action you take will count as one towards our 1,000 action goal. BUT, a donation will count as more. For example, if you donate $50 to Child Care Aware® of America, that counts as 50 actions for children.

Sample tweets

  • I’m supporting @usachildcare Day on the Hill, asking Congress for quality child care #RYH4ChildCare
  • Studies show trained caregivers offer better quality care. I support quality child care #RYH4ChildCare
  • Learning begins at birth. Support quality child care #RYH4ChildCare @usachildcare
  • 11 million children need child care. I support quality! #RYH4ChildCare @usachildcare
  • Don’t leave #children to chance! I support quality child care #RYH4ChildCare @usachildcare
  • Quality, affordable child care means more children get better start at life #RYH4ChildCare @usachildcare
  • 90% of brain development happens from ages 3-5. Support quality child care #RYH4ChildCare @usachildcare
  • Send a message to Congress about quality child care. #RYH4ChildCare @usachildcare http://ow.ly/viSlN

Sample Facebook posts
Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, the first executive director of Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood, will close out symposium with her keynote address, “Building an Early Childhood System: Innovating for children Now and Into the Future.” What do you think makes a quality child care system? Find out as we recap the 2014 Symposium. #RYH4ChildCare http://ow.ly/rO3XV

Share this Facebook post to help us generate 1,000 actions for children, or 1K for Kids. We’ll tally the actions with #RYH4ChildCare each day during the Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium and share our progress. Every person who takes an action for children will be entered to win a prize. We’re giving one prize away each day. Visit http://symposium.usa.childcareaware.org/ 1K for Kids to learn more!

Sample LinkedIN Post
I support a quality child care system because it helps give children a great start at life and allows families to pursue work and education. Follow the conversation about child care and early learning during Child Care Aware® of America’s 2014 Symposium. #RYH4ChildCare
http://ow.ly/rO3XV  

Every day during symposium we’ll randomly pick a winner from the pool of people who help us reach 1K for Kids.

Presenting at Symposium?
Send a press release. That counts as an action!

What you can win:
• Complimentary Membership to Child Care Aware® of America
• A copy of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Shulte, which features interviews with Child Care Aware® of America
• A drawstring goody bag from Child Care Aware® of America

Check your progress
Check Facebook every day during Symposium to see the progress you’re making towards 1K for Kids.

Learn more about Symposium

Sandra J. Skolnik, a woman who made a difference

March is Women’s History Month and in that spirit we’re proud to host an award that honors an incredible woman, Sandra “Sandy” J. Skolnik.

SandraSkolnikbwSandy Skolnik grew up with a working mother and knew the balancing act that required, though during her childhood having a mother working outside the home was the exception. That perspective undoubtedly influenced her drive to pioneer the development of the Maryland Child Care Resource Network, a private-public partnership that continues to provide needed services for Maryland’s families with young children today. She also served as the Executive Director of the Maryland Committee for Children for over 30 years and was instrumental in growing the organization from a part-time staff of two, to a staff of over 75 committed to children and families.

Above all, Sandy was a passionate visionary and a dedicated advocate for quality child care and education for young children. The recipient of numerous awards and honors during her life, we now honor Sandy’s legacy each year by granting an outstanding professional working on behalf of children and families within the Child Care Resource and Referral field, with The Sandra J. Skolnik Public Policy Leadership Award.

Established in 2008, past winners of the Sandra J. Skolnik award include its namesake Sandra J. Skolnik; Linda Foy, Childhood Development Service; Patty Siegel, California CCR&R Network; Clinton Macsherry, Maryland Family Network; and Elizabeth Bonbright, Child Care Aware® of Washington.

Do you know a remarkable advocate for children and families? Please visit the Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium page for instructions on how to nominate your colleague. The winner will be announced at symposium April 2-4.

Act now! Nominations must be submitted by March 12.

Raise Your Hand discussion continued at Symposium

Child Care Aware® of America hosted its first Raise Your Hand for Child Care virtual event. This event included a live reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) and Twitter chat to conclude our Raise Your Hand for Child Care five-month webinar series, which was created to build awareness about federal and state policy opportunities to support child care.

18500129_ryh-social-media-ad-redditThe Raise Your Hand series united coalition partners and early childhood advocates nationwide and the virtual finale event gave the public the chance to ask questions about early childhood policy, the child care subsidy system, the Preschool for All movement, and more. To view the entire reddit event, click here. support child care. 

Not only did our virtual event help us engage parents and families around the country, but it also generated lots of questions that we’ll be addressing at our 2014 Symposium.  Many of 27 breakout sessions taking place at Symposium will talk about the new funding for Early Head Start – Child Care partnerships, research about families and best practices for training providers, and so much more we chatted about during the Raise Your Hand virtual event.

Get more at Symposium
The Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium will take place April 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. This three-day event will focus on child care and early education policies and bills currently before Congress, as well as research, practice and innovation approaches for child care that are shaping how families access quality child care. To register for Symposium, please visit our website here and follow the conversation on Twitter using #RYH4ChildCare.

Sneak Preview
Be sure to check the Early Directions blog often. Over the next few weeks you’ll get a peek into some of the 2014 Symposium sessions through guest bloggers who will also present at Symposium.  We are proud to present sneak preview blogs from:

Join us in preparing for the 2014 Symposium where we’ll celebrate our field and keep the momentum forward as we do something BIG for children in child care.

2013: Setting the Stage for Young Children in 2014

For years Child Care Aware® of America has shared one message: affordable, high quality child care matters. It matters for children and it matters for families.

This year, the White House took notice, with President Obama making expanded opportunities for high quality child care and early learning not just a part of his policy agenda, but a central focus of that agenda so that “none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

This unparalleled attention to an issue that impacts the more than 11 million children in out of home care was met with welcomed hope and renewed inspiration.

Perhaps finally our pleas for focus and attention to quality and safety would be heeded.

Maybe all states that participate in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) would have to ensure minimum health and safety standards in their programs.

Perhaps training, which is currently required in only half of the states would be extended to all.

Maybe states would be expected to conduct routine inspections more frequently than every 5 or 6 years and background checks would be conducted on all who accept a fee for child care.

President Obama embraced this challenge early on, sharing his vision for a quality early learning system for all in his 2013 State of the Union address; promoting early learning as an economic development strategy and as essential to ensuring that children enter school ready to learn so we can prevent achievement gaps before they begin.

It didn’t end there. He backed it up with a promise to fund states who embraced quality. He proposed new regulations for CCDBG, a program which hadn’t been reauthorized in more than 17 years.

Later, in his budget, President Obama proposed a new $75 billion investment in a high quality, coordinated early learning program that would ensure all children would have access to preschool. The Obama administration leadership shed light on how few children have access to quality child care and that state laws vary greatly. They did so by focusing attention on five areas:

  • Improving the Quality of Child Care: Access to affordable, safe, quality child care is essential for all families: without it, many families are left with the untenable choice of leaving their children in substandard care, or risk losing their jobs. New comprehensive rules proposed by the Obama administration are pending and have been echoed in the first bi-partisan reauthorization proposal for CCDBG in more than 17 years. The proposed rule and CCDBG reauthorization set the stage for significant improvements in 2014 for the largest program funding child care services in the United States.
  • Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships: The President also announced plans to expand the supply of early learning for children from birth to age 3 by making a $1.4 billion investment in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. This means Early Head Start grantees would partner with child care providers who agree to meet high standards of quality.
  • Preschool for All: In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. As part of that effort, the President will propose a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. By doing so, the President would invest critical resources where we know the return on our dollar is the highest: In our youngest children.
  • Empowering Parents: We all know the important role that families play in promoting the healthy development of their children, yet not all families are equipped with the information and support they need to create positive environments for their children to develop and learn. The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program created under the Affordable Care Act expands evidence-based home visiting programs in states to serve the most vulnerable children and families to better ensure that children are healthy and prepared for school and life. The President put forward a proposal to extend funding of this $1.5 billion program for another 10 years in the 2013 State of the Union address.
  • Raising the Bar for Early Learning through Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants: The Obama administration has invested in comprehensive improvements to state early learning systems through Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a new competition that challenges states to deliver better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful education and training for early educators. This program represents an unprecedented opportunity for states to focus on early learning and development systems in their states and build a more unified approach to supporting young children and their families to make sure that more children, especially those with high needs, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

We have much to be thankful for, and yet much more to do. Last year was a launch pad for action in 2014. Major legislation has been introduced and needs our sustained voices to gain momentum and convey the sense of urgency needed to propel it into law.

Child Care Aware® of America is not alone. We stand with hundreds of other committed organizations who share the same mission and goal. We stand with the parents and children whose stories tell us why we must demand action from decision makers.  Child Care Aware® of America has raised its hand and stands at the ready to make those decisions happen. Raise your hand. Stand with us in 2014.

Get more: Raise Your Hand webinar series on child care and early education in America.

Celebrate Grandparents on Sunday

Grandparents do amazing things. They mentor youth, provide child care, volunteer, and more. Aside from the mutual family benefits of having a grandparent in your life or home, there are some serious dollars behind grandparents’ unpaid work.

How much?

Grandparents contribute more than $2.43 billion toward higher education for children. Taxpayers save more than $6.5 billion thanks to grandparents who help to raise children who might otherwise be in foster care. Plus, about 30 percent of children under age 5 with working mothers are cared for by a grandparent. We know that’s a huge help to parents who are struggling to afford child care.

Celebrating Grandparents
September 8 is Grandparents Day in the United States. It’s a day to reflect on the incredible value grandparents bring to our communities. Even if they are retired, they are working hard. Get the big picture from Generations United, an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of children, youth and older people through intergenerational collaboration.

12-grandparent-infograph-full

 

Grandparents are key influencers for children
Grandparents will be 80 million strong by 2020 – double their population in 1980.  Their community involvement show grandparents largely share a core belief that communities need all people, of all ages and places in life to collaborate for the good of children.

 

Do Something Grand
No doubt many grandparents took first day of school pictures and attended teacher orientations to start the school year. Let’s ensure grandparents are welcome partners in our quest to give America’s children the best start at life.

As they say at Generations United, “Do Something Grand,” and celebrate Grandparents day on Sunday Sept 8.

Check out their tips at http://grandparentsday.org/

Early Learning Day of Action at Child Care Aware of America

The President visits a preschool in Maryland
President Obama announced his early learning plan for the nation in February. It was the first time a president made early learning a national priority. Can I say it again?

The first time education and care for our youngest made the national stage.

But this isn’t about a presidential statement. Early learning for all Americans is about a national investment in a winning strategy. If our society were a stock market, infants, toddlers and preschoolers are the BIG BUSINESS SUCCESS STORIES.(i.e., think Apple and Microsoft). Without a doubt our youngest are a winning long-term investment.

Why? Simply because so much happens in the earliest years, neurons are firing with each moment and at their fastest rate from birth until about age 3. By ensuring infants, toddlers and preschoolers get the best high quality education and care before entering kindergarten, we’re banking on a future that improves families, communities and, ultimately, society.

Early learners finish high school, they go to college, they stay out of jail, they stay employed. These are facts we’ve long learned through research, but haven’t acted on with strong enough or far-reaching policy solutions.

The 2013 early learning plan is a national kick-start toward reaching a critical goal line.

At Child Care Aware of America, we are thrilled to be one of the leading organizations supporting the national early learning plan in multiple settings, increased quality and access to child care, highly trained providers, and empowered parents.

But we’re not there yet. The success of a national early learning plan depends on you. Your voice, your support, your decision to demand high quality child care and early learning environments, not just for your children – but for all children.

Let’s not drop the ball. Help us gain yards on the field. When we get there, we all win.

Learn more about the president’s national early learning plan on Child Care Aware of America’s webinar page. Or  if you’re willing to wait for a download, get the PDF summary here

Like this blog? Read more on the National Women’s Law Center Blog Carnival for the Early Learning Day of Action.