We Raise America

#WeRaiseAmerica

At Child Care Aware® of America we believe information sharing, advancing discussion, and taking action are critical to affecting positive change for our nation’s children and families. We want to spark the conversation about early childhood and the future of our nation, which is what The Raising of America series and associated public engagement campaign are all about.

The documentary series The Raising of America takes us inside the brain and brings to life recent scientific research that reveals how early experiences, beginning in the womb and continuing through early childhood, can alter brain architecture and developmental trajectories.

Through the stories of families, we discover how the lack of paid parental leave and high-quality affordable childcare, stagnant wages and overcrowded housing, depression and social exclusion, and perhaps most of all the time crunch, too often undermine the efforts of parents and child care providers struggling to create the nurturing environments all children need to thrive.

We’re also proud to highlight the work of Renee Boynton-Jarrett, M.D., Sc.D., pediatrician and Child Care Aware® of America board member. As a contributor to the series, Dr. Boynton-Jarrett adds her expertise on the importance of early growth and development as a precursor to future success, and as a member of our board, we’re excited to have her breadth of knowledge

Screenings are happening all over the country – find one near you and join in the discussion, or host one of your own!

As child care providers and advocates we know how important our work is to the growth and development of America’s children. So join in and share your thoughts with us on social media! We’ll be following the hashtag #WeRaiseAmerica on Twitter to see what you’re talking about.

Ask yourself: So how is it that children in the U.S. have worse outcomes on most measures of health, education and well-being than other rich nations? How can we do better?

Watch this short intro to the series and hear from some of the experts, including Boynton-Jarrett, who are advocating for more involvement in children’s health and growth in their earliest years.

The Raising of America Series – TRAILER (11min) from California Newsreel on Vimeo.

The New CCAoA Website Is Live!

We’re proud to announce the newly redesigned Child Care Aware® of America website!

The new CCAoA website features a modern and more attractive design with easy-to-navigate search functionality and a content-rich experience. The website is now mobile-compatible so users can easily access the site and utilize all of its new features from any personal device.

This redesigned site will better showcase our organization as a leading national child care resource and encourage more advocacy, engagement, and support for quality child care across the nation.

The new features of the CCAoA website include a streamlined navigation architecture that allows users to find content in three clicks or less. The new fly-out menu provides an at-a-glance site map to guide visitors to their desired destination. The child care search feature, which is one of the most accessed tools on the CCAoA site today, has even been optimized for a more user-friendly experience.

Stop by the new Child Care Aware® of America website and see what’s new! And if you come across something not working the way it should, we want to hear about it. Let us know by sending an email to feedback@usa.childcareaware.org.

NewLook1

Why National Poetry Month is Important for Children

April is National Poetry Month, which may seem silly and perhaps even frivolous with everything else going on in the early childhood education space, but it’s actually quite important.

Started in 1996 by the National Academy of Poets, the stated goal of the month was to:

  • highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • encourage the reading of poems
  • assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms
  • increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books, and
  • encourage support for poets and poetry.

Poetry often employs the use of rhyme and rhythm – helpful especially to young children still learning to build language and comprehension skills! It also allows children to use their creativity to discuss subjects of interest to them in a fun way that can help them learn to love reading, and can even be used as a great exercise for English language learners.

Some resources and ideas to help you celebrate poetry during National Poetry Month and throughout the year:

Child Care Leaders Address 2015 Child Care Aware® of America Annual Meeting and Conference

Child Care Aware® of America’s (CCAoA) 2015 annual meeting and conference in Washington, D.C. brought together child care providers, CCR&Rs, and leaders from government agencies and the White House to address many issues including Early Head Start and Child Care Partnerships, implementation of CCDBG, CCAoA’s strategic planning, and cultural competency in family engagement.

LindaSmith_Barrett

Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), addressed annual meeting attendees. Photo by Steve Barrett.

We were so fortunate to have Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and Rachel Schumacher, Director of the Office of Child Care, join us on day one of our annual meeting! Smith kicked off the events on Monday morning with her opening keynote on opportunities and challenges affecting the child care community and potential changes coming down the road, while Schumacher spoke later that afternoon about CCDBG implications for the early childhood community generally and for CCR&R’s specifically. It was a great discussion with questions from attendees on how these issues would affect their communities.

Day one also included a presentation by Shannon Moodie and Manica Ramos with Child Trends on the report “Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs”. Presenters offered tips and resources on how to engage parents from diverse communities in child care and early learning settings – something many attendees in the audience had questions about and perspectives to share after their presentation.

A panel on Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership included Dr. Cheri Vogel from Mathematica, Steve Rohde from the Maryland Family Network, and Dr. Walter Gilliam of the Child Study Center at Yale University and a CCAoA board member. Panelists discussed the issues and core competencies that support partnerships between Early Head Start and Child Care providers.

For those in attendance on Monday afternoon, Dr. Abby Thorman of Thorman Strategy Group facilitated a discussion to get membership input on CCAoA’s evolving Strategic Plan. Members will have more opportunities to engage – be on the lookout for more opportunities to share your ideas and perspectives as we all look forward to embracing new goals and objectives for the future later this year when we release the final plan.

BODpresidents_Barrett sm

Left to right: current board president L. Carol Scott, Ph.D., CCAoA Executive Director Lynette Fraga, Ph.D., and president-elect Steve Rohde. Photo by Steve Barrett.

Please join us in congratulating Steve Rohde, Deputy Director for Resource and Referral Services of the Maryland Family Network, on his successful election to the position of president-elect of the CCAoA board of directors!

Rohde has been a preschool classroom teacher, a child care center director, a child care specialist with municipal and county licensing programs, a trainer, and a county and state administrator for licensing. He has a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson University, and was also adjunct faculty with Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie College) for five years.

His expertise and leadership will be a great asset to the Child Care Aware® of America board. We are looking forward to him joining us at the next board meeting in May.

Two of our newest board members Ann McCully and Tonja Rucker were also on-hand for the annual meeting, and participated in the discussion and events. You can learn more about them, and another recent addition to CCAoA board leadership, online.

RobertoRodriguez_Barrett

Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President on education gave the keynote luncheon address. Photo by Steve Barrett.

Day two of the annual meeting and conference began with Linda K. who spoke about understanding the new landscape of early learning systems during the morning session, with a luncheon keynote from Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President on education.

In his role advising the White House on education and early learning policy, Rodriguez said to attendees, “A child’s zip code should not be a predetermining factor in the opportunities he or she has to grow and succeed.” We at Child Care Aware® of America couldn’t agree more!

In a fantastic exchange of ideas, attendees participated in our first open session, where groups gathered to talk about issues they were most interested in. The open forums then reported out at the closing session on Tuesday afternoon on some of their key takeaways.

If you missed the 2015 annual meeting and conference, we’ve got you covered! Check out our Facebook album for pictures from the event, start to finish.

And be sure to keep an eye out for details on the spring 2016 symposium! Plans are currently in the works for this big event, to be held in Washington, D.C.

President Obama visits the Sunflower State to Talk about Quality, Affordable Child Care

By: Leadell Ediger, Executive Director, Child Care Aware of Kansas:

When an email from the White House came into my inbox, I paid attention!  That’s the situation I found myself in, in mid-January.  I was delighted to find that Child Care Aware® of Kansas was being offered two tickets to attend the President’s Remarks at the University of Kansas.   It really didn’t take me more than 2 minutes to look at my calendar and send a quick response back to the White House, stating Absolutely!  Much to my surprise, on Wednesday (the day before the President’s visit) we were offered another seven tickets!  Of course I said we’d take them.  Within a matter of one hour, I called the CCR&Rs in Kansas, two child care center directors and one high school teacher to extend the offer.  All 7 people immediately said “YES”!

Dean Olson (The Family Conservancy), Elaine Edwards (center director) Deb Crowl (center director), Leadell Ediger (CCR&R Network Director), Cheryl Firsching (Child Start), Amanda Ediger (High school teacher), Angie Saenger (CCR&R Network), Tanya Koehn (CCR&R Network).

Dean Olson (The Family Conservancy), Elaine Edwards (center director) Deb Crowl (center director), Leadell Ediger (CCR&R Network Director), Cheryl Firsching (Child Start), Amanda Ediger (High school teacher), Angie Saenger (CCR&R Network), Tanya Koehn (CCR&R Network).

From the email from the White House, I learned that there was a specific procedure to picking up the tickets, so off to Lawrence, Kansas, we went on Wednesday afternoon.  The pickup time was between 4 – 6 pm.  We got there at 5 and waited an hour to get our 9 precious tickets.  Much discussion took place because we got a “red” ticket, versus a “green” or a “white” ticket, how close to the front would we actually be?

Thursday morning dawned quite chilly in Lawrence, Kansas but an electric feel was in the air when we snaked our way through the waiting line.   We made arrangements to meet one of our colleagues from the Kansas City area outside the arena where the event was being held; luckily I got his cell phone number just to be safe.  Standing was the name of the game that day, standing outside in the cold, standing for 3 hours inside waiting and standing, applauding, cheering for a short 35 minute window when the President spoke.  What an exciting 35 minutes though!  When the President finally made his entrance, we were within 30 feet of him and had perfect viewing!

Front: Deb Crowl, Cheryl Firsching, Leadell Ediger Middle row: Elaine Edwards, Tanya Koehn, Dean Olson Back row: Reva Wywadis and Angie Saenger

Front: Deb Crowl, Cheryl Firsching, Leadell Ediger
Middle row: Elaine Edwards, Tanya Koehn, Dean Olson
Back row: Reva Wywadis and Angie Saenger

President Obama strolled in with his shirt sleeves rolled up, ready to go!  It was very obvious, the President knows how to excite a crowd, and he did so by starting off with saying “he’s a Kansas boy”.  This statement got a big roar from the crowd.  Yes, the President has deep roots in Kansas.  He then shared his message, that middle-class economics should be the focus!  This included a healthy discussion about child care!   After listening only days before to the State of the Union address, I knew he had big plans to strengthen child care, but again in Lawrence the President said “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us”, which brought, again, a huge roar from the crowd.  During this short address, I heard the President’s passion for young children and their working families.  His persistence and dedication to wanting to help the middle-class and how much he values and supports, not only early learning, but learning for all!  He showed his impatience to get the job done.  An added bonus for me and something I didn’t expect to see was his delightful humor.

After the speech, the President interacted with the crowd by shaking many hands.  Because we were so close to the stage, before he left the auditorium he shook the hands of four of the nine early childhood folks that went with us!   This clearly will be a day that we’ll remember for years to come.

 

The Tragic Truth About Vehicular Heatstroke

You’ve seen it on the news. Every year as temperatures across the country rise, quiet children are forgotten in hot cars. The result is serious injury or death and families that are changed forever.

Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.

Image via Safe Kids Worldwide

Vehicular heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related fatalities for children 14 and younger. Heatstroke has claimed the lives of 606 children from 1998 – 2013. Forty-four children died in 2013 alone. In 2014, there have already been eighteen deaths. With hyperthermia deaths occurring 11 months out of the year, that number will almost certainly rise. The good news is that these deaths are preventable.

What’s the number one cause of child vehicular heatstroke? Forgotten child care dropoff. The truth is that the majority of children who fall victim to heatstroke have the most loving and responsible of parents. The terrifying fact is that this mistake could happen to anyone… Even you.

Everyone has days where their thinking is distracted. If you’ve ever jumped in the car and reached your destination in what seems like record time, it’s probably because part of your brain set itself on “auto-pilot.” This is an instinctive reaction, a function of the primitive side of the brain, and can happen for any number of reasons. You could be sleep-deprived, stressed, doing too many things all at once or all three. So your brain sets your body in motion. Normally, your husband drops your baby off at child care. So on the day of his six-month dental cleaning, the same day your water heater goes on the fritz, the same day you’re running late to work because the baby spit up on your first outfit, is the same day your brain clicks to autopilot and allows you to drive past the turn to your child care provider’s home without a moment’s hesitation.

If you’re lucky, you’ve already made an absence verification plan with your provider and she calls you the moment your baby fails to show up for care. This simple phone call could save your baby’s life. The alternative is too horrific to imagine. I urge you to take the time to set up a plan right now. And follow these steps to prevent vehicular heatstroke from happening to another child:

  • NEVER leave a child alone in a car—not with the windows down, not with the car running, not even for a minute.
  • Remember that children overheat up to five times faster than adults. Heatstroke can happen even on mild or cloudy days.
  • Always check your backseat before you lock your car. Simple habits like keeping your purse or cell phone in the backseat are great ways to ensure a quiet child is never forgotten in your car.
  • Thirty percent of children who died of vehicular heatstroke gained access to an unlocked car and then trapped themselves inside. Never leave a vehicle unlocked and teach children never to play in or around cars.
  • Use technology to your advantage. The Kars4Kids Safety App, is a free, downloadable app that works with Bluetooth-enabled cars. The minute you and your phone leave the car, an alarm goes off reminding you to yes, check your backseat.
  • Watch our archived heat safety webinar for more prevention tips.
  • If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check that your child has arrived at their destination safely.
  • Visit safercar.gov/heatstroke for fact sheets, flyers, and other helpful heatstroke awareness materials.
  • For more information, visit the Safe Kids Worldwide page or check out these resources from the Administration for Children and Families.
  • If you see a child alone in a car, take action immediately. Don’t wait for the driver to return. If the child appears to be in distress, call 911 immediately.

Don’t let another child fall victim to heatstroke.  Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle and always check the backseat.

Working Families Summit Recap

working families summit

On Monday, I joined President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at the Omni Hotel in Washington D.C. for the first ever White House Summit on Working Families. The place was packed with policymakers, business and labor leaders, economists, reporters and their cameramen, and of course many advocates for working families, including parents and small business owners from across the country. The sum of us gathered for opening remarks with the same questions on our minds: What will it take to help working families succeed in the 21st century workplace, and how can we, as a nation, make it happen?

The theme of the day revealed itself early, as Dr. Jill Biden spoke about her personal experiences as a mother of three, working and going to school full-time in earlier years. Her husband and Vice President and later the Obamas would also speak to their own experiences of struggling to balance their careers with family and their children. The message was clear that although issues vary from one individual to another, no one is alone in these experiences. All working families experience these challenges.

I was very interested to see Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at New Republic and author of the Hell of American Daycare, would be moderating the opening plenary. Not surprisingly the issue of children’s health and safety in America’s child care system was brought up almost immediately. Jonathan raised the question of working families’ accessibility to quality child care, and though the panelist varied from Ivy League economics professor to Global Chairman and company CEOs, all seemed to agree that among the most basic needs of working families is the need for high-quality, early learning environments… Early learning environments where children of America’s working families can flourish in a safe and healthy setting that will stimulate their brains during the most critical of time in their development.

President Obama took the stage to talk about bringing the American economy into the 21st century and prepare workplaces to support working families in the coming decades.  He touched on the importance of spending time with family, the necessity of having flexibility in the workplace, the struggles of the “sandwich” generation who must deal with raising children, maintaining their careers, and caring for aging parents. He discussed his and Michelle’s experience as young working parents and the struggles they faced, and what he wants as a father for his two daughters.

President Barack Obama

“…I take it personally, because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies.  And I want them to be able to have families.  And I want them to be able to have careers.  And I want them to go as far as their dreams will take them.  And I want a society that supports that.“

And perhaps most importantly, the President talked at length about child care in America. He quoted directly from Child Care Aware® of America’s 2013 Parents and the High Cost of Child Care report when he pointed out that “in 31 states, decent child care costs more than in-state college tuition.” Obama went on to say that America must find a solution to rising child care costs and the burden it puts on so many families. In his own words, “child care, workplace flexibility, a decent wage… these are not frills these are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses; they should be part of our bottom line as a society.”

As fate would have it, my phone lit up just as Obama spoke about juggling careers and family obligations. I looked down and saw my daughter’s name appear on the screen.  Knowing she was with her grandparents visiting from Arizona.  I had to giggle. Really? Now?  The text exchange that followed went something like this:

ME: “Can’t talk right now. I’ll call you later”

MY DAUGHTER: “Kk”

MY DAUGHTER: “I’m just really bored, what are you doing?”

ME:  “Guess who this is?? President Obama!!” (with accompanying photo as I sat tables away from the President)

ASHLYN: “Cool, what is he doing?”

ME: “Giving a speech about kids like you and working parents like me!”

ASHLYN: “Oh”

ASHLYN: “I’m still bored”

I found it so ironic that just hours earlier I had listened to Vice President Biden emphasize the importance of every day moments, of which I am fortunate to have many with my children, and then, on that particular day, during that particular hour, my daughter was reaching out to me – at work – listening to President Obama!

Vice Preseident Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden

The President concluded his remarks by urging the audience to take action.

“As long as Congress refuses to act on these policies, we’re going to need you to raise your voices.  We need you to tell Congress don’t talk about how you support families, actually support families.  Don’t talk the talk.  We want you to walk the walk.

In the meantime, if Congress will not act, we’re going to need mayors to act.  We’ll need governors and state legislators to act.  We need CEOs to act.  And I will promise you, you will have a President who will take action to support working families.”

Later, the First Lady’s remarks echoed this call, saying “It’s up to us to change the conversation… That’s the job of all of us and it starts here… These conversations have to continue at the regional level. This is just the beginning. And it has to be a movement, and there has to be momentum, and it has to continue to the point where the pressure is real.” So let me also close by asking you to raise your voice. Help us walk the walk. Or as Maria Shriver put it, “We all have a story to tell, tell it.”

Lynette M. Fraga with Maria Shriver

One way to tell your state’s child care story is to share our 2014 State Fact Sheets with legislators and policymakers in your community. Child Care Aware® of America’s state fact sheets  provide data useful to child care advocates, policymakers, and program administrators as they make decisions around child care programs and expenditures in their state. The fact sheets look at the cost, use, and supply of child care in individual states, as well as family characteristics related to the need of child care, services provided by Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, and the child care workforce.

Visit usa.childcareaware.org  for the latest data on your state, or visit the workingfamiliessummit.org for more ways to get involved.

You can watch the President’s full remarks from the Summit below: