Tag Archives: advocacy

Striking While the Iron’s Hot: Becoming an Advocate for Early Childhood Education

early-childhood-advocate

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Election Day is just around the corner. One of the most crucial topics being brought to the forefront of voters’ minds this election year is that of investing in quality educational experiences for young children. Those of us in the field of early childhood have long been aware of the importance of this topic, but we are finally starting to hear the leaders (and potential leaders) of our communities, and of this nation, give it some credence.

Investing money in young children has been proven, time and again, to yield numerous benefits down the road for the individual child, his/her family, and society as a whole. A report entitled “The Economics of Early Childhood Investments” published  in December 2014 cited reductions in crime, as well as lower expenditures on health care and remedial education down the road as just a few of the societal benefits to investing in early childhood. Families who have dependable, high-quality child care options are able to remain productive members of the workforce. Children who experience quality early care and education experiences, by and large, are more likely to grow up to become contributing members of society, themselves.

At this point in our nation’s history, we, as early childhood educators, have a unique opportunity. We can use our first hand experiences working with young children, our depth of knowledge about child development, and our collective voice as early childhood professionals to spread the message to our leaders that young children, and those of us who educate and care for them, deserve the resources necessary to create high quality early learning environments and experiences.

By working together, each one of us has the power to influence the direction early care and education is preparing to take in our country. In addition to the important work we do with young children and their families each day, becoming an early childhood advocate is another way we can contribute, on a much larger scale, to the advancement of the education of young children in our community, as well as our country. You can begin your journey as an early childhood advocate by taking any (or all!) of the following action steps:

  • Visit websites like 4cforchildren.org. www.usa.childcareaware.org, or www.naeyc.org on a regular basis to stay educated about current topics, research and best practices in early childhood.
  • Join, and become active in, early childhood professional organizations like NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children), NAFCC (the National Association for Family Child Care), or CEC (the Council for Exceptional Children), to name a few.
  • Contact your state representative and/or the White House to express your thoughts, feelings, opinions and concerns regarding quality early childhood in your area. You can find contact info for state reps here. You can contact the White House here.
  • Read about the current child care proposals that are being offered by our presidential candidates.
  • Register to vote prior to Election Day
  • VOTE on Election Day (Tuesday, November 8)!

Remember to spread the word, every chance you get, to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and community leaders about the importance of investing in early childhood education. There is strength in numbers. By uniting and taking action, we can improve the state of early childhood education in our communities, and our nation, for the benefit of the children in our care, and for generations of children yet to come.

Don’t Make Excuses, Make Changes!

When my son was learning to play baseball, his coach’s mantra was, “Don’t make excuses, make changes!” This would be heard most often when the boys could not find their hat, their ball or their baseball pants, and it was always somebody else’s fault. As the boys on the team grew older and became more aware of their skills and abilities, they would make excuses about why they couldn’t hit the ball, or why they lost the game. Their coach’s mantra was never more relevant.

I have had to repeat this mantra myself when I start complaining about what “the state” is doing about early childhood in Ohio. While I believe in the goals and expectations that “the state” has for improving the quality of care for young children, I find myself complaining about the journey that it takes to get there. I find it so easy to complain when “the state” becomes this catch all category for all of the things that I do not have control over.

Last week, I decided to stop making excuses and make a change. I drove to Columbus for advocacy day. In the morning I was trained on how to advocate, and in the afternoon I actually engaged in advocacy work by speaking with our state representatives and senators. It was such a rewarding day to be able to speak passionately about early care and education and after-school care in Ohio. Our representatives and senators depend on our voice to inform them about crucial decisions that affect our state.

On this particular day, the legislature was meeting to vote on texting and wild animal laws. Are most senators and representatives experts on either of these topics? Probably not. They depend on police officers and wild animal experts to fill them in on the details so that they can make informed decisions when it comes time to vote. My role on that day was not to persuade them to vote a certain way, but to build a relationship with them so that they would consider me a resource when a vote is needed.

Advocacy work sounds a whole lot scarier than it actually is. It involves a lot of patience as you are at the mercy of the legislator’s schedules, but the 15 minutes that you can spend with them are very rewarding.

A few days ago a draft of the Early Childhood Birth-Kindergarten Entry Standards was made available for public comment. I jumped at the chance to read through and make my comments and suggestions. I was done making excuses, and you can be, too!

The draft standards and feedback survey are located here. On this site, you can access the introduction which explains the development process and organization of the standards, the draft standards in each domain and a link to the survey on which you can provide feedback. You can also access the survey directly here. Please review and submit your comments by May 31, 2012! Make your voice heard!

It’s Criminal Not to Protect Children

Believe it or not, in some states it is possible for a convicted felon to legally work in a child care facility. Furthermore, only 17 states require a check of staff against the sex offender registry. Ohio and Kentucky are among those who don’t require this check.

According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), “currently there is no national safeguard to ensure that the more than 11 million children in child care are cared for by providers without a criminal record.” Child care regulations on background checks vary from state to state. This means that someone could have a vast criminal record in one state, move to another state and work in child care.

Parents have lots to juggle when making the difficult choice about care for their child. They shouldn’t have to worry about whether the caregiver has a criminal background. Parents should be able to expect that their child will be safe.

There is a solution.

A comprehensive background check is available. This check, using fingerprints, covers criminal background, the sex offender registry, and a check of the child abuse and neglect registries. This type of check cannot be falsified like the type that requires only a person’s name. Legislation that will mandate these checks nationally is currently pending in Congress.

We don’t have to wait for the law to pass. There is a lot you can do now. You can stand up for the children in your program by instituting a comprehensive background check for staff. If you believe in this as strongly as I do, you can contact your Senator or Representative and use this simple form to send them a letter.

This, we can all agree on. Our primary job is to protect and keep children safe. Parents count on us to look after their most prized possession and we should take that responsibility very seriously. Please join me in relentless support of comprehensive criminal background checks of all child care providers.

Ready to Raise Your Voice for Children and Families?

Policymakers are people just like you and me. The only difference is that they have the ultimate task of casting a vote on important decisions. But really, their job is to weigh in on important issues and represent the people in their communities when doing so. It is our job to tell them what we think, and what is important. Until two weeks ago, I had never met face to face with an elected official.

Children’s Advocacy Day at the capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky was the forum. Three staff from 4C planned to attend the day’s events. It would have been easy to attend the exciting rally, listen to Kentucky’s Governor Beshear’s inspiring words about progress on children’s issues, and then head home. This didn’t seem like enough when I envisioned the day. Why not try and set some meetings with the senators and representatives from our region? After a helpful briefing from a policy expert at the United Way, I picked up the phone and started calling legislative aides. They answered the phone. They scheduled appointments for us to meet with the officials. It was just that easy.

We prepared by putting together some quick facts about important issues related to child care and children in Kentucky. Did you know that there are 290,407 children under the age of five in Kentucky? Wow.

We met for 15 minutes each with Senator John Schnickel, Senator Katie Kratz Stein and Representative Sal Santoro. We gave information about the realities of child care as a critical support for working parents and told stories about the hard work that child care providers do to provide care and learning opportunities for children. They listened and asked questions. When we asked if they would like to tour some child care centers when they return to their districts, they said yes.

Phew, advocacy isn’t that hard after all.

But it’s not over. In fact, it’s just beginning. Our goal at 4C is to be advocate on important issues for children, families and child care. We plan to build on these meetings with legislators and form relationships so that our issues are heard. Would you like to be an advocate, too? It’s as simple as making contact and telling your story.

Raise your voice for families by clicking here if you live in Kentucky and here if you live in Ohio.

Is Leadership Advocacy?

As I sipped my coffee watching the Early Childhood Directors filter into the Sharonville Convention Center this past Friday, I marveled at the commitment of this group of professionals.  It was an unseasonably warm, sunny day and they were making the choice to attend 8 hours of training.  Yes, there was yummy food inside, and potentially a day where they did not have to solve an emergency at their center, but they still had to say “no” to the beautiful day.

I observed a few seasoned directors confidently move around the room and compared them to the more timid, “newbie” directors.  I wondered at what point in their professional career they found this confidence.  It caused me to reflect on my tenure as a director and realized that the day I spoke up on behalf of the children in my care, I became more confident in myself as a “leader.”

On that day, I had to convince some well intentioned volunteers that painting the lobby and hallways during arrival time was endangering the children. They laughed and replied something like, “At my house, my grandkids would know not to get in the way of my paint brush.  I am sure it will be fine… you worry too much!” I realized that I needed to defend my position on safety, and defend it quickly as a few early arrivals were coming through the doors.  I briefly quoted a licensing rule, followed by my passion and concern for the children’s safety. When I added in the possibility of donuts and coffee if they would agree to paint on Saturday, I had struck a deal.

You may read that and think, “That’s not leadership! That’s just following the rules.”  At the time, I did not think of myself as a leader, and would’ve agreed with you. The moment I moved the conversation to what was best for children, however, my intention shifted from following the rules to advocating for children. Yes, ADVOCATING! While it might not have been large scale political advocacy as we often think of it, I do believe that by suggesting a different approach to the painters, albeit only in my tiny early childhood program’s society, I was advocating on my children’s behalf. I was not marching on the steps of city hall, nor was I writing a letter to a legislator, but the Core Knowledge and Competencies for Administrators defines advocacy as the action of pleading for or supporting a cause or proposal, and that’s exactly what I was doing.

A key thing happened to me that day… I found my voice!  I was able speak out on and plead for what I thought was right for children. I utilized the research that I knew, combined it with my passion about what is right for children and mustered up the confidence to propose it out loud… the first step to becoming an advocate and a leader.

I challenge you to arm yourself with research and combine it with your personal mission about what you believe is right for children. Watch for opportunities to share what you know with others less informed.  At a recent Developing Early Childhood Leaders seminar at 4C, Elaine Ward, our senior vice president/COO, encouraged our group to share our expertise with elected officials. They depend on us to inform them about what is happening in the trenches.  Although I have never considered myself a political person, I do enjoy sharing what I know about children. This year, I am taking a big step and writing my elected officials regarding early childhood in Ohio.  I found their names and contact information in the nonpartisan voting information guide published by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area. Perhaps you are not ready for this step, but as you passionately speak to those around you about children, take a moment to consider yourself an early childhood leader and advocate!