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.

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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.

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.

_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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