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.

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New farm bill hurts children, vulnerable

President Obama signed a $956 billion farm bill into law last Friday, the first farm bill passed by Congress since 2008. The bill is being hailed by many as an historic bi-partisan victory. Unfortunately, to the victor, go the spoils.

What’s the farm bill?
The farm bill establishes food and agriculture policy for the United States, and much of the bill, about 80 percent, pertains to nutrition benefits like food stamps, or, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Farmers will continue to receive generous federal subsidies that help them stay in business.  Unfortunately, the biggest losers in the farm bill are children and poor families.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) wrote,

“FRAC has opposed the SNAP cuts because they will harm too many of the most vulnerable members of our society, making monthly food allotments fall even further short of what is needed for seniors, people with disabilities, children, low-income workers, and unemployed people.”

How the farm bill hurt children
We all know how important child brain development is for predicting not only school achievement but success in life as well. And it should be intuitive that children who don’t eat don’t learn. So why then would Congress take the unprecedented step of cutting SNAP by $8.6 billion – when it would affect these benefits for millions of food-insecure families?

SNAP matters to children and families in every community. It serves the most vulnerable in society; 83 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with children, elderly persons or persons with disabilities. Half of SNAP enrollees are children. And benefits are already meager – averaging $1.40 per person per meal.

Nearly 49 million Americans live in households that are food insecure. Too often they are forced to choose between paying for food or rent, medicine, shoes for their children or heat – choices no family should have to make. Congress should be strengthening, not weakening SNAP.

The whole child
Investing in children early makes a difference, but they have to have their basic needs met to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Join us for Health Aware at the Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium where we’ll focus on the health and well-being of the “Whole Child.” Sessions include presenters from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Save the Children, Child’s Environmental Health and Let’s Move! Child Care

Get more:
Let’s Move! Child Care
2014 Symposium
Food  Research and Action Center

Raise Your Hand for Child Care Webinar Series

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Child Care Aware®of America is embarking on a five-month campaign to help shape the ongoing national conversation around various opportunities that enrich the state of child care and early education in this country.  The Raise Your Hand webinar series strives to raise awareness about federal and state early learning opportunities that support child care, connect participants with content experts, and inspire all who care about early learning to take action to better the lives of working families.

With all of the excitement surrounding early childhood policy building significantly over the last year, our goal is to make sure that you have access to experts across the early childhood community to discover what exactly is going on in Washington, DC and how you can be involved.  To do this, we’ve invited leaders from national early childhood organizations, such as the First Five Years Fund, National Head Start Association, National Women’s Law Center,  ZERO TO THREE and  many more, to help all of our communities understand what’s possible and what’s at stake for our nation’s littlest learners.

Each 45-minute presentation will inspire parents, professionals and members of the community to RAISE their hand in support of a strong start for children. Subject matter experts will present on topics including the:

  • Federal Budget
  • Early Learning Polling
  • Head Start/Early Head Start and Child Care Partnerships
  • Affordable Care Act
  • Shared services
  • Home Visiting
  • Universal Pre-K
  • And more

Join us today for the first webinar of our Raise Your Hand series, “Federal Budget 101: Budgets, Deficits, Sequestration and Shutdowns”, with Stephanie Monroe our policy and budget expert at Child Care Aware® of America. 

Learn more about the upcoming webinars in this series at www.usa.childcareaware.org/webinars. Check back often for updates to the schedule.

I look forward to joining you throughout this series and together we will RAISE better opportunities for our nation’s children.

Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America.

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.

Oklahoma: Supporting the Children

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Like so many of you,  I grew up watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood.  Fred Rogers was a calming presence for an entire generation of children, but he also had someone to help navigate difficult times when he was a child. His mother once told him, when disaster strikes, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

We mourn those killed and the community traumatized by the tornadoes in Oklahoma. And we also think of the teachers, the helpers, the adults to whom children look when scary moments like tornadoes or violence happens around them. These amazing adults are heroes to children in child care settings and schools throughout the community. They did the very thing we need them to do – provide a safe, healthy and nurturing environment for children.

The children and families in Oklahoma and other affected areas will need support to deal with this trauma and the rebuilding of their neighborhoods. All of us, from many disciplines, must, and already have, come together to provide the best supportive care for the children directly affected, and those children who may have witnessed the disaster in the media. At Child Care Aware ® of America, we are committed to working with Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and other national and local partners to support rebuilding and offer disaster resources, talking points and guidance for adults working and living with children.

We see the best during our most difficult moments – and this was true in Oklahoma. We praise those teachers and caregivers who protected their children, and we stand ready to offer support, wherever it is needed.

Here are a few resources to get you started. Follow us as we work together for children across our nation.

Crisis and Disaster Resources

Free Download – What’s the Plan? Ask Your Child Care Provider Before a Disaster

Mister Rogers Neighborhood: Helping Children Deal with Scary News

 Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware ® of America