5 Tips for Recess SUCCESS!

It’s that time of year again–August recess! Congress has adjourned for the month of August and will not be back in session until September 9. During their month-long recess, many Members take the opportunity to re-engage with their community and the constituents they serve. This is a perfect opportunity for you to foster and cultivate those very important relationships with your Senators and Representative, as well as their key staff. You want them to know who you are and what issues you care about –early learning, child care, resource and referral services, etc., and how those issues are affecting your local community and your state.

In order to ensure you get the most out of your elected officials this August, we put together our top 5 tips for recess success:

1. Schedule a visit/meeting.  Go to our congressional directory to look up the contact information for your Member’s district office(s).  Call the office or send an email requesting a meeting, and be sure to briefly mention the purpose of the meeting.

2. Do your research before your meeting.  You can make the most of your meeting time by being prepared and knowing your audience.  Learn about your Member of Congress: is she/he a Democrat or a Republican? Is your Member on Facebook or Twitter? What committees is she/he on? Do those committees work on child care issues?  You should also know whether the Member supports an increased investment in child care and early learning (and has voted accordingly). Visit the Core Issues page to get background on the issues.

capitolnick3. Invite your elected officials to your child care program. Reach out to district staff or ask during a meeting with staff or your Member if they would like to visit your child care program: if you’re representing a child care resource and referral agency, you may have a recommendation of a place to visit. This is a great way for Members to connect what you do with what children need, and why investments in child care and early learning programs are so important. Members and their staff get a firsthand look at why quality child care is a necessity for any thriving community.

4. Attend scheduled town halls. Another great way to engage with your elected officials during recess is to attend a town hall meeting (or two!).  Check your policymaker’s website to find out the date and location of any upcoming town hall meetings. In preparation for the meeting, write down–at most–two questions: you will not have a lot of time so make sure your questions are specific and straight to the point.  Read our town hall tips sheet for more information.

5. Follow up. If you were able to get a meeting, attend a town hall, and/or host a Member at your early learning program, send a thank you note to your Member and their staff.  Thank them for taking the time out to meet with you/have the town hall meeting/visit your program, and gently remind them why they should continue to support child care. Be sure to follow up on any requests you made at the meeting as well as any information they may have asked for.  A few words of appreciation will have a lasting impact on your relationship with your elected officials and your long term advocacy efforts.

Good luck and keep us posted on how your recess efforts are going.  Let us know how we can help. We have plenty of one pagers, background information and talking points to help you with your recess SUCCESS!

The Science is Clear: Children Need Adults to Step Up

6466e591-5e53-4ce8-81ca-0fba43882fc1 (1)A popular song once asked – “What’s love got to do with it?” For those of us who are working to make sure that our youngest children have what they need, we need to ask a similar question:  What’s adults got to do with it?

Recent groundbreaking research on brain development has shown us that children have a critical window in their brain development between birth and age five. Responsive and attentive interactions between young children and the adults around them during this period form strong neural connections and shape the architecture of the brain. This is why every single interaction with babies and preschoolers matters so much. Indeed, fostering strong development in those early years is vitally important to children’s success in life.

But the window doesn’t slam shut when children turn five.

The brain is still open to intervention and change throughout life, with some areas still maturing in the early 20s. That doesn’t mean we should wait until then. It just opens up a wider window and invites us to step in as soon as we can and go as long we can.

Research also says that the chain of adults who are part of children’s lives starting at birth can have a profound impact on what happens to children and how their lives are shaped. Instead of throwing up our hands in despair when confronted by the many problems that children face, we can instead direct a laser-like focus on the adults who touch their lives every day.

That is what the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and its Director, Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, are talking about in a compelling new video that offers a theory of change for children that we, as adults, can act on.

We all know that living day to day in toxic stress is not good for children: they do not do well in the midst of violence, neglect, hunger, and anxiety. But what we seem to have forgotten is that the toxic stressors that young children experience also can come from the lives of the adults in their communities: The skills that we know young children need to thrive are the very same skills that parents and caregivers and aunties and uncles and neighbors and family friends need (and may not have) to hold down jobs, to create stable routines at home, and to be there for kids when they cry, when they are angry, when they are asking questions, when they are looking for hugs, when they are unsure and confused, when they are worried, when they are sick, when they need something or someone and are not sure how to ask…..

While we need better policies to help remove all the stressors facing families and particularly those families who are very vulnerable and isolated and poor – what we must also do is help the adults better understand and take up their roles in the lives of kids. Many of us who are grown and doing well today grew up poor, living in less than ideal circumstances. But the adults in our lives – at home, at church, at school, and next door – never let poverty and bad situations define us. They shielded us. They encouraged us. They taught us. This is not impossible work; it is simply work we have forgotten how to do, were never taught, or tragically decided that we do not want to do.

Too often as a society we talk about how we want to “save” the children – but to do that, in addition to creating policies that make our community environments safe, stable, and enriching, we must be willing to “redeem” the adults in their lives, starting as early as possible and continuing through their 20s.

We invite you to talk about how you and your organization are “redeeming” adults on behalf of young children. And if you are not, how could you?

What’s adults got to do with it? Everything…..

Florida On-Site Advocacy

Earlier this week, members of the Child Care Aware® of America Policy Team jumped ontampa a plane and went to Tampa for a one-day on-site Advocacy Training. They worked closely with the Children’s Forum in Tallahassee to put together a jam-packed agenda for each of the 60 attendees at the training.

The morning started off bright and early with an ice-breaker session where each attendee went around stating their name, organization and the name and location of their elementary school. Everyone in the room was quickly flooded with memories of early learning and the opportunity to better the quality of early education for today’s children.

Following the first session, the team jumped into the meaty information. There was a brief lay of the land presented by Phyllis Kalifeh of the Children’s Forum and Ted Granger from United Way. This was followed up by a presentation and conversation related to advocacy versus lobbying. Great discussion was had about where the line is drawn and how far organizations can go on the advocacy front.

At 10am, Shannon Rudisill, Director, Office of Child Care called into the training and gave a real-time overview of the new HHS Proposed Rule. We then discussed the new CCDBG bill, the President’s Early Learning Agenda and how Florida can weigh in on each of these opportunities.

The morning session wrapped up with a breakout where each team of 6-8 discussed current challenges, what they would do if they had a magic wand and what the reality looks like in the state of Florida.

 current challenges

After the breakout groups posted their ideas on the wall, the team began working on state advocacy over lunch. While enjoying salads, each attendee learned about parent and child care provider engagement and how to build a state advocacy day in the state of Florida. The discussion then jumped into how crucial social media is in today’s advocacy world, inspiring many attendees to jump on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

The day then wrapped up with a final breakout and team presentation of each group’s roadmap for the future. Each attendee then went around the room sharing takeaways, bright ideas, next steps and new information learned from peers. One idea learned during the session was to always bring someone to a training with you as you never know who will attend and become an early childhood advocate. One attendee even brought the mayor’s wife!

Overall, the day was full of information, resource sharing and network building. Everyone left the training with a renewed passion, ready to improve the quality of child care in the state of Florida.

photo

Photo courtesy of The Children’s Forum

Read about our on-site training in Delaware here.