Child Care Aware of America Travels to the Golden State

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The staff on-site from Child Care Aware® of America included Director of Policy Michelle Noth McCready, Senior Government Affairs Associate Nick Vucic, and Communications and Public Affairs Specialist Sara Miller.

After introductions by the advocates, displaying the wide-range of backgrounds and professions present, the Child Care Aware® of America staff dove right into the complex topic of Advocacy vs. Lobbying.   Following a short break, the crew returned to discuss what’s going on in Washington, DC with the budget and other federal initiatives pending.  In this time, Nick covered not only what had occurred with the Government Shutdown and the resulting agreement, but also what the current status was for CCDBG reauthorization, the Proposed Regulatory Changes to CCDF, and the President’s Early Learning Initiative.

1462980_863178810739_11969867_nDuring the next portion of the training the advocates took out their magic wands and talked about what they could do if they had the capabilities to accomplish anything in the early childhood space, as well as what barriers were currently in their path to achieving those goals.  When each group finished a brief presentation of their findings, Sara started the next part of the training, Engaging Today’s Generation, which covers how to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogs to expand your organizations reach for advocacy.

Once Sara finished up her presentation and fielded questions from the advocates around social media, Michelle started the discussion around building an action day, giving the advocates present hypothetical situations and challenging them to come up with ways to get the attention of their policymakers.

The training ended with the advocates in the room going around and providing their bright ideas, takeaways, next steps, and potential partnerships.  Click here to read about our advocacy trips to New JerseyFlorida, Montana, and Nevada.

Dissecting the Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013

The bi-partisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013, introduced today by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Congressman George Miller (D-CA), and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY), at an event on Capitol Hill sends a signal that the national conversation is just beginning around the importance of early learning. Senator Harkin, Rep. Miller, and Rep. Hanna joined Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Save the Children Ambassador actress Jennifer Garner and D.C. preschool children in a replica of an early learning classroom, and took part in activities and games that accentuate the difference quality early learning activities that begin at birth can make in a child’s development.

The legislation is comprised of four sections; Prekindergarten Access, Early Learning Quality Partnerships, Child Care, MIECHV Program.

To help understand how the legislation would impact different areas of the early childhood landscape, we’ll dive deeper into each section and its implications.
Prekindergarten Access

The legislation would fund preschool for 4-year old children from families earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), and encourage states to spend their own funds to support preschool for young children with family incomes above that income level.

Some of the highlights include:

  • • Requiring alignment of early learning standards with the State’s K-12 system that are “developmentally-appropriate, and culturally and linguistically appropriate and address all the domains of school-readiness.”
  • • Mixed-delivery eligibility for grants to ensure that states have the maximum flexibility in determining how the preschool grants could be administered to best fit their communities.
  • Requiring establishment of a State Early Childhood Education and Care Council, where it doesn’t currently exist
  • Improving coordination and participation with other federally-funded early childhood programs including, CCDBG, IDEA part C, and MIECHV.
  • Implementing performance measures and targets designed to increase school readiness, quality programs available, and children in those programs.
  • 10-year Match requirement from states, transitioning from 10% in the first year, to an equal share of the federal amount in the program’s 10th year.
  • Preschool Development Grants – For states not currently eligible for the formulaic preschool grants (described above), states could receive grants to help increase their ability to build the infrastructure and workforce and instill quality measures necessary to qualify for the federal formulaic prekindergarten grants in future years.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services would be tasked with developing a process for converting Head Start programs (that currently serve 4-year olds) to Early Head Start programs serving 3-year olds and infants/toddlers.

Early Learning Quality Partnerships

The legislation would fund the establishment and/or expansion of partnerships between Early Head Start programs and child care providers to help raise the quality of “coordinated, comprehensive services for infants and toddlers and children through age 3.”

Some of the highlights include:

  • $1.4 billion in competitive grants ($1,430,376,000 to be exact) to Early Head Start programs to partner with center-based or family child care programs, particularly those that receive federal support through CCDBG and agree to meet Early Head Start program performance standards.
  • Priority of grants given to applicants that create “strong” alignment with MIECHV, CCDBG, and state-funded programs to develop comprehensive birth-to-school services for families.
  • Early Head Start programs receiving grants under this initiative would enter into a “contractual relationship” with child care providers to:
    • Expand the child care providers programs through financial support
    • Provide training, technical assistance, and support to provider to meet higher quality measures
    • Blend funds with CCDBG to develop “high-quality child care, for a full-day” that meets the Early Head Start standards.

Child Care

The legislation would fund the establishment of a reserve fund to encourage activities to improve the quality of child care nationwide. Additionally, the bill would seek to implement further measures to improve continuity of care for families receiving federal child care assistance.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Creation of a $100 million reserve fund that would set-aside funds to go towards competitive grants to states to undertake activities designed to the improve the quality of child care through projects, including, but not limited to:
    • Supporting training, education, and other professional development activities for child care staff
    • Providing technical assistance to help providers come into compliance with licensing measures
    • Providing incentives for the child care workforce to seek further credentialing and/or degree attainment
    • Helping programs meeting health and safety standards
    • Helping programs develop and implement nutrition, physical activity, and/or obesity prevention programs.
  • Priority for grants to high-poverty areas, defined as “areas with significant concentrations of poverty and unemployment and that lack access to high-quality child care.”
  • Establishment/Implementation/Expansion of pilot projects to support the needs of low-income families.

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program

The legislation would provide a “Sense of the Senate” and a “Sense of the House of the Representatives” that the MIECHV program has shown significant progress in the improving the development of children from low-income families. A “Sense of the Congress (or of each chamber)” is simply the formal expression of opinion about subjects of current national interest. In other words, while the rest of the legislation would develop, implement, or expand existing programs, this section would clarify the belief of the respective chambers that the MIECHV program has seen significant success in its work and that the chambers believe that Congress should continue to provide the resources necessary for the program.

Nevada On-Site Advocacy Trainings

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3Recently, Child Care Aware of America had the great pleasure of traversing to Nevada for not one, but two advocacy trainings.  Starting off with a training in Reno, hosted by the Children’s Cabinet and finishing with a training in Las Vegas, hosted at United Way of Southern Nevada, Child Care Aware® of America’s policy staff had a great opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great early childhood advocates in Nevada.

Nick Vucic, Government Affairs Associate, and Sara Miller, Communications and Public Affairs Specialist, led the trainings.

The trainings started off with a round of icebreakers and a great introduction into the history of early childhood policy and status of programs in Nevada.  Next, Nick kicked off with an overview of advocacy vs. lobbying, then transitioned into updates from the federal level. The topics included CCDBG Reuathorization, the Proposed Rule from HHS, the Government Shutdown, Sequester, and more.

image4After a short break, participants were separated into groups, at which point they discussed goals and barriers in Nevada, as well as at the federal level.  Following presentation by all the groups in both Reno and Las Vegas, Sara started her presentation by pointing out resources and ways that the organization is here to help members in the states and parent engagement, which was a great way to transition into a discussion about social media.

image1Sara went over many social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and how to make all forms of social media help advocacy efforts.  Many advocates in both Reno and Las Vegas were chomping at the bit to learn more, as many had used social media for personal use, but not necessarily for their organizations and advocacy efforts.

Both trainings ended with the advocates in the room going around and providing their bright ideas, takeaways, next steps, and potential partnerships.  Click here to read about our advocacy trips to New Jersey, Florida, and Montana.

Building Advocates in Montana

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Last week, Nick Vucic, Government Affairs Associate, and Sara Miller, Communications and Public Affairs Specialist, flew across the country for a trip to Helena, Montana for a two-day on-site advocacy training.    collage 1 (1)

The training began with some ice breakers and an overview of advocacy vs. lobbying followed up with a couple of hours of updates from the federal level. The team talked about CCDBG, the Proposed Rule from HHS, the Government Shutdown, Sequester, and more. After many questions and answers, the room moved into breakout groups to discuss goals and barriers the state of Montana is facing in the early childhood community.

Each group then presented their goals and barriers and the group ended the day playing a rousing version of Advocacy Jeopardy.

The following morning, the training started earlier than planned and with coffee in hand, for another day of learning about advocacy.

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Sara led everyone through the Child Care Aware® of America website pointing out resources and ways that the organization is here to help members in the states and parent engagement, which was a great way to transition into a discussion about social media.

We discussed FacebookTwitterPinterest, and how to make all forms of social media help advocacy efforts. There were a few questions and then we moved into the final portion of the day: takeaways and next steps.

We were excited to see that many advocates in Montana were excited to learn about all of the great movement going on at the federal level and to gain more knowledge about making social media work for them.

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Click here to read about our advocacy trips to New Jersey, Florida and Delaware.

New Jersey Advocacy Training

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Last week, members of the Child Care Aware® of America Policy and Communications teams hopped in the car bright and early for a trip to West Windsor, NJ for a two-day on-site advocacy training. The team consisted of Jasmine Smith, Senior Policy Advisor; Nick Vucic, Government Affairs Associate; and Sara Miller, Communications and Public Affairs Specialist.

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The team made the trip in about three hours when they arrived at the boathouse marina

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The training room was overlooking the water and could not have been a prettier view.

The training began with some ice breakers and an overview of advocacy vs. lobbying followed up with a couple of hours of updates from the federal level. The team talked about CCDBG, the Proposed Rule from HHS, The Affordable Care Act and more. After many questions and answers, the room moved into breakout groups to discuss goals and barriers the state of New Jersey is facing in the early learning sector.

Each group then presented their goals and barriers and the group ended the day thinking of ways to take everything to the next level during the following day of training.

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The next morning, the group arrived early, with coffee in hand, for another day of learning about advocacy. The day kicked off with a quick recap of federal updates for those not in attendance on day one. Then Jasmine led everyone through the Child Care Aware® of America website pointing out resources and ways that the organization is here to help members in the states.

Following that, Michelle McCready, Senior State Policy Advisor, joined by phone to share information about state advocacy days and parent engagement, which was a great way to transition into a discussion about social media. We discussed Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and how to make all forms of social media help advocacy efforts. There were a few questions and then we moved into the final portion of the day: takeaways and next steps.

We were excited to see that many advocates in New Jersey were excited to learn about all of the great movement going on at the federal level and to gain more knowledge about making social media work for them.

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Want to know more about our onsite trainings this year? Read about our advocacy trips to Florida and Delaware.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Moves Onward

Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 out of Committee. A lot has changed in the past two decades and it’s been 17 years since the last reauthorization. This legislation places emphasis on promoting policies that will contribute to the safety and healthy development of millions of children who benefit from the federal child care program. The bill will now go to the full SenateHelpSenate for consideration.

Here’s what a few of the Senators said about the bill:

“As a mom and former preschool teacher, I know how import high-quality child care options are for parents, and this bill works to ensure the best possible care  “I am especially glad this bill includes new provisions to help more homeless families access child care. I’m also pleased that this legislation authorizes a national toll-free hotline and website for families seeking safe, affordable, quality child care in their community.” – Sen. Patty Murray from WA

“This legislation meets the compelling needs of children.” – Sen. Barbara Mikulski from MD

“Access to quality child care can make all the difference in a child’s early years, and this program has helped nearly 30,000 Tennessee families not only afford to enroll their children in child care, but be able to choose the type of care that’s best for their family,” – Sen. Lamar Alexander from TN

 “To quote a periodical I read about the bill, ‘This is an honest to goodness bipartisan bill’” – Sen. Richard Burr from NC

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 will:

  • Raise the health and safety of child care settings.
  • Require child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check.
  • Require child care programs to be inspected at least once every year to ensure they are safe and appropriate settings for children.
  • Improve program quality, while simultaneously ensuring federal funds support low-income and at-risk children and families.
  • Promote continuity of care to minimize disruption in children’s development.

More about the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013, can be found here.

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…..

Child Care Aware of America Bids Farewell to 2013 Summer Policy Interns

This past week, Child Care Aware of America bid farewell to our two 2013 Summer Policy Interns, Lester Asamoah and Audrey Williams.  Lester and Audrey spent the past eight weeks working closely with our Policy team on a variety of issues and topics, while taking part in courses offered at George Mason University.  In addition to learning more about the importance of quality child care in early childhood development, Lester and Audrey took part in visits to Congressional offices, coalition meetings, and conducted research on legislative topics.

BQh3KIXCEAE87J9 Lester Asamoah

Lester is from the University of Oklahoma and is majoring in International Security and Arabic. He came to DC to take part in The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems. He has an interest in American politics, national security, Middle Eastern culture, Arabic, and global affairs.

On Thursday, Lester presented about the Dutch child care system.  It was a brief historical perspective, including some discussion of the quality of Dutch child care from 1995-2005.

557870_10151588588227810_380964255_nAudrey Williams

Audrey is a rising senior from Taylor University and is double majoring in Political Science and International Studies with a concentration in Peace, Reconciliation and Justice and a minor in History. She came to DC to take part in The Fund for American Studies’ Institute for Business and Government Affairs and has an interest in pursuing a law degree when she completes her undergraduate studies in December.

As part of her internship in the Policy Department at Child Care Aware of America, Audrey presented a research analysis on early childhood development in South Africa and how it relates to further developing the county. Child Care Aware of America has an interest in understanding the policy and function of child care internationally, so Audrey’s presentation helped the organization identify the current state of child care in South Africa, observe SA government spending related to early childhood development, note standards and concerns for child care in South Africa, as well as demonstrate the implementation of child care in various provinces within the country.

On behalf of Child Care Aware of America’s Policy Department, we want to thank Lester and Audrey for their hard work over the course of the summer and wish them the best in their future endeavors.

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.

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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.

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Photo courtesy of The Children’s Forum

Read about our on-site training in Delaware here.