It Takes a Village – Rally4Babies Highlights Need to Invest in Early Childhood

PolicyBlog - Rally4Babies“The African saying, that it takes a village to raise a child is true, but the thing we need to remember all the time is that we are that village, it’s not somebody else, each one of us are part of the village and we have to daily say, what I can do to contribute to this, what can I do to help somebody further the life of a child,” stated Alma Powell, Chair of the Board at America’s Promise Alliance, discussing the importance of the advocacy community taking action on early childhood policies.

The first ever Rally4Babies took place on Monday, July 8th, sponsored by ZERO-TO-THREE, bringing together national leaders, celebrities, and citizens in support of early learning for babies and toddlers.   During the event, award-winning journalist and CEO of Starfish Media Group Soledad O’Brien asked questions to prominent speakers such as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Chair of the Board at America’s Promise Alliance Alma Powell about why early learning for infants and toddlers is critical.  Jennifer Garner, Actress and Save the Children Artist Ambassador, shared stories about why she is passionate about teaching moms how to support their babies’ early learning.  Finally, award-winning children’s musician Laurie Berkner did a live performance for rally participants.

In case you missed it, watch a YouTube recording of the rally and share the event with your friends and family.

The focus of the Rally4Babies was to emphasize the importance of a comprehensive early learning strategy and to rally Americans around early learning policies that focus specifically on babies and toddlers.  More than 6 million children younger than age 3 are in the care of someone other than their parents every week.  On average, children are in a child care setting for about 35 hours a week.  Forty-six percent of infants and toddlers under age 3 live in low-income families, and 24 percent live in poor families.  In 2010, 16.5 percent of infants and 24.2 percent of toddlers of employed mothers were in care in an organized facility (such as a child care center) and another 16.9 percent of infants and 16.3 percent of toddlers of employed mothers were in family child care homes.

Currently, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that allocates funds to states for child care, does not provide states with any guidance on how those funds are to be used to improve the quality of infant and toddler care. To ensure that children are in settings that are safe and promote healthy development, Child Care Aware® of America recommends that states are provided the flexibility of choosing from several effective options to improve program quality and to strengthen the workforce for infants and toddlers, including establishing statewide networks of family child care providers and infant and toddler specialists, as well as establishing other statewide initiatives.

It’s time to take action to ensure that we, as the village, are doing what’s right for infants and toddlers nationwide.  Take time to Sign the Petition and Send a Letter to Your Elected Officials urging them to Cosponsor S. 1086, a bill to reauthorize CCDBG.

Also, makes sure you check out our Executive Director’s blogpost on the Rally4Babies, which can be found here.

Child Care Training Matters!

Playground accidents happen, just ask any parent.  A scraped elbow, a scraped knee, but on September 9,  19-month-old Faith Phillips died from injuries she sustained  just a few days before at a licensed child care center in Wasilla, Alaska.

What happened?  A parent’s worst nightmare.  The toddler’s head became stuck in a hole in some playground equipment and she strangled to death.  The staff of the center rushed around to find someone on staff who knew CPR, but their efforts were not in time.  An investigation is ongoing, but parents wanted to know why all staff did not know CPR,  how many staff were on the playground at the time and whether they were supervising the children or talking as if “on break” among themselves.

The Deputy Commissioner for Family, Community, and Integrated Services within the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said an investigation of the center had previously been conducted based on  complaints from parents about a lack of supervision.  In June of 2011, the state found enough evidence to support the complaints related to the supervision of children and fined the center. A correction plan was required but until the current investigation is complete, it is unclear what set of circumstances led to the tragedy. The center is currently closed until further notice.

The Alaska DHSS (in addition to the area DHSS office) and the Wasilla Police Department are investigating the incident.  Gene Belden, Chief of the WPD, said that the death was accidental. State law provides for criminal charges in cases of accidents if it’s proven there was negligence.  Belden said, “It’s a sad thing to have all this interest after something happens instead of prior to it.”

In Alaska, like in many other states, state law requires only one staff person on the premises to be certified in CPR.  We think that’s not enough.  All staff working with children should know and be able to conduct CPR in an emergency.  There should be no rushing around to find someone who can perform CPR.  The child care center in Wasilla had previously been cited for its poor supervisory practices.  The center had been fined.  The center was supposed to implement an improvement plan requiring more effective supervisory practices.  Many states fine programs $200 or $1,000 for certain violations. What dollar amount is enough to ensure that child care providers actually change their behavior for the long-term – not just in the weeks after being cited, but forever?  We don’t know.  We have no studies on that. But, intuitively, the larger the fine, the less likely providers would risk the offense.  How much is a child’s life worth?

At a minimum, the tragic death of Faith Phillips is a wake-up call for training.  Providers need to know CPR and they need to engage in effective supervisory practices.  How did Faith stick her head in the hole in the playground equipment?  How long did she strangle in the equipment before being discovered?  How many adults were on the playground?  Where were they and what were they doing? No doubt the investigation will review these questions.

In the meantime, if we are to prevent accidents like the tragic incident with Faith, we need to call on policymakers to require appropriate training.  Urge your Members of Congress today to require minimum training that includes CPR as part of child care reauthorization legislation.