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.

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!

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.

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.

Summer Reading Matters

Fact: Reading even five books is enough to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores over the summer.

That’s right – five books!

It’s easy to slip into summer without thinking about school. After all, it’s vacation time. But there are a few easy ways to work in a book. Or five.

Read as a Family
Goodnight MoonMy favorite children’s book is the classic, Goodnight Moon. I bought if for my son, my firstborn. And though he’s now 12, it still sits in our house, worn from many readings (and a few teething chews).

My daughter and I still read together every night, too. She’s 10. Sometimes we read an entry from one of my journals from when I was young. She sees my childhood handwriting and suddenly my words have meaning to her.

Steal our favorites
I asked our staff to share their favorites, and why. Here’s what they said:

“Growing up one of my favorite books was The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. I remember being fascinated by all the predicaments he found himself in.  Ultimately he learned some lessons along the way! I also loved the drawings and pictures.”
Debbie Taylor, Regional Military Child Care Liaison

“Three Little Kittens. Kittens who get to eat pie when their lost mittens are found. What’s not to like?”
Theresa Klisz, Director, Editorial Services

“My little brother and I would to beg to hear Time for Bed by Mem Fox just one more time before bed. There’s a page where the mother goose says to her gosling, ‘Go to sleep little goose, little goose. The stars are out and on the loose!’ And, while book itself has a tender closeness to it, there was a beauty about reading that together and imagining the stars before going to sleep.”
Audrey Williams, Communications and Policy Intern

Ask the experts
There are lots of resources to explore if you want to make developmentally appropriate picks for your children. You can always start with your child’s teacher. Ask what books are going to challenge your young reader, but also keep reading enjoyable. Also try the American Library Association Library Services to Children. Here’s their list of  2013 Notable Children’s Books.

What’s your favorite children’s book? We’d love to hear it. Tweet the title to us @usachildcare with hashtag #childhoodbook

More Resources
School Readiness Fact sheets
Source: Child Care Aware of America

Let’s Read. Let’s Move.
Source: Corporation for National and Community Service

Best Children’s Books by Age
Source: Parents.com

Happy Reading!