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Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

BUILD Initiative Blog



Home-based child care - family child care (FCC) and family, friend, and neighbor care (FFN) - is well-positioned to meet the needs of the families that face the greatest barriers to accessing care, including families of color, with infants and toddlers, who work nontraditional hours, and who seek services respectful of their culture and language. Yet, too often, home-based child care is not included in state child care investments. In addition, the number of family child care programs has declined at an alarming rate over the last several years for a variety of reasons, including the lack of access to some of the quality supports and funding offered to centers, an aging provider population, an increase in regulations and requirements for providers that are ill-suited for home-based providers since they were developed from a center-based care perspective, and the small numbers of new and younger providers entering this field. The majority of home-based providers are women of color and the families that choose this type of care are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, dual language, refugee, and immigrant communities. Building the supply of and supports for home-based child care is a racial equity issues.

My work centers on children who have been abused, neglected, and traumatized. I have worked in both the child welfare and early childhood systems and have long thought the two should join forces on behalf of these children. But getting the two systems to work collaboratively has always been challenging as they work from different perspectives and often have diverging aims. Child welfare systems are frequently understaffed, and case workers have caseloads composed of variously aged children and differing family conditions that have come to the attention of the child welfare system. Because of the severity of the conditions in which families are often living, children’s lives can be at risk. In a very real sense, child welfare staff have a great sense of urgency about their work, and early childhood’s aim of kindergarten readiness may not seem as pressing.

It is beyond noteworthy that the first person in the US to receive the coronavirus vaccine was a Black woman; it was a moment laden with significance. With the coronavirus killing people of color at disproportionate rates, Sandra Lindsay, director of critical care nursing at a New York City hospital, volunteered to take the vaccine to demonstrate its safety to those who are reluctant to do the same. Lindsay knows that, for Black people, this reluctance is rooted in medical exploitation of the Black community. From the 19th century gynecological experiments conducted on enslaved Black women, without anesthesia, to the cells taken from Henrietta Lacks’ body in 1950 without her consent, to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment that lasted from 1932 through 1972 in which “researchers provided no effective care as men died, went blind, or insane or experienced other severe health problems due to their untreated disease,” it stands to reason that many Black Americans often do not trust the public health ”system,” let alone vaccines. Many would agree there is a need to address both this mistrust and the root causes of present-day disparities but efforts to so have often fallen short. Here’s how I think we should go about it.

The BUILD Initiative is excited to announce the second cohort of the ELAN Fellowship. The Fellowship supports state, county, tribal, and territorial leaders to work within early childhood systems to advance policies, practices, programs, and initiatives that intentionally redress racial marginalization and create racial equity.

Tarrant County is implementing the Help Me Grow system model within our community. We're implementing a region-wide approach across 18 counties in our major metropolitan area, which is about 14 million square miles. This fits in perfectly with our prenatal-to-three goals through our community innovation grant.

Our primary challenges are pretty similar to everybody else's right now. We're in the midst of a pandemic, but we also just experienced devastation by Hurricane Laura in the southwest and up towards the central and north parts of our state. So we have pandemic recovery and we have hurricane recovery. We're a very culturally rich state, which is such a positive, but we tend to be under-resourced. And so, we're looking at what funding is going to a look like in our 2021 fiscal session. And we’re thinking about how we make progress towards the goals we laid out for Pritzker that we desperately want to achieve.

A big part of our strategy is focusing on prioritizing infant/toddler teachers for practice-based coaching, professional development, training, and other types of improvement supports for folks who are either unrated or approaching proficient in our state’s quality rating system, and who serve low-income infants and toddlers, to help them raise their standard.

The benefits of breastfeeding are remarkable. Save the Children tells us that it “increases a child’s chances of survival, boosts [the] immune system, and reduces the mother’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer. In addition, breast milk changes every day to meet a baby’s needs and releases a hormone that’s calming for both mother and child.” And yet, according to the CDC, 73.7 percent of Black infants are ever breastfed compared with 86.7 percent of White infants. It is due to this racial disparity, that has existed for over 40 years, that Black Breastfeeding Week was created.

Our plan uses infant mental health or the social-emotional well-being of young children as the frame around which we have built our goals for increasing and building quality services for very young children and their families. The thinking behind that is that infant mental health or infants’ social-emotional well-being is really the crux of all other aspects of their health, development, and well-being.

Nebraska’s early childhood partners are fully committed to ensuring more of our state’s most frequently underserved families have access to systems and resources necessary for the healthy development of our youngest children, beginning with supports in the prenatal period.

Ready, Set, Soar Ohio is a diverse statewide coalition of early childhood, education, health, advocacy, philanthropy, and business organizations, community leaders, policymakers, and families. This coalition is committed to ensuring that more pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and their families have access to the support they need to be ready, set, and soar to their full potential.

Our overarching goal is to make New York State a place where children and families feel comfortable and welcome to raise children. We want to re-direct investments into early child care, because we believe that the first three years of a child's life are the most impactful years. This means aligning resources and bringing the community together to prioritize the prenatal-to-three population.

Every day, in our work, we see many American families face barriers, created by institutional and structural racism, that place opportunities for healthy development and quality education out of reach. BUILD’s mission is to support leaders to shift state policies and practices, remove barriers, and dismantle policies and practices that disproportionately negatively affect children and families of color so that all young children and their families can thrive.

Similarly, preventative health and population healthcare have gotten more attention, as have programs like 211 that connect families to resources. Again, we felt like we had developed these policy goals and strategies in a pre-COVID world, but found that in a COVID world, they were just as important, if not more so. Our challenge will be to help policymakers see the connections between our policy agenda and COVID. They've been very much focused on what's immediately related to COVID and are starting to think about the new normal, so our task is to show this is all related to COVID and the recovery.

Although everything has changed in the last few months, nothing has changed in terms of our commitment to what has to happen for babies. It really has allowed us to say, "If we had had all of these systems in place for our families, we would be in a much better place right now during the pandemic."

As soon as Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, The BUILD Initiative knew that families who face significant barriers to and disconnection from supports and services would work hard to get what they needed for their children but have the least access. We thought it essential to reach out to them.

More children, including infants and toddlers, are cared for in home-based settings than in centers. These include Family Child Care and Family, Friend, and Neighbor options. Home-based settings offer many advantages for families such as cultural and linguistic affinity, non-standard work hour availability, care for mixed-age/sibling groups, and a home-like setting. In addition, home-based child care meets the needs of many low-income families who often work shift, hourly, or “gig” economy jobs.

In the midst of a pandemic that as of April 9 has claimed over 16,000 lives in the US, essential workers – those who maintain the services in the absence of which sickness, poverty, violence, and chaos might result – are still reporting to work. While a spotlight has deservedly shone on health care workers and their heroic efforts, many other less prominent essential service providers also continue to do their jobs. Some of those who risk their own well-being to help maintain some semblance of life as we know it include child care workers, postal employees, garbage collectors, mass transit workers, warehouses workers, and a long list of others.

In the US, the coronavirus pandemic is calling attention to our country’s inequities. In addition to creating immediate problems for many of our most vulnerable citizens, it is putting a focus on the gaps that exist – by income, race/ethnicity, language, and culture – in our early childhood system. It is those with the lowest incomes and of minority cultures that are most challenged when we as a nation are instructed to stay home. Many literally cannot afford to follow this directive.

Dismantling racism at the personal, institutional, and structural levels is an ongoing process. To support BUILD’s process in that effort, and that of our partners and colleagues, we have invited Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a leading voice in equity and antiracism, as a plenary speaker at QRIS 2020. Dr. Kendi believes that, "Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” If you haven’t found Dr. Kendi on your social media feed or morning TV yet, get up to speed with some of the compelling articles and podcasts below.