BUILD Initiative Blog | Equity
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

BUILD Initiative Blog



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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We need to address what research has uncovered: a person’s zip code has greater bearing on health outcomes and life expectancy than do genes. This is about the impact of access - or the lack thereof - to opportunity. It is also about racism. Research studies have repeatedly documented that psychological stress as a result of racial discrimination contributes to racial health disparities, on top of the the ways in which racial discrimination impacts access to high quality programs and services.

Suspension and expulsion of children from early learning settings has been a subject of intense focus recently. It is indeed a topic worthy of discussion – and in need of sensible solutions. As Walter Gilliam’s seminal research on the topic notes, the rate of preschool children being expelled nationally is triple that of children in K-12. In addition, stark racial and gender disparities persist in expulsion rates.

By Susan G. Hibbard
Executive Director, BUILD Initiative

BUILD turned to Dr. Linda Espinosa and Miriam Calderon to find out the extent to which states’ ELDS reflect the current research and address the learning needs of young dual language learners. They examined 23 states’ ELDS for pre-k-aged children to determine the most common approaches for representing dual language learners across a broad set of criteria. Their report, “State Early Learning and Development Standards/Guidelines, Policies & Related Practices: How responsive are they to the needs of young dual language learners?" includes an individual state profile that summarizes how each state is addressing the needs of young dual language leaners, and concludes with recommendations for how states can be more responsive to the needs of dual language learners in their ELDS and other components of their early childhood system.

Sherri Killins, Ed.D
Director of Systems Alignment and Integration, BUILD Initiative

Released this week, Catherine Scott-Little and Kelly Maxwell’s chapter, Improving Systems of Learning Through the Use of Child Standards and Assessments, focuses on the practices of eight Early Learning Challenge states as part of BUILD’s E-Book, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families.

Ruth Trombka
Editor and Writer, BUILD Initiative

Reflections on Father’s Day

Susan Hibbard 
Executive Director, BUILD Initiative

BUILD Initiative Saddened by Further Delay of Immigration Executive Actions

Miriam Calderon
BUILD Initiative Special Projects Consultant

As advocates for young children, we must view immigration reform for what it is – an enormous opportunity to pass social policy that’s good for kids. Fully one-quarter of all young children in the United States have an immigrant parent. Many have at least one parent that is unauthorized. These children will become America’s future leaders in a world economy that demands that they fully develop their skills and talents.

Gerrit Westervelt
BUILD Initiative Executive Director

As system builders, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to examine the role that structural and historical racial, cultural and linguistic bias plays in differential outcomes for young children. We have to take a hard look at the systems we are busy building and ask ourselves how well each step we’re taking serves all children or each and every child, not just those fortunate enough to have easy access to high quality services.