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Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

BUILD Initiative Blog



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.

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.

As early childhood systems builders, we are well aware that infants and young children undergo rapid developmental changes that are highly influenced by relationships and environment. Supporting families to provide safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments should be a key element of early care and education programs and services, particularly those that serve populations at high-risk, such as children at risk of entering foster care. (National data show that children birth to age five are at higher risk of placement and enter foster care at higher rates than older children and youth.) Programs and services also should be provided to help prevent child abuse and neglect and to aid pregnant women and families with young children. Through recently approved federal legislation, protecting children at high-risk has become more actionable.

A partnership between the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the BUILD Initiative worked to strengthen collaboration among leaders in museums, libraries, and early childhood systems to increase opportunities for young children and families often identified as high need, particularly those without access to museums and libraries and lacking sufficient early learning and development opportunities.

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

It seems like just a few years ago that information about young children, families and the people who care for them was confined to writing on index cards or sporadic surveys and always had missing data elements. This hit or miss data collection, while changing, often still leaves policymakers and practitioners without adequate information to make informed decisions.

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.

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

The importance of assuring linkages between early childhood programs and the early grades of school is a concept that has grown over the years.

Ruth Trombka
Editor and Writer, BUILD Initiative

Reflections on Father’s Day

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

Science tells us that the adults in children lives, and the relationships the adults form with children, are the cornerstone of healthy and successful child development. While everyone talks about this science, reality does not fit the rhetoric: teachers are underpaid, parents can’t afford child care, and quality suffers.

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

Last week we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Head Start Program. Leading up to that launch in 1965, a panel of experts, chaired by Dr. Robert Cooke of Johns Hopkins University, set forth recommendations for the establishment of the program. Reading through those recommendations five decades later, the wisdom of those early pioneers continues to shine – the founders called for comprehensive services that address the health, education, and family support needs of young children in poverty. 

Susan Hibbard 
Executive Director, BUILD Initiative

BUILD Initiative Saddened by Further Delay of Immigration Executive Actions

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

Heading into the 2008 election, I remember a small group meeting of advocates talking about what really needed to happen next in early childhood policy. While there were a lot of different strategies mentioned, one goal stood out and seemed to bring everyone together: 

To assure that more young children from low income families have access to higher quality services.