Last Wednesday, All Our Kin joined an enthusiastic group of parents, children, advocates, educators, and legislators at Connecticut’s Early Childhood Advocacy Day. We were glad to see so many people gathered together to share a vision for policies and programs that support all of Connecticut’s children. The annual event is a collaborative effort among partner organizations, including the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance and Connecticut Parent Power.
One of the main goals of this year’s Advocacy Day was to show legislators broad support for Senate Bill 25, a proposal to formally establish the Office of Early Childhood (OEC). The OEC currently exists only through an Executive Order, and this bill would ensure that the OEC has permanent standing to coordinate our state’s early childhood programs and services. Speakers also spoke to the importance of Senate Bill 26, which would expand preschool opportunities in many communities statewide.
In addition to discussing the significance of Senate Bill 25 and 26, multiple speakers addressed the scientific basis for investment in early learning experiences—especially for infants and toddlers. Dr. Linda Mathew of Reach Out and Read explained that early experiences lay the foundation for children’s development. “If the genes are the blueprint,” she said, “experiences are the building blocks.” Since 80 percent of brain development occurs by age three, she said that early childhood presents a “significant window of opportunity” for shaping the wiring of young children’s brains.
Several speakers echoed the idea of focusing our attention and energies on the earliest years, with Representative Michelle Cook stating that we need “the best education starting as early as we can get it.” Representative Diana Urban added that starting in kindergarten is not soon enough—“We need to start way earlier,” she said.
The need for quality infant and toddler care and education is a significant reason to invest in training and supporting family child care providers. Home-based child care programs—both licensed and unlicensed—are the care setting of choice for parents of our youngest children. Of infants in non-parental care, more than three quarters are in some form of home-based care arrangement. Although the use of center-based care has increased in recent years, a recent NIEER policy brief stated that family, friend, and neighbor care is “the preferred care setting for children between the ages of 0 and 2.”
At All Our Kin, we believe it is essential to equip family child care providers with the skills and strategies they need to educate the next generation. As Senator Beth Bye stated on Wednesday, “we need to support our family child care providers, who are filling in for families.” That’s why we continue to advocate for increased investment in family child care statewide, and why we’re supportive of the proposed family child care contract that has been approved by the Appropriations Committee and is before the legislature. To learn why we believe the contract is a strong step forward for family child care providers, please read our Executive Director’s recent testimony to the Appropriations Committee.
As noted by several speakers at Advocacy Day, investments in early childhood positively benefit parents, teachers, and communities as well as young children. We were heartened to hear Representative Bobby Sanchez, a proud Head Start alumnus, proclaim that we need to advocate for increased teacher compensation in conjunction with improved quality and access to early childhood education. “We can’t forget the teachers,” he said. Senator Bye addressed the importance of early care and education to working families. “We have to see early childhood education as really important to the children, but also to helping parents work,” she stated, as she discussed the importance of supporting two generation strategies rooted in early childhood education.
It’s an exciting time for early childhood advocates in Connecticut. If you couldn’t come to Advocacy Day, you can still add your voice to those calling for increased investments in early childhood, including family child care, by contacting your state legislator and asking them to support Senate Bill 25 and the family child care contract (H.R. 5 and S.R. 9). Thanks for helping us expand opportunities for Connecticut’s children and early childhood workforce!