Oklahoma Child Care pros have the spirit. Do you?

OK visit Lynette 2013

Oklahoma’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R) community kicked off the state’s annual leadership meeting in the Oklahoma City Zoo Aquarium Building last month. I was thrilled to be one of the speakers as part of a two-day visit to the state. It was the first time I shared speaking time with a seal, who occasionally appeared in the porthole behind me. The spirit of  camaraderie and fun among the attendees reflected what I’ve seen at the many states I’ve had the pleasure of visiting during my year since I joined Child Care Aware® of America.

The trip reminded me of the important work these professionals do every day – help families make informed child care decisions for their children.

Big job, changing resources
That’s why when I reported on the latest policy news from Child Care Aware® of America, 30 minutes of Q&A followed. We also discussed the future of Child Care Aware® of America and the continued focus on special populations such as immigrants and tribal communities within Oklahoma. I visited local offices and heard their issues, challenges and hopes for Child Care Aware® of America as we all work under uncertain financial resources.

Facing challenges and rising up
My trip also took me to the site of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. There, nearly 20 years ago, 19 children and 149 adults perished when a truck filled with bombs exploded beneath the child care center’s window. More recently, communities in this state experienced deadly tornadoes that destroyed homes and schools. The stories of heartbreak and heroism are numerous, as are the sentiments to support and sustain the community.

On the ground, making a difference
On the second day of my visit I had the opportunity to meet with early childhood professionals from various communities in Oklahoma. I was  inspired by their stories of success supporting children and families, the challenges and opportunities they experience and their passion for moving the field forward.

Let’s do something!
Every day, each of us can do something to give children their best chance in life.

We can create strong policies, effective programs and educate families about the many possibilities for our children when they get the right start in child care.

I hope you’ll join me and the team at Child Care Aware® of America in this journey. If you care about children and our country’s economic future, you want to be a part of this movement. Here are three ways to get involved right now:

• Sign up for our monthly e-News to get the latest from the industry
• Share our Facebook page with your friends and family
• Take action at the Child Care Aware® of America policy action center

Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America.

Big names step up for littlest learners at Rally4Babies

Where will you find the secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, actress Jennifer Garner and the executive director of ZERO TO THREE? On a Google Hangout, chatting about children.

Chatting with a purpose
The event, Rally4Babies, was sponsored by ZERO TO THREE and brought dozens of organizations, like Child Care Aware® of America, individuals and community leaders together to mobilize the country to invest in learning at the earliest point of life – babies.  Babies are society’s best chance to give children a head start in school, because it’s the time where learning happens most quickly.

Policy, money and leadership
The event included a line up of policy makers, celebrities, non profit leaders, but one point stuck with me. We need people, policies and leaders to do more. It’s going to take all of us to, well, rally.

Read more about how our organization is leading the effort on Capitol Hill to ensure policies support early learning.

Soundbites for Babies
Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite quotes from the day.

“The average child coming from a poor family from a disadvantaged community starts kindergarten in the fall at age 5, a year to a year and a half behind,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. “We have to get out of that ‘catch up’ business and the only way to do that is to do the right thing from birth through age 5.”

“Early childhood development is synonymous with economic development,” Matthew Melmed, executive director, ZERO TO THREE.

“We need a caring adult in a child’s life, at every point in a child’s life,” Alma Powell, America’s Promise.

“People don’t always know what ‘early education’ means. But, really, it’s activities like ‘patty cake’!” ~ Actress Jennifer Garner.

Three things you can do today:

  • Watch the full Rally4Babies hangout

Happy Fourth from Child Care Aware® of America

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Washington, D.C., is an international hot spot. Especially during the summer, you’ll hear languages from all over the world spoken by the thousands of tourists who come to visit our nation’s capital. In fact, more than 16 million people visit every year.

One of the biggest draws, of course is Independence Day.

While we enjoy fireworks and family time, let’s also remember all the military service members, veterans and supporting family members who protect and defend our great nation. They helped make this day possible.

Have a safe and meaningful Fourth of July.

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!

Early Learning Day of Action at Child Care Aware of America

The President visits a preschool in Maryland
President Obama announced his early learning plan for the nation in February. It was the first time a president made early learning a national priority. Can I say it again?

The first time education and care for our youngest made the national stage.

But this isn’t about a presidential statement. Early learning for all Americans is about a national investment in a winning strategy. If our society were a stock market, infants, toddlers and preschoolers are the BIG BUSINESS SUCCESS STORIES.(i.e., think Apple and Microsoft). Without a doubt our youngest are a winning long-term investment.

Why? Simply because so much happens in the earliest years, neurons are firing with each moment and at their fastest rate from birth until about age 3. By ensuring infants, toddlers and preschoolers get the best high quality education and care before entering kindergarten, we’re banking on a future that improves families, communities and, ultimately, society.

Early learners finish high school, they go to college, they stay out of jail, they stay employed. These are facts we’ve long learned through research, but haven’t acted on with strong enough or far-reaching policy solutions.

The 2013 early learning plan is a national kick-start toward reaching a critical goal line.

At Child Care Aware of America, we are thrilled to be one of the leading organizations supporting the national early learning plan in multiple settings, increased quality and access to child care, highly trained providers, and empowered parents.

But we’re not there yet. The success of a national early learning plan depends on you. Your voice, your support, your decision to demand high quality child care and early learning environments, not just for your children – but for all children.

Let’s not drop the ball. Help us gain yards on the field. When we get there, we all win.

Learn more about the president’s national early learning plan on Child Care Aware of America’s webinar page. Or  if you’re willing to wait for a download, get the PDF summary here

Like this blog? Read more on the National Women’s Law Center Blog Carnival for the Early Learning Day of Action.

Fathers Day: A call to engage dads in family and community

Celebrate the men who father children and serve as father figures this Father's Day 2013

Celebrate the men who father children and serve as father figures this Father’s Day 2013

By Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Child Care Aware® of America

June 16 is Father’s Day.  It’s a day to recognize your father, but also reflect on the important roles fathers, and father figures, play in children’s lives.

Did you know? Dads, by the numbers
More than 560,000 children in the United States live in father-only families.  And in families with a mother and a father in the home, fathers are taking increasing primary care responsibilities, according to 2011 Census data.

Consider this:

  • 21 percent of fathers are primary care providers for children under the age of 5
  • In families with an employed wife, 34 percent of fathers were the primary care providers for their preschoolers in 2011. In 2005 that number was 29 percent.
  • The number of single fathers increased fivefold between 1970 and 2000 (Fatherneed)

Fathers’ roles continue to change
It’s clear – fathers are doing more of the care and that is critical progress, because a father’s impact lasts a lifetime.

“Success in everything else is unfulfilling if we fail at family,” President Obama said to the men graduating from Morehouse college last month.

Engaging the whole family
Fathers, we must do right by you as well. We must learn how to better ensure the entire family is engaged in their children’s early learning.

One place to start is the Office of Head Start Father’s Day Webinar “Father Engagement is Everybody’s Business”  tomorrow, June 4.

Father figures
Fathers take many forms. They are made by biology and by choice. Every man who cares for a niece or nephew, grandchild or cousin, stepchild or neighbor is a father.  To you I say your impact is immeasurable.

Child Care Aware® of America thanks the dads, grandfathers and friends for the important role they play in children, families and communities.

Tell us. Is there  a special man in your life who is a dad or a father figure?  How do you celebrate Fathers Day?

Resources:
Administration for Children and Families Office of Head Start
Fatherneed by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.  p. 111