Authentically and meaningfully engaging families in systems design and improvement work requires careful attention to how we value the expertise and lived experiences of these critical partners. Oftentimes, there is a contrast in our espoused beliefs and actual behaviors (explicitly or implicitly). How conscious are we of the disconnect? What tools and frameworks exist to help us as systems leaders on our journeys to be more genuine in our beliefs and equitable and liberatory in our practice? Here are some key insights from Start Early Consulting’s work focused on centering family and provider voice.

Systems leaders aiming to engage families more equitably and effectively in systems design and improvement efforts need to assess their progress towards meeting these goals. Start Early has developed a self-assessment tool focused on cultivating family leadership in systems building work through the establishment of Family Councils. Framed as a continuum for developing capacities, the tool incorporates tenets of the Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership framework.

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Download our new self-assessment tool focused on cultivating family leadership in systems building work through the establishment of Family Councils.

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Centering family voice and fostering genuine co-creation spaces is complex work that will not happen overnight; it is evolutionary. And giving ourselves grace, knowing we are all in different places and that where we fall at any point in time will depend on various, ever-changing contexts (i.e., as often as we engage new families as partners in the work), is necessary. The promise of nurturing sustainable conditions for change is held within one key, foundational step — shifting mindsets to value families as experts, in words and action. A few relevant reflections from our team’s experiences providing support to advocate and public sector leaders seeking transformational change within and across their early childhood systems follow:

  1. Shifting mindsets to acknowledge and leverage the expertise families hold regarding what best meets their diverse and unique needs is critical.
    When we approach engaging families from a deficit perspective (e.g., families are unknowing of what quality is or dismissing cultural contexts that also shape these definitions; families are unaware of resources or “hard to reach”), we consequently message that families are the problem and WE hold the answers to solving these challenges.
  2. Families have valuable insight and perspective towards creating high-impact and sustainable solutions.
    Acknowledging that most systems, by design, limit access and opportunities for families to thrive, shifting our mindsets to prioritize families’ input better prepares us for the important and complex work of questioning dominant perceptions of quality and learning what the true barriers to access are. When we focus on addressing these root issues — WITH families — we get closer to achieving transformational change.
  3. Families are valued as experts and the key drivers of systems change when their voices are centered and they are empowered and supported to LEAD co-creation efforts.
    Embracing this mindset and enacting aligned practices requires positive and trusting relationships and restructuring power dynamics (e.g. shared governance). These conditions prime us for critical and generative dialogue.

Need extra support with equitably centering family voice in your systems change efforts? Contact our team to learn more.

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On January 19, 2024, Start Early and the Educare Network submitted comments to the Office of Head Start (OHS) in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) related to changes to the Head Start Program Performance Standards. The proposed changes reflect important potential changes centered around improving workforce compensation and benefits, integrating mental services more broadly in programs, and enhancing program quality initiatives focused on engaging families, health and safety, and better meeting community needs.

The submitted comments represent feedback from over 150 staff and parent leaders across Start Early and Educare schools. Overall, both Start Early and Educare Network organizations applaud these efforts to promote quality through support for the workforce and recommend OHS provide additional guidance to programs on the implementation of the proposed changes. As one staff member noted, “These changes seem to be a big step in creating equitable and inclusive educational programs for students, families and staff. It supports teaching staff’s wellbeing and keeping them from burnout, while also creating more opportunities for families furthest from educational justice.”

Additionally, in order to fully realize the benefits of the proposed updates to the performance standards, Start Early and the Educare Network encouraged OHS to consider the significant resources that programs will need to successfully enact these changes and also to address the need for a more urgent timeline for these changes given the current workforce crisis. Download the full text of the letter below.

For any questions on the comments, please reach out to Nadia Gronkowski at ngronkowski@startearly.org.

Focusing on the Needs of Early Childhood Professionals

The word “innovation” can be perceived as a buzz word. We see it everywhere – in job descriptions, in resumes, organizational websites, etc. and people almost instinctively pay attention to it. And rightfully so… it’s desirable to think of new ways of doing something, especially if it saves time, human effort, and money.

And yet, I often wonder if designing relevant and engaging professional learning for today’s early childhood educators is a matter of innovation, or rather a matter of focusing on the learner and what matters most to them.

The field of adult learning has provided some principles about how adults learn…and there have been research studies to confirm these. I like to think of these as conditions that we can create to center the needs of adult learners. Here’s a few of them:

  • Give learners choice
  • Respect learners and meet them where they are
  • Show, don’t tell them
  • Let learners practice
  • Make it relevant

These conditions that support adult learning help us shift our focus from what we want (learning designers, subject matter experts, etc.), to what learners need. In my work at Start Early, we’re focusing on learner needs through centering equity using inclusive facilitation and offering microlearning.

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Microlearning

Educators’ time seems to be shrinking by the year as the needs of children and families grow. Microlearning is a flexible strategy that supports ongoing, meaningful professional learning while lessening time requirements for learners.

This year, Start Early launched microlearning modules for its evidence-based framework – The Start Early Essentials. We designed six accessible, introductory microlearning modules to create a critical knowledge base for teams in under 15 minutes per module. It’s called The Essential Microlearnings.

  • Accessible: the language is straightforward, they feature interactive components, and the design follows best practices for adult learning.
  • Practical: first, learners acquire a basic understanding of each Essential, then they explore real-world examples of it in action, and by the end of the module they start building an action plan to improve their own practice.
  • Flexible: they provide a useful knowledge base on their own and they pair well with live trainer sessions, communities of practice, and coaching for comprehensive year-round professional learning.

Centering Equity

I’ve been part of many discussions this year about the poor state of black maternal health in the U.S. These discussions about interpersonal biases and differential treatment of people based on race, and how they contribute to poor maternal and infant health, underscore the importance and urgency of our collective work to design, develop, and deliver professional learning through the lens of equity.

One of the predominant ways we’re doing this is through inclusive facilitation. We’re shifting away from the expertise of the trainer and towards the lived experience of the learner/professional.

We’re also making a concerted effort to elevate parent and caregiver voice through stories that build learner empathy and are introducing counternarratives to interrupt learner implicit bias.

We know we can’t solve every problem in early childhood through professional learning, but I’m hopeful that we can create professional learning that early childhood educators find engaging, relevant, and inclusive, and challenges them to show up in meaningful ways to the communities they serve.

The 2024 National Home Visiting Summit brought together advocates, home visitors, program leaders, funders, and researchers, alongside federal, state, and local level public sector system leaders for three days of learning, reflection, and action, both in person in Washington, D.C. and virtually with attendees joining from across the globe.

This year’s gathering spotlighted the tremendous progress public sector early childhood system leaders, particularly at the state level, have made to advance home visiting as part of an equitable, comprehensive early childhood system.

In breakout session presentations, small group discussions, and networking opportunities throughout the Summit, the four points below emerged as the key themes from system leaders regarding progress toward equitable early childhood systems:

  1. Consolidation is not enough. There was energy and excitement about the lessons states are learning as they move towards consolidation of early childhood programs and funding streams into single, state agencies focused solely on early childhood. For example, state home visiting leaders shared promising practices around single statewide referral lines, and increasingly integrated funding streams. As more states consider consolidation, system leaders at the Summit asked attendees to consider how consolidation and integration are actually experienced by families and providers when they interact with public systems, and challenged leaders not to stop with integration at the top.
  2. Look for “catalyst” funding opportunities. In a session about the Preschool Development Grants for Birth-Five (PDGB5) , state leaders reflected on approaching the funding opportunity with the question of “what can PDGB5 do for us, versus ‘how do we meet the requirements?” The Summit offered numerous examples of system leaders looking at federal, state, and increasingly philanthropic funding sources as catalysts – not carrying the full weight of system infrastructure but inspiring progress.
  3. Communities are key. State system leaders are increasingly operationalizing infrastructure at a state level with reverence, respect, and leadership from the unique needs of individual communities. Home visiting programs, with their connection to community infrastructure, offer a unique opportunity for child care, preschool, and other early childhood programs and funding streams to leverage the existing relationships and networks of home visitors.
  4. The Home Visiting Work Force is a part of the Early Childhood Education Workforce. Chronic staffing shortages, low wages, high turnover rates, and a feeling of lack of respect for the child care workforce have been well publicized in the media, but these issues are also being felt across the home visiting workforce. While it might sound obvious to those in the field, system leaders are increasingly implementing cross sector approaches to recruit, support, and retain the early childhood workforce, inclusive of those in the home visiting sector. These comprehensive strategies to lift all the professionals who support young children and their families send a message of value to all those in the field, while also attacking the structural impediments to an effective workforce.

How can you bring these takeaways into your state’s system? Mark your calendars for February 12-14, 2025, for the 2025 National Home Visiting Summit! We hope you will join us in person at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. for more peer learning on these topics.

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Start Early’s Consulting Practice also invites system leaders to leverage our consultants as strategic advisors to support more equitable early childhood systems. We expand the bench wherever support is needed, bringing seasoned, practical experience to leaders, advocates, and their teams.  Please reach out to us at Consulting@StartEarly.org to learn more.

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The month of December is often referenced as the most wonderful time of year, and I have always taken advantage of this time to personally reflect and think about the successes and challenges over the past 12 months. 2023 has been a tumultuous year for me as I personally experienced the best and worst that our profession has to offer, getting caught in the crossfires of a book ban aimed at dismantling the foundation of the early learning profession. My experience has strengthened my resolve that we must invest in young children and the workforce that serves them by providing holistic, high quality early learning environments.

I am frequently asked how the so-called “culture wars” impact early childhood education. I begin these conversations praising our early childhood workforce for their resilience and commitment to early learning. We show up every day to serve children and families despite what’s happening around us. We hug babies and toddlers and offer support for families when our own world is crumbling due to the lack of infrastructure to fund our profession and support our work to create inclusive early childhood systems.

We cannot continue to ask more and more of our workforce while our country continues to devalue and disrespect our early educators.

  • Early childhood workforce turnover is as high as 40% 1
  • Average wages are $11-15/hour, with early educator poverty rates 8X that of K-12 educators. The federal poverty line for a family of 4 is $30,000. A typical early educator earning the average hourly wage would come in around $26,000 annually 2
  • Professionals are deeply stressed, with depression rates 13% higher than the national average 3

These statistics are compounded when we consider that our workforce is comprised primarily of women – particularly women of color.

Recently, we have seen yet another wave of oppressive legislation and public attacks, including doing away with loan forgiveness and affirmative action, striking the right to abortion, and demonizing and limiting the use of words and practices around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

All of these efforts silence, scare and limit our efforts to foster a diverse and effective workforce that provides high quality early learning experiences for children and families. How can we be okay with policies and practices that discriminate against children and families while disregarding their culture and diversity?

Attacking Early Childhood Quality

On a personal note, for 5 years I led in a state where we heralded pre-k as a bi-partisan policy effort and as a result we had a pre-k program that was number 1 in reaching NIEER (National Institute for Early Education Research) quality for 17 years in a row. For DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice) to be under attack now is unconscionable as DAP was always the foundation for quality in our classrooms.

Terms including “culturally responsive,” “social-emotional learning,” “implicit bias,” and “diversity” are being censured. When states change competencies, dismantle standards and professional learning to remove these words, it prevents our workforce from receiving the support they need to employ best practices that are critical for children’s development. An urgent example is the crisis we are experiencing around harsh discipline practices that disproportionately affect black children. We must teach culturally responsive, anti-racist, and anti-bias pedagogy to address this.

Silencing and Restricting Workforce Rights

We have a staffing crisis and desperately need qualified, prepared teachers and staff. Striking down Affirmative Action and Loan Forgiveness programs shuts down essential educational support for staff.

When our professionals can’t access the healthcare they need for themselves and their families because of losing Reproductive Rights, it jeopardizes well-being.

“Color Blind” lawsuits threaten specific programs and interventions for Black, LatinX, and indigenous children and families who make up both our workforce and classroom populations. We see gaps in rights, quality of life, and wealth growing even bigger from this discrimination and racism. The workforce, and the children and families we serve, are from diverse backgrounds and we cannot serve them effectively when we employ strategies that force us to ignore the complexities of race, culture and ethnicity.

A question I keep hearing is, “How can we remain hopeful and enable a brighter future for our professionals, families and children?” My response is that there is no living and no better tomorrow without hope. Hope allows us to return each day knowing that we are making a difference and putting the needs of others first.

At Start Early our mission is to eliminate the opportunity gap so that all children can thrive and learn. We are focused on four areas of action:

  1. Career Pathways. We must create accessible and affordable pathways to support our workforce in getting the credentials and knowledge they need to earn higher wages.
  2. Professional Learning. We need powerful, rich onboarding to support new staff. We must improve workplace culture and climate to be inclusive and supportive. And we need to foster ongoing learning to increase educator effectiveness and confidence – and improve retention.
  3. Engage Congress & Lawmakers. We must raise awareness about the science behind early childhood and demand support for early learning as the economic plan for improving our country and preparing tomorrow’s leaders.
  4. Support Each Other. And equally important, we can create space to slow down and be intentional about supportive environments in our programs and classrooms. We can embrace rest, joy, relationships, and connections. This is what will help us cultivate resiliency and hope as we face these historic challenges to our workforce.

“Culture Wars” are a call to action for us all. As we prepare to end one year and start a new one, we must ensure that the early learning workforce has the support necessary to build strong relationships with children and families that last a lifetime. Our educators must not be forced to work in fear of retaliation for using strategies that optimize early learning spaces. It is up to each of us to do our part to tackle these issues with those in power. We must arm ourselves with knowledge and engage our communities and local coalitions to spread the word about why the work we are doing for our youngest citizens matters. We must demand for every child what we expect for our own young children.


Sources
1Turnover: Ed Surge; OPRE; Yale Medicine 
2 Hourly Wage Average & Rate of Poverty: 2020 Early Educator Workforce Index; Alabama 
3Depression: Children’s Equity Project, Mental Health Report

Overview of Head Start

Head Start is a federally funded program founded in 1965 with the mission of promoting the school readiness of young children from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. This blog focuses primarily on Head Start programs, which provide preschool services and support to children ages three through five and their families, rather than Early Head Start, which supports pregnant people and families with children under age three. However, the challenges outlined here are applicable to Early Head Start as well. The focus on Head Start here is because that is where the majority of resources are currently dedicated.

Head Start programs are free for families who are eligible, which include:

  • Families who are at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  • Families receiving public assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Families experiencing homelessness
  • Children in foster care
  • Children with disabilities

With the child at the center of their approach, Head Start programs provide services in three key areas: early learning and development, family engagement and wellbeing, and health and wellness. There are also Head Start programs that provide services tailored to specific populations. American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start programs serve children of AIAN heritage and offer traditional language and cultural practices that honor their rich heritage. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs provide services to families who are in agricultural labor and have changed their residence within two years or who are engaged in seasonal agricultural labor.

Head Start operates using a federal-to-local funding model. Head Start grantees include local school districts, nonprofit and for-profit groups, faith-based organizations, and tribal councils. Thus, Head Start can be provided in a variety of settings, including child care and development centers, schools, and family child care homes (Office of Head Start, 2022).

Access to Head Start

Close to one million children access Head Start and Early Head Start each year, yet many families cannot access the program due to a range of systemic and programmatic barriers. In 2021, the National Head Start Association conducted a survey, focus groups and key informant interviews that identified key issues that make participating in the program difficult for families – access to transportation, outdated locations, the instability of poverty, low income eligibility limits, inadequate hours of service for families, the workforce crisis, lack of awareness of the program’s comprehensive services, and a possible bias for school-based services.

Perhaps the greatest systemic barrier to accessing Head Start is the income eligibility limits. Income eligibility is based on the federal poverty guidelines. The United States’ method for determining the poverty level is incredibly outdated. The calculation does not consider housing, transportation, child care, or medical costs. Geographical differences are also not considered, even though costs of living vary significantly across the country. Another systemic barrier is transportation, with low income families disproportionately having limited or no access to personal or public transportation.

Head Start programs are required to conduct annual family and five-year community assessments to determine whether slots are distributed in the most appropriate locations, whether the hours of service are meeting families’ needs, and a variety of other topics. These assessments are then used by the program staff and the Policy Council to determine how best to implement the program. However, making significant changes such as changing the location of a center or increasing the hours of service can be costly, require a great deal of time, and be difficult to implement.

Conclusion

Head Start has a deep history providing two generational programming for very low income families. The standards have been reviewed and revised over the 60 years of implementation, based on research as well as parent, community, and grantee feedback. The power of Head Start is not only in its comprehensiveness but also in the inclusion of family leaders in governance and implementation of the program. In addition to being a child development program, Head Start is also an economic empowerment program, providing training and jobs for parents.

The funding per child for Head Start grantees, though significantly more than the average per child reimbursement for state pre-k, is directly related to the depth of the standards. It is important to note that as a national program, many of the regulations, funding and eligibility principles are averaged across all the states and territories. This can create significant implementation challenges for states and communities with high costs of living particularly regarding staff compensation, facilities, and enrolling income-eligible families. These challenges can lead to under enrollment and missed opportunities for collaboration in mixed delivery pre-k, leaving many families without the opportunity and supports needed as they strive to provide their children with a foundation for future social and academic success.

Federal policy solutions to these problems included allowing grantees to convert Head Start slots to Early Head Start slots with supports for the cost increases and allowing for automatic eligibility for families that already quality for SNAP and housing assistance. States can consider providing funding for Head Start and Early Head Start programming with higher income eligibility requirements that are more fitting for their state and community context.

Children have many big emotions! Preschoolers are learning to name and manage them. They are also learning friendship and other social skills. And sometimes, their behaviors are challenging. Many behaviors are appropriate for a child’s stage of development yet are found challenging by adults. This may be one of the biggest pain points for educators in early childhood. We’re taking a new approach to support educators who want to build positive social skills and decrease challenging behaviors in their classroom – Reflectable SEL.

In early childhood, we have always focused on social and emotional learning. We know that high quality social and emotional skills are linked to all other areas of children’s learning and critical to their success; skills like empathy, regulating behaviors and emotions, and problem solving. It can be challenging to supply the support preschoolers need to develop these important skills.

Every Pre-K teacher that I have met is deeply invested in the growth of their students. They want to send children to kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life.

How Early Childhood Teachers are Feeling Today

At this moment, teachers are worried about the state of children’s social and emotional growth. There is an increasing number of challenging behaviors in the classroom that they must deal with, like emotional dysregulation, difficulty building relationships, or coping with change in routine. These challenges affect the mental health of both teachers and children in ways we haven’t seen before.

The recent pandemic highlighted the vital role early childhood teachers play in families’ success and how under supported they are. We know educators experience high levels of stress—and when they are stressed, children show more challenging behaviors. And the cycle of worry, frustration, anger, and dysregulation repeats.

In a recent visit to a child development center, I asked teachers, “What do you need to help children grow and learn skills like empathy, sharing, friendship skills and regulating their emotions?” Their answers:

  1. We need support that is focused and specific to the work we are doing.
  2. We need support that helps us respond to challenging behaviors in the moment during our daily work.

There are many valuable frameworks, curricula, and learning models for promoting growth and preventing challenging behaviors. Their use creates lasting and positive effects on children. But it is hard to apply frameworks, curricula, and special resources to guide a teacher’s practice day to day in real time.

Applying a Human-Centered Approach to Problems of Practice

At the Early Learning Lab – where we combine human-centered design and early childhood expertise with data and technology – we asked: How might we help practitioners quickly recall the strategies they learn in training to make it easier to use them with children? How might we provide easy mindfulness supports?

To answer these questions, we used a discovery process to create a new tool and bring it to teachers to get their ideas and input. These pilot teachers helped us make the experience one that would be helpful to them. With guidance from these educators, we built the first Reflectable tool to supply focused and specific bite sized actions in simple and easy to apply language. This put the power in the teachers’ hands. They were able to reflect on the topics that mattered most to them. This made it easier for teachers to practice the skills they learned during training in a way that made sense for their unique needs. In turn, this helped educators make quick choices for how to best care for children when challenging behaviors appear.

“I didn’t realize I had the power to really change things!” – Pilot Pre-k Teacher

After using this simple, new tool to reflect on practice and set weekly goals, teachers said they:

  • felt valued as experts for the work they were doing
  • could thoughtfully make choices that help children’s growth
  • made meaningful mindset shifts for themselves
  • experienced less stress themselves and saw fewer challenging behaviors among children

A New Tool to Support Reflective Practice

The result of testing and refining this tool is Reflectable® and its Social Emotional Learning content module. Reflectable’s online, guided 10-minute weekly reflection, helps educators see the power of taking small, intentional steps. These steps improve their social emotional learning practice in the areas they decide matter most and positively impact children.

Reflectable is a helpful pause for educators to take time for themselves and give children the attention and support they deserve. In turn, this boosts outcomes, morale, self-efficacy, and job satisfaction.

It’s time to rethink support tools for the early learning workforce. They are a precious resource, and their job is tough. The early learning workforce deserve to be heard and valued so they can listen to and value the children in their care.

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Reach out to us for a behind the scenes look at how Reflectable can support your SEL implementation.

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Start Early is proud to introduce Dr. Barbara J. Cooper as the Senior Vice President of Professional Learning. Dr. Cooper brings a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of education, particularly in early childhood education, and we are honored to have her on board.

In her role, Dr. Cooper will lead Start Early’s strategy to support and advance the early childhood workforce and oversee scaling the organization’s professional learning enterprise for professionals working in prenatal through PreK.

Dr. Cooper has made a remarkable impact at every stop throughout her career. In July 2020, she was appointed by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey as the Secretary of Early Childhood Education and also served as the Governor’s Birth through Grade 12 policy advisor. Starting in 2018, she played a crucial role in the administration of Alabama’s esteemed First Class Pre-K program as a part of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. Her contributions have significantly impacted the quality of early education in Alabama, garnering national recognition and serving as a model for others.

Dr. Cooper’s perspective will also be instrumental in advancing racial equity throughout all areas of our work as we continue our journey of being an anti-racist organization. That work will begin using the Educare Network’s recently published research agenda on advancing racial equity as a foundation. The agenda will serve as a guide and platform to bring about systemic change in early care and education — for children, families, and the workforce — so that equitable access and experiences become a reality for all. We are excited for Dr. Cooper’s leadership in spearheading Start Early’s efforts with early childhood professionals, culminating at the intersection of practice, policy, and research.

Additionally, Dr. Cooper was already familiar with Start Early’s work before joining, engaging with the Essential 0-5 Survey measurement system during her tenure in Alabama. This system functions as an assessment tool to better understand early education organizations and aid in improving their processes.

Originally from Chicago, she now resides in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband, Walter. Together, they have three adult children and two precious grandchildren.

We are so pleased to have Barbara join the Start Early family!

Start Early believes that the early years of a child’s development are critical to their ability to thrive in life, and that all children have the right to environments that support their healthy development. The impacts of climate change undermine the development and physical safety of young children and threaten the relationships and environments that shape their earliest years. If those who care for young children are key partners in designing for the future, we can mitigate these effects, while simultaneously strengthening and investing in our early childhood systems and communities.

THE CHALLENGE

As climate change progresses, frequent extreme heat, weather events and humanitarian emergencies will create the kind of toxic stress that impedes family wellness and children’s growth, development, learning and physical and mental health.

For infants, young children and pregnant people, their physical characteristics and particular circumstances make them more susceptible to the health effects of climate change, including illness and disease, injury and premature death and threats to mental health (according to the Centers for Disease Control). That vulnerability is also more severe for groups that have historically been under-served and those who are more vulnerable to heat and severe weather, including frontline and fenceline communities, BIPOC communities, refugees, people with lower incomes, people living with disabilities, and those at the intersections of these groups.

The changing climate will create new demands on both mental health resilience in the face of adverse childhood experiences brought on or worsened by extreme weather and physical infrastructure resilience in the neighborhoods, homes, centers and health care settings where children are cared for.

These challenges – and the need to respond to them – place additional burden on already-overworked and under-resourced caregivers and early childhood systems.

THE OPPORTUNITY

As the impacts of climate change expand and worsen, we must look to the strengths and protective factors offered by our early childhood system to support young children and their families in the context of a changing climate. Start Early is a champion for quality early learning and care, focused on closing the opportunity gap for our youngest learners. It is increasingly clear that we must expand our idea of what it means to care for young children to address the new and increased mental and physical health challenges that many of them are experiencing or will experience in the years ahead.

The challenge of climate change is daunting, but well-resourced, accessible early childhood systems are key in helping young children and their caregivers prepare and adapt.

Early childhood providers, health care providers, home visitors, doulas and others who support families are often the first stop and most trusted resource for young parents seeking information and help. Parents and providers also have valuable expertise on what young children need and how our support systems can help (or hinder) their development. These partnerships and insights will be critical to supporting the safety and resiliency of young children in the years ahead as programs and systems plan for the future.

In order to center the needs of young children and their families in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, Start Early President Diana Rauner is co-chairing the Early Years Climate Action Task Force, a group of cross-sector partners co-convened by Capita and This is Planet Ed (the Aspen Institute). The Task Force is in the process of developing the first-ever U.S. Early Years Climate Action Plan, which will include recommendations for how the country can help young children, birth-to-age 8, flourish in the face of climate change. Be the first to know when we share the final plan this fall.

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