Last month I had the pleasure of co-leading a session at the BUILD 2022 Virtual Conference: Building Systems, Improving Quality, Advancing Equity.

It was a joy to participate en una charla informal, a coffee talk, with my good friend, and colleague Miriam Calderon. We discussed and unpacked the strength and determination required to lift ourselves, our families, and our communities up in the unforgiving world of policy and politics.

BUILD has been a leader in providing spaces and opportunities for Latine professionals and leaders in the early childhood space to come together both informally and formally to talk and hear about what the Latine community wants and needs.

The Latine community is strong. We know that across this country it is Latinos and Latinas who pick, cook and serve our food, clean our houses and hotel rooms, care for our children, elderly and sick and are part of the backbone of the economy in countless ways.

As I joined with other Latine leaders throughout the week at BUILD and listened to their stories, I was stuck that today in 2022, many still talked about “imposter syndrome”, including me. I have had the privilege and opportunity to sit at many tables at the local, state, and national level but I am sure when I opened my mouth to share a recommendation or idea, there was some eye rolling in the room.

At Start Early, we share a commitment to racial equity and have been working diligently to provide individual staff with the support they need and want to grow and contribute to the early childhood field. For my part, I will be leading and providing a space for Latine individuals to participate in a mentoring circle where we will take time to understand our history as a community in the United States, our personal journeys and culture and how systems impact our progress as individuals and a community.

A common theme we explored was that we need mentorship – ongoing mentorship from people that look like us and understand our culture and values. As I have been reflecting on my own journey, it’s clear that each of has a responsibility to support and mentor the next generation of Latine leaders.

My hope is that through mentorship and in our daily work to change systems, Latine professionals and leaders will sit at any table and confidently speak their truth, represent the needs of their children and communities, despite the eye rolls.

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As requested by the Legislature, Washington state’s Home Visiting Advisory Committee — consisting of home visiting providers, advocates, state agency partners and other allied professionals — recently outlined an ambitious path to strengthen the state’s home visiting system. Submitted to the Washington state Legislature and the Department of Children, Youth and Families, this plan makes essential recommendations to improve equity in the home visiting system, ensure a skilled and sustainable workforce and expand home visiting access to additional families.

Many of the recommendations identify strategies that are within the Department of Children, Youth and Families’ administrative power to implement while others will require additional investment from the Legislature.

Recommendation Highlights

A comprehensive overview of the recommendations is available on the Department of Children, Youth and Families website. In summary, the recommendations focus on the following areas of improvement:

Promote Equity: Washington must support a range of home visiting programs that meet the needs of diverse communities; ensure parent, community and provider voice is embedded in decision-making; and recruit and retain a workforce representative of families served.

Strengthen the Workforce: Home visitors have continued to provide essential supports to families, yet the workforce is under tremendous stress with higher than usual attrition in the past two years. The recommendations include investing in wages – including addressing racial and positional wage disparities; increasing access to professional development; and assessing home visitor caseloads and administrative burden.

Systems Improvements: To create a stable, sustainable and scalable home visiting system, the recommendations include completing a cost study to inform contracting to better reflect the true cost of the service; funding adjustments that promote equity; and streamlined data strategies.

Start Early Washington supports the recommendations submitted by the Home Visiting Advisory Committee. We are committed to working with our public and private sector partners to create comprehensive implementation plans with a strategic direction to build an equitable home visiting system that supports children and families in Washington state.

 

Excited to Learn More?

Check out our work in Washington state and stay connected; we’d love to grow our engagement with you.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re commemorating women’s vital impact and accomplishments on society.

Our Start Early staff members: Keneischia Jones, health coordinator, Early Head Start Network; Rio Romero-Jurado, policy manager, National Policy and Kayla Goldfarb, policy specialist, Illinois Policy shared how their womanhood has influenced their career journey, the crucial importance of pay equity in early childhood and the need for inclusion and continued progress for all women.

How has being a woman influenced your identity?

Keneischia Jones: Being a woman of color is my daily makeup. I get to wake up and change my hair and wear my afro today because that’s what I’m feeling. I’ve become the young Black woman that I wanted to be when I was younger and I wasn’t able to present like this. Now as a woman I have my bearings and I can show the world who I am at all times.

Rio Romero-Jurado: My identity in being a woman and a woman of color in particular has really shaped my values, social conscience and the kind of person I want to be and what I want to contribute to the world. I came to social work, policy and advocacy because I was naturally drawn to eliminating inequities in our society and empowering other women through social change and action.

That’s part of why I love what I do. Even in elementary school I really loved social studies. I recognized pretty early on that there was an underrepresentation, we all know, of women and people of color at our highest levels of government. I think that’s really further motivated me to embrace my identity as a woman and to be part of an organization to help ensure that women and the issues that matter to them and their families are prioritized in our society and in policy.

Kayla Goldfarb: There are so many things that have been shared that really resonated with me and are really energizing. Being a woman has influenced my identity in that I don’t feel limited in any way. But I also recognize how much of a privilege that is when you look at women globally and locally because that is not always the case. I’ve begun to understand the breadth of how people experience being a woman from a race, class, location and lived experience perspective. It’s been mind opening.

Are there any misconceptions about women that you want to address?

Keneischia Jones: We are not too emotional to make important decisions. We are not led with emotions we have the capacity to be emotionally aware and emotionally intelligent and logical at the same time. I also want to stress as a Black woman that we are not angry. We can clearly speak our problems but we are not a threat and we’re not angry all the time. We’re just passionate and loving people.

Rio Romero-Jurado: There is a balance between recognizing that there have been strides made in gender equality and at the same time acknowledging the continued work that is needed to achieve true equitable progress. We now have a woman of color as our Vice President which is fantastic. But we’re still so behind in many ways and that is a misconception of thinking that we’ve reached a certain milestone, which we have, but we’ve got to keep making more progress. There’s so much more to be done.

Kayla Goldfarb: I really agree with Rio I think there’s certainly a danger in complacency and being like yeah we won. There’s so many domains in which women don’t have equal footing and I think it’s important to take time during Women’s History Month to look at spaces where women’s accomplishments have been relegated to the back and not acknowledged or fully covered up and taken as someone else’s.

I can think of science domains where women’s discoveries were rebranded as men’s. Hedy Lamarr for example was a movie star in the 1930s and 40s but was also the inventor of frequency hopping and her inventions were taken and the credit was given to men. I think in very present ways that still happens a lot and translates to things like pay and career advancement and the fact that women don’t get the automatic recognition that maybe men do.

In terms of misconceptions, I think one is that caring about women’s rights is in any way exclusionary to people who weren’t born women but identify as women. Trans exclusionary embodiments of feminism are not good for women. The misconception that there is in any way a threat to women’s progress by upholding and defending the rights of those who identify as women but who might not have been born identifying that way. So there’s clearly a long way to go.

But it’s nice to take time during Women’s History Month to think about how these things show up historically and in our day-to-day lives.

Be sure to follow our blog to stay up-to-date on the latest announcements and learn about our ongoing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) work.

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Each year, we celebrate Black History Month to recognize the contributions and influence of African Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.

Our Start Early staff members: Erice Evans, senior financial analyst; Stuart Lassiter, early childhood practice consultant; Kristie Norwood, education manager for the Early Head Start and Head Start Network of Illinois shared how their heritage has shaped their identity and impacted their work, how they maintain their culture and why it’s important to recognize Black History Month.

How do you feel that your African American heritage has influenced your identity and what do you appreciate most about being Black?

Kristie Norwood: What I appreciate most about being Black is being Black. It is a heritage and legacy of strength and strong traditions of faith and family. I love that feeling of coming into a room and even if there’s only one other Black person there is an immediate connection of knowing each other.

Erice Evans: We come from a very rich background and history that I appreciate as I’m older now that I didn’t really know to appreciate growing up. I love the melanin and the different colors, characteristics, traits and everything that makes us a beautiful people from the outside to the inside. My [African American] heritage has made me who I am today.

Stuart Lassiter: Being Black is my identity and it’s how I’m recognized by others and also how I recognize myself. My family has always stressed what it means to be a Black male. The idea that I heard from my great grandfather, grandfather and uncles of being the best you can be because you have to work from a place of excellence to be seen as being good.

One thing I truly appreciate is our strength, perseverance and striving to always overcome. It’s amazing that we’ve come so far and still have so far to go.

Erice Evans: I love that you mention strength because it is part of our heritage. We were taught the skills to overcome anything. If you get knocked down get back up and keep fighting. We don’t stay down.

Are there any misconceptions about Black culture that you want to dispel?

Erice Evans: For many years it seems that we as Black people have always been portrayed in a negative view. It’s never about the accomplishments that we have made or all the good that we have done, our creativity, the things we do in and for our community.

When you see us on the news it’s always something negative and we became a people to be feared and wrongly so. We’re not all the same although we’re viewed that way. In every person there is good, bad and also great and we deserve to be recognized for that.

Stuart Lassiter: One of the misconceptions is that I’m a Black male so I must be dangerous. The narrative in the media is that Black people are dangerous. If you look at the 10 p.m. news there is always a story about a shooting or a drug raid. I’m not diminishing it those things do happen.

But there is an overwhelming percentage of people in Black communities who are law abiding, go to work and want to provide for their children. But that is not the narrative being shared.

Kristie Norwood: I think people have misconceptions about Black people and Black culture for various reasons. I don’t feel like I’m here to discount anybody’s misconceptions. I think there is enough evidence out there to give people a complete picture of the Black experience in this world, not just in this country.

If there is one thing I want to stress is that Black people are not a monolith we are not all the same. We have joys, triumphs and sorrows like any other people and we each have different opinions. I’m sad that as Black people we don’t always get the luxury in being taken as individuals.

Why is music so foundational to Black culture?

Kristie Norwood: Music is so important because it is a communication vehicle that goes past your ears and right into your soul. It provides strength, encouragement, celebration and joy. During the Civil Rights movement they sang songs to keep each other encouraged, remind themselves of what the goal was and keep fear down. When I think about some of the times in my life music has been the vehicle that really helped me stay in it long enough to get from point A to Point B.

Erice Evans: Music is a part of who we are. Music is how we coped and it’s the soundtrack of our lives. Church is a big thing in our culture and you would hear your grandparents or parents sing old gospel hymns around the house to lift them up during times of challenge or sorrow.

We are a very passionate people and music is how we express ourselves. Music is how we brought who we are to life and to the world.

Stuart Lassiter: Music is hope and joy. Go back historically and it was communication and freedom. Slaves sang songs in code to communicate where you should go, when you should leave and when you should stop if danger was around. Music was survival and freedom.

The contributions to all forms of music. The richness and experience of life that’s being shared when Black people share their music. Music spans the gambit of life from birth and being children to teenage and adult years. Blues, jazz, country, pop, hip hop and gospel. Black people have given such a worthy contribution to the world of music.

This year’s Black History Month theme is health and wellness. Why is it important for African Americans to prioritize health and wellness?

Erice Evans: The pandemic highlighted what we already knew. We were most affected when the pandemic hit because we don’t all have access to quality health care and that’s been across generations. We suffered a lot throughout COVID-19, we’ve been suffering, but the pandemic brought it to light so the world knows it too. It couldn’t be hidden anymore.

It’s time to address those deficiencies so that we can get the quality healthcare, education and opportunities – the jobs, pay and benefits – we deserve to help our communities.

We have to care about our physical, mental and emotional health and teach our children that from birth to age five to teenagers to adulthood. We didn’t have access to mental health care and within our community it was taboo to say I need a therapist. We’re used to being strong, but that strength doesn’t mean we have to carry the whole burden.

Stuart Lassiter: The mortality rates of Black people are among the highest in so many health categories: cancer, diabetes and infant mortality.

There are barriers to access to healthy food, healthcare and quality education so you can attain greater opportunities through your job to care and mental health. It’s all packaged together. If there’s something that’s deficient in your health and wellbeing it impacts other aspects of your health.

Erice Evans: We should be able to have it all. There are other communities that have it all and we shouldn’t have to pay astronomically to get it. Some communities if you want your child to have a good education you have to pay for it. That shouldn’t be the case.

Start Early is committed to quality education for children ages zero to five. Quality education should be available for all children. Like Stuart said if you’re deficient in one thing you’re deficient in it all and I think that’s one thing we have to address in our culture.

Kristie Norwood: We have to make our health and wellness a priority because if we don’t historically it’s been proven that nobody else will.

We can’t build a sick legacy. Our men and women are dying because of heart disease, cancers related to diet and stress and mental health issues leaving families behind. We need to be well so we can experience joy, exuberance, abundance and brilliance so we can keep giving that to our children.

So my hope is that health and wellness and particularly mental health becomes a legacy for us in the same way that our other traditions of church, food and celebrations.

Be sure to follow our blog to stay up-to-date on the latest announcements and learn about our ongoing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) work.

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Hispanic Heritage Month collage

Each year, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.

Our staff members shared how their heritage has shaped their identity and impacted their work, how they maintain their culture and why it’s important to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month.

Can you introduce yourself and share what you do here at Start Early and how your Hispanic heritage influenced your identity?

Nilda Barrett: I’m a financial manager supporting 15 divisions and have been at Start Early for almost two years. I’m Puerto Rican, born and raised in Chicago and I’m the second youngest of seven children. My parents came to the States when they were very young and met here in Chicago. They taught me and my siblings the importance of education and working hard to get the things you need. We lived in mainly Hispanic neighborhoods, so I grew up around Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans and was exposed to a little bit of everything and got to see how hard people worked. The person I am today, my ambition, everything is inspired by my upbringing and due to my culture.

Yáyá Cardenas Torres: I’m a training institute coordinator for the Professional Learning Network and I’ve been with Start Early for 14 years. I’m Mexican American born and raised in Indiana and I’m a proud Hoosier. My mother was born and raised in Texas and my father was born and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. I am the only girl out of five brothers.

With my mother being Tex-Mex and my dad being Mexican, I had two cultures: One uses cheddar and one uses Chihuahua, but together they are perfect on a burrito. My culture has made me who I am. My upbringing, my loyalty, my faith, my passion… it is who I am and I apply it to my professional and personal life.

Alexis Aguilú Hernandez: I’m the assistant director of operations for the Educare Learning Network and have been at Start Early for 14 years as well. I’m one of two and was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I left the island at the age of 20 to attend Marquette University in Wisconsin and stayed here. I have a ton of family in the Midwest.

Puerto Rican is who I am. I live my life as a Puerto Rican and I love my Puerto Rican heritage. I get chills every time that I go home. On the flight home, I always plan to sit by the window so I can see the whole island as we descend. It’s who I am, it’s family and how I grew up. Seeing the flag, it’s who I am and I like to share that with others who may not understand what being Puerto Rican and Latinx is.

How has your Hispanic heritage impacted your daily work to advance our mission and better serve children and families? 

Alexis Aguilú Hernandez: I always say that my Hispanic background is not only what identifies me, but what defines me. Being a Hispanic immigrant allows me to better understand the challenges that many of our Hispanic children and families go through and focuses my commitment to do everything I can to help them close that opportunity gap once and for all.

I have been able to use Spanish several times in my role at Start Early. We started sending out text messages to families and I would translate them into Spanish. Most recently, at the Educare Learning Network, I helped review our network requirements and Child Tax Credit communications in Spanish. Knowing languages opens your mind to the world.

Yáyá Cardenas Torres: Being Mexican American and bilingual provides me with cultural sensitivity and enables me to better serve our Spanish-speaking clients. My parents also taught me to have a solid work ethic, ambition and commitment which I use in my daily work.

What do you appreciate most about your Hispanic culture? 

This month really helps people recognize the complexities, histories and richness of the different Hispanic cultures. It’s very important to celebrate Hispanic heritage.

Nilda Barrett
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How do you preserve your Hispanic culture?

Yáyá Cardenas Torres: I try to preserve our culture with food. Any gathering we host, I’ll cook Mexican dishes. My dad and I both have gardens and I love to make homemade salsa using everything from jalapeños to habaneros and Anaheim chili peppers and share it with everyone. I feel very close to my mom when I make salsa because I remember growing up she would make it and give it away to our neighbors. I also share my culture with my son and foster kids: we celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Día de los Niños (Day of the Children). I try to incorporate it everywhere I can.

Nilda Barrett: Similar to Yáyá, we are very family oriented. We took a trip to Puerto Rico in 2018 and are looking to go again next year. Everything from la música — salsa, merengue, reggaeton, bachata — to la comida. My mom will come over and make pastelitos (a Puerto Rican pastry filled with guava and cheese) and my four kids love them. I also instill in my kids the importance of learning Spanish because being bilingual is such an asset. 

How would you describe the diversity within your family?

Are there any misconceptions about Hispanic culture that you want to dispel?

Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and recognize the impact Hispanic people have had within the U.S.?

Nilda Barrett: Hispanic culture has contributed so much to the development of the United States over the years and it just keeps growing. This month really helps people recognize the complexities, histories and richness of the different Hispanic cultures. It’s very important to celebrate Hispanic heritage.

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In-person conferences are back! This August, Start Early president Diana Rauner and I joined leading minds in technology and education from across the country in San Diego for the 2021 ASU+GSV Summit. With awareness of the importance of early childhood education and the care economy at an all-time high, more than a dozen sessions at this year’s conference explored critical issues facing our field, including kindergarten readiness, equity and workforce development.

Increased Need for Social & Emotional Supports

As we enter the start of another program and school year, children will need continued support and attention, particularly in areas of social and emotional support. We know children will be bringing the trauma that they and their families experienced in the last 18 months to school with them. As one attendee noted, they will be “bringing it in their backpacks and putting it on the table.” We also need to acknowledge the extreme stress and trauma that teachers have experienced and support them through this difficult time.

Start Early president Diana Rauner joined Walter Gilliam (Yale University), Shantel Meek (Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University) and Janice Jackson (Chicago Public Schools) for a discussion examining kindergarten readiness through the lens of disparities in suspensions, expulsions and placement in special education that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and threaten children of color’s access to education.

Meeting the Moment: The Economic Imperative of Early Childhood Education

The pandemic highlighted how essential early learning and care is to help parents return to work and support the economy. Diana joined Barbara Cooper (Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education), Rhian Allvin (National Association for the Education of Young Children), and Jane Swift (LearnLaunch) for a conversation that explored two other themes critical to the economic imperative of early childhood education: the critical need for workforce development for our current early childhood workforce and how early learning and care supports the development of our children, the workforce of the future. Diana stressed that early childhood education has a triple bottom line — it allows people to work, grows small businesses and most importantly, supports the development of children.

Every School & Community Ready to Serve Children & Families

Finally, I was excited to lead a panel on something close to my heart: flipping the narrative of the school readiness conversation. Rather than ask what we are going to do to make sure children are ready — a question that puts the burden on children and families — we need to think about how schools and communities can be ready for children as kindergarten begins.

Joined by Sophie Turnbull Bosmeny (Khan Academy Kids), Kai-lee Berke (Noni Educational Solutions), Henry Wilde (Acelero Learning), Andy Myers (Waterford.org) and James Ruben (Hellosaurus), our panel explored how we can take advantage of the current moment to ensure all children are equally ready for school.

For more content from this year’s ASU+GSV Summit on early childhood education and the care economy, visit the conference’s website or YouTube channel.

Last month, families across the country began receiving the first payments under the Advance Child Tax Credit (ACTA), a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. For many families with young children, like Educare Chicago parent Cheryse Singleton-Nobles, the expanded Child Tax Credit offers integral support that increases their ability to provide a stable environment and experiences for their children to thrive.

“A lot of us are struggling. Even though the pandemic is ending, that doesn’t end the financial impacts it created,” Cheryse shares.

“We need the Child Tax Credit to survive. We need it for our families, to help our businesses grow, for school supplies, to put gas in the car. We need it so our families can keep striving and so we can raise successful young individuals."

Cheryse Singleton-Nobles
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Across the nation, even as employment is rising and strains on household budgets have eased in recent months families continue to struggle. One in three adults with children report difficulty covering usual household expenses, and one in eight report their families don’t have enough to eat. This financial strain and chronic stress can undermine young children’s sense of security, safety and joy. If prolonged, it can have a negative, long-term impact on their development.

“If it’s stressful for an adult, imagine how stressful this time has been for young children whose entire routine was disturbed,” Cheryse continues. “The Child Tax Credit puts us in a place of peace so that we can be in a better mental state to focus on doing more for our children and not worrying as much about things getting turned off or bills not being paid.”

The expanded Child Tax Credit will help directly alleviate the strain that so many families are experiencing on multiple fronts. Eligible families will receive up to $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17, with half made available to families in advance through six monthly payments and the rest claimed when they file their tax returns.

Many organizations, including our own Educare Learning Network, are proactively reaching out to educate families on the tax filing process and helping them take full advantage of the Child Tax Credit. At Educare Chicago, “staff let us know it was coming, who to contact and offered to assist with the tax filing process,” Cheryse shares.

What does the Child Tax Credit Mean for Your Family?

Our partners at the Educare Learning Network are collecting quotes and stories about the importance of the Child Tax Credit. Tell us what the Child Tax Credit means for your family, your finances and your future.

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In addition to household essentials, Cheryse underscored the importance of the payments to help parents meet their children’s educational and developmental needs. “For instance, a family with a child with disabilities can use this money to pay for equipment and materials that aren’t covered by insurance,” she says. “With the extra money being sent, it’s like, ‘Whoa, okay, I can breathe.’”

The Child Tax Credit is one of the critical supports for working families that can and should be made permanent by the passage of the American Families Plan. Other transformative investments included in the plan would help defray the costs of child care and offer families more child care options, two issues families continue to grapple with. Two out of three working parents (63%) and nearly all low-income parents (95%) report having a hard time.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

Nelson Mandela
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As part of Start Early’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB), we strive to nurture and embrace racial, cultural and linguistically diverse teaching and learning environments. We know these diverse and inclusive environments unify our field and ensure equitable access to high-quality early childhood experiences. We are embarking on a journey to translate our professional development and research into languages other than English, starting with Spanish. Our goal is to be more inclusive of early childhood educators, parents and leaders that represent the populations we serve and who strive in their own role to support those who need us the most, our youngest children.

Over the past many years, my bilingual colleagues and I translated documents and resources into other languages (including Spanish), to meet the linguistic needs of the participants we support and serve. Nevertheless, the translations themselves, the process and the extra workload were not sustainable and needed to improve. Having multiple experiences with schools, centers and organizations throughout the early childhood field, we know these challenges are not limited to Start Early.

We launched a project to increase the accessibility of our training materials to better serve adult learners and support their professional development. The purpose of our project was to develop a process to translate trainings, materials and resources to increase Start Early’s ability and capacity to serve linguistically diverse customers. In addition, we designed a process to ensure the quality of the translations and the sustainability of the process itself. We kicked off the project with Start Early’s Essentials of Home Visiting – accredited online courses and webinars to support home visiting in any model.

Reach out to our team to get started on your professional development journey today!

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We are excited to debut Spanish language translations of two of our most popular webinars within the Essentials of Home Visiting course catalog: “Exploremos los Valores y Las Creencias sobre la Crianza de los Niños y las Niñas” (Exploring Values and Beliefs Around Parenting) and “Estar Presentes para las Familias” (Being Present with Families). The live webinars will be available through our online learning platform on January 12 and February 2, respectively.

Moving forward, we will continue to adapt our professional development portfolio for additional languages and cultures to better represent the populations we serve, in the hopes of closing the opportunity gap. Our mission is to ensure every child can achieve their full potential not only in school, but also in life.

For me, advocating for Black fathers is a matter of personal, professional, and societal importance. My father’s indelible impact on my life — including my own role as an active father to my children — led me to pursue a career ensuring Black fathers are recognized as assets to their children, families, and communities. Research has highlighted the important role and contributions that Black fathers have on their families, including influences on children’s school adjustment, social competence, psychological well-being and positive racial socialization.

A father’s involvement in his child’s life from very early on has a tremendous impact on their development. Children with involved, caring fathers have stronger educational and developmental outcomes with better linguistic and cognitive capabilities. They also start school with higher academic readiness. Fathers that spend time playing with their infants and preschoolers in stimulating, engaging activities help their children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. I can personally attest to spending a lot of time playing with my youngest son, a toddler, as he learns to explore the world around him.

Addressing systemic racism can help fathers fill this important role and empowering them with resources. Below are ways we all can create opportunities for marginalized fathers and better position them as the assets they are in our society.

  • Change the narrative. We must change society’s misguided view of Black fathers as negligent parents and recast them as integral parts of our family and community, just as my father was for me and how I strive to be for my children. This requires presenting positive and culturally affirming narratives of Black fathers in the media — including social media— and through research studies, organizational cultures and legislation.
  • Expand home visiting and parent education programs to ensure they are father friendly, father-centered and culturally inclusive. All fathers want what is best for their children, and home visiting programs can empower fathers in their role by engaging them in program activities and supporting their involvement in their children’s lives.
  • Drive policy change that transforms the child support system into a family-building institution. Eliminating government-owed child support debt for fathers unable to pay will go a long way in enabling Black fathers to advance economically and to better provide for their children.

Supporting Black fathers in their role as a child’s first and most important teacher is an investment in our children and our communities. This Father’s Day, let’s intentionally change the narrative, advocate for local, state and federal policies that benefit Black fathers and promote positive and culturally relevant parent and home visiting programs that benefit early childhood development.

Learn more about my work and continue to follow this blog for the latest updates from Start Early.

For me, Juneteenth represents a day of connection past, present and future — all existing in one day. I think of my grandparents who were part of the Great Migration from the South in the early 50s. They left Mississippi with seven children, in hopes of finding a better life and future for their family. Conditions of economic hardship, segregation and discrimination in the South had made it necessary to seek out better and safer places to live. I stand in the present thinking of all the opportunities that have been afforded to me through the blood, sweat and sacrifices of all the people who came before me and have fought for the rights and privileges I have. I look to my son, as the future, in hopes his generation will be the first to completely dismantle systems of injustice. Juneteenth is a day of hope, where the worries of yesterday are gone, and the burden of tomorrow has not quite come. It is the moment in time where the impossible suddenly feels possible.

On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union Troops arrived in Galveston, Texas issued an order officially freeing the slaves. I know you might think, “Wasn’t the Emancipation Proclamation signed in 1863?” Yes, it was, but unfortunately people who lived in more remote areas still lived as they were enslaved. After slavery ended, African Americans were inspired and empowered to transform their lives and their country. Juneteenth is about capturing this hope and renewing the energy of all the work that has been done and still needs to happen in this country. Juneteenth is U.S. history.

There are so many ways to celebrate and honor Juneteenth. Here are a few ways we all can get involved:

  • Learn more about black history and Juneteenth. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to a podcast, listen to the Emancipation Proclamation on YouTube. Take time to learn more about the stories and experiences of black people in the U.S.
  • Celebrate cook a big meal, have a barbecue, attend an event in your area or online.
  • Shop support black-owned businesses or black causes.
  • Connect with family, friends, people in your community this day is all about coming together.

When one story stops, another begins. While we all know that the end of slavery gave way to new atrocities and injustices for black people across the U.S., Juneteenth is an opportunity to take pride in how far we’ve come and recommit ourselves to the ongoing fight to end racial injustices.

Here are some virtual and in-person events that you can check out:

Virtual Events (all times Central)

Looking Ahead to Juneteenth: Centering Black Parents Voices in the Age of COVID-19 and Racial Reckoning, Thursday, June 17, 12 p.m.

Inaugural Juneteenth Reading Circle: Richard Wright Thursday, June 17, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Virtual Juneteenth Celebration Eiteljorg Museum 

The Amistad Center for Art & Culture 30th Annual Juneteenth Celebration Saturday, June 19, 5:30 p.m. 

Step Afrika! Juneteenth Virtual Celebration Saturday, June 19, 7 p.m. 

A Juneteenth Commemoration Featuring Annette Gordon-Reed Saturday, June 19, 2 p.m. 

In-Person Events (Chicago Area)

Juneteenth Black to Life Celebration Saturday, June 19, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Location: Behind Museum of Science and Industry 

Juneteenth Ride Saturday, June 19, 12– 2:30 p.m., Wintrust Arena 

Juneteenth at Sculpture Park Saturday, June 19, 1– 4 p.m., Location Sculpture Park, Governors State University, University Park, IL (Limited Capacity – please visit link and RSVP if planning to attend) 

2nd Annual Rich Auntie Energy Juneteenth Bonfire Saturday, June 19, 6 p.m. – Midnight, Central, Promontory Point, Hyde Park 

Homewood-Flossmoor Juneteenth Festival Saturday, June 19, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Homewood-Flossmoor High School 

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