As we experience unprecedented hardship, children and their families, particularly those in the prenatal to three period, must be recognized as our greatest resource and treated as our highest priority. Kids cannot wait any longer for a strong public investment in their future. We need our policymakers and other stakeholders to understand the impact of the crises facing our youngest generation and take action—today.
There must be a particular focus on supporting families of color, who have undoubtedly been hit hardest by the pandemic. Latinx families are twice as likely to be affected by poverty than their white counterparts—Black families three times as likely—making it more challenging to meet their basic needs. In fact, 1 in 5 Latinx and Black households with children are food insufficient in the pandemic. These trends are indicative of the long-lasting racism embedded in our public economic, housing, health care, and education systems.
From parents to policymakers, teachers to business leaders—we each have a role in ensuring the success of young children isn’t eroded by the converging crises of COVID-19, racial injustice and economic instability. #KidsAreEssential in and out of crisis.
We stand for the following:
No family should have to choose between paying for groceries or paying their medical bills. COVID-19 has made this grim choice a reality for too many families. In order to set children up for success, we need to ensure families have enough income to meet their needs. Every family needs affordable access to necessities such as food, health care, housing, and transportation. Such fundamental needs serve as the pillars of success for our youngest generation and, now more than ever, must remain a key focus.
The pandemic has put child care in crisis. Unable to stay afloat, child care centers and schools have had to shut their doors, forcing parents to choose between caring for their kids or keeping their jobs. For too long, policymakers have underfunded and undervalued the child care system. All families need access to quality, affordable, equitable child care that offers their kids safe environments and nurturing relationships. As child care rebuilds following the pandemic, a robust public investment is critical for a sustainable and accessible system. Child care is a public good and essential to the economic recovery from COVID-19. Support for child care is support for our current and future workforce.
The absence of a national paid leave policy left many families without the necessary financial support to care for their families in times of crisis. This absence particularly impacts Black and Latinx families who are more likely to work nontraditional hours that make accessing alternative forms of child care especially difficult. A child’s earliest relationships shape how children learn and act in our world. Working parents require paid time off so they can bond with their babies after birth or adoption, and care for their sick children, other family members, or themselves, without the fear of losing a job or a paycheck. A permanent national paid family and medical leave policy, as well as paid sick days, are not only sound public health strategies in the midst of a pandemic, but are essential for families’ survival in this critical moment and beyond.
This effort is built on an understanding that greater systemic issues—exacerbated by COVID-19—such as racial, class, and gender disparities, significantly inform a mother’s experience of birth and her baby’s future health. Making maternal health a priority—specifically for Black mothers and mothers of color who are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white mothers—is key to a child’s future success. Healthy births and thriving infants must be prioritized. We need to ensure equity in pregnancy, childbirth, and the period after childbirth.
Beyond physical illness, the pandemic has impacted many young children’s emotional and mental well-being. National surveys of families with young children found stress and anxiety levels rising throughout the pandemic, creating a risk of trauma and social-emotional issues. Trauma faced at this stage of life may have long-term consequences across a child’s lifespan. Positive, nurturing relationships in a child’s earliest years promote resilience—the ability to bounce back from adversity—a skill needed now more than ever. We must invest in our country’s mental health system, particularly for our youngest, so that we can prevent and treat mental health issues as early as possible, giving children the strong foundation they need for lifelong mental health.
Our vision for child care is guided by the proven fact that when infants and toddlers are given the proper tools they need, they are set up for future success. Research shows that during a child’s developmental stage—ages zero to three—they experience significant brain development. Studies also show that quality early learning experiences are the bricks and mortar of future success. Let’s ensure families have access to safe, nurturing and affordable child care.
In order to set children up for success, we need to first ensure their basic needs are met. Every family, especially ones with young children, deserve affordable access to necessities such as food, health care, housing and transportation. No family should have to choose between paying for groceries or paying their medical bills. COVID-19 has made this grim choice a reality for too many families. Such fundamental needs serve as the pillars of success for our youngest generation and must remain a key focus.
Early relationships shape how children learn and act in our world. The formation of strong parental relationships requires deep care, consistency and time. The expansion of paid family and medical leave is essential to the prosperity of families and their young children. Families require paid sick days and time off so they can care for their sick children or deal with COVID-19 health scares without the fear of losing a job or a paycheck.
The safety of mothers before, during and after pregnancy is key to a child’s future success. Healthy births and thriving infants need to be a priority. There must be a focus on equity in pregnancy, childbirth and the period after childbirth. This effort is built on an understanding that greater systemic issues such as race, class and gender, significantly inform a mother’s experience of birth and her baby’s future health.
A child’s mental health significantly impacts their success in school and beyond. Self-control, early friendships and encouraging words are all important steps to helping children develop self-confidence and a healthy emotional outlook on life. A focus on mental health allows children to think clearly, develop socially and gain crucial life skills.