The Pritzker Children’s Initiative and Zero to Three are partnering with states – including North Carolina – to bring promising programs to scale and ensure that all babies develop to their full potential.
Written by Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of ZERO TO THREE, and Janet Froetscher, President of Pritzker Children’s Initiative
More than 2.3 million infants and toddlers live in poverty in our country today. Many more struggle just to meet their children’s basic needs, let alone provide their infants and toddlers with the high-quality early experiences that they need to become confident, empathetic, contributing members of society. One million children start kindergarten each year unready to succeed in school. While many data points tell this story, behind each number is the real story of a real American family. Their collective stories demonstrate the need for a much greater focus by our policymakers on children birth to age 3.
The Spieker family from Iowa is just one example. Their story is similar to the story of many families today. Both parents have had to work full-time to provide the best opportunities possible for their children. Sara works at a community college, and her husband has worked in advanced manufacturing for 13 years. With the birth of their third child, Sara made a difficult decision. She left her job because health insurance and child care cost more than her income.
Families like the Spiekers are the driving force behind our work at the Pritzker Children’s Initiative and ZERO TO THREE. We share a commitment to improving outcomes for infants and toddlers and ensuring all families can support their child’s healthy development. We work tirelessly to provide greater opportunities for hard-working parents who simply want to give their young children the healthiest, best possible start. Our challenge is that millions of our youngest citizens are not getting the support that they need at the most critical time in their cognitive, social and emotional growth. The U.S. cannot continue to fail these children who hold the key to our future.
In 2018, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative and ZERO TO THREE are combining our voices and partnering to raise the volume on this critical conversation. We believe that all babies should get healthy starts, and their parents should have the support they need to make this happen. The research is clear: the most rapid period of brain development is in the first years of life, when a baby’s brain forms more than a million new neural connections every second. That is why we are collaborating to advance the banner for a common cause: babies, toddlers, and families. All families with young children should be strengthened and feel supported. High-quality child care and positive early learning experiences should be affordable and accessible for everyone. Children and families with additional challenges, such as those living in poverty or experiencing trauma, should have access to the services they need to buffer those experiences and get a healthy start. Simply put, all babies should have the opportunity for success in school and life.
The Pritzker Children’s Initiative and ZERO TO THREE are working with state partners to help advance solutions. Together, we will engage networks of parents, providers, and advocates. We will engage and inform public sector partners and policymakers, providing them with the tools they need to effect change in their states and communities, and ultimately our entire nation.
Join us as we work to create the change that American families want and need. Learn more about our work. Share our resources. Get engaged. Spread the word and raise the banner with us. Together, we can do so much more than any one of us can do on our own; we can demonstrate that the U.S. truly values babies and young children.