Think Babies™ NC Announces 2021 Prenatal to Age 3 Policy Priorities

The Think BabiesTM NC Alliance recently shared its 2021 Policy Priorities for NC infants, toddlers and their families. The Alliance seeks to ensure that North Carolina’s youngest children, prenatal to age 3, benefit from effective and equitable public policies, programs, and funding so that all children have what they need to thrive: healthy beginnings, supported families, and quality early care and learning experiences. It is led by a cross-sector Leadership Team, including the NC Early Childhood Foundation.

Research shows that the first three years of a child’s life lay the foundation for future development, health, and learning. Important neural connections and relationships with adults are being formed at lightning speed during this time based on a babies’ earliest experiences. These experiences shape NC children’s lives, and the strength of our state and economy, for years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the existing disparities faced by many NC infants, toddlers and their families, particularly families of color and families living with low-income. Some of these challenges include decreased access to high-quality child care, increased financial insecurity, and growing mental health concerns for children and parents. The Alliance is working to make these issues a top priority in recovery. 

See a summary of the Think BabiesTM NC Alliance 2021 Policy Priorities below, and a two-page description here.

All Children Need Healthy Beginnings:

  • Make sure families have access to health care by closing the coverage gap.
  • Adopt reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant employees. 
  • Extend postpartum maternal Medicaid coverage from 6 weeks to 1 year.
  • Expand eligibility for early intervention services to include infants and toddlers at risk for developmental delays. 
  • Establish early childhood mental health competencies for early childhood service providers.

All Children Need Supported Families and Supportive Communities:

  • Increase opportunities for home visiting and parenting education programs.
  • Adopt paid family and medical leave for employees. 
  • Adopt sick leave for working families.
  • Reestablish the NC Earned Income Tax Credit to increase family economic security.

All Young Children Need Access to Quality Early Care and Learning:

  • Increase child care subsidy funding and change waitlist policy to expand access to high-quality, affordable child care for infants and toddlers.
  • Establish better child care subsidy rates to ensure equal access to quality child care for infants and toddlers in all counties.
  • Expand the supply of infant-toddler care to ensure families living in child care deserts have access to high-quality care.
  • Ensure infants and toddlers have well-educated and well-compensated teachers with the skills needed to support healthy development.

Several of the Think BabiesTM NC Policy Priorities align closely with the prioritized Actions of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative, such as:

  • Invest in two-generation interventions
  • Create family-friendly employment policies
  • Increase access to infant and toddler care
  • Expand child care subsidies for children
  • Raise child care subsidy rates
  • Support incentives to ensure high-quality educators in high need schools and early education programs
  • Infuse infant and early childhood mental health competencies into provider education and professional development.

These Actions, outlined in the Pathways Action Framework, were prioritized based on data and research, input from family and community providers, and the experiences of Pathways Design Team members, using a racial equity lens. The Think BabiesTM NC Policy Priorities and Pathways Actions are both intended to drive action in our state for NC’s youngest children and families. They can be used together towards this goal.

Register here for a Think Babies™ NC webinar on Tuesday, February 16th at 2:00pm to hear more about the 2021 Policy Priorities and how you can take action for babies.

The Think Babies™ NC Alliance is a partner in the national ZERO TO THREE Think Babies™ campaign and the Pritzker Children’s Initiative’s National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers. The NC Early Education Coalition serves as the backbone organization for the Think Babies™ NC Alliance.