Maine Compass: Families and children cannot expect good child care

It’s the 51st National Week of the Young Child, April 2-8, a time to recognize the importance of early learning and nurturing care, and to celebrate the educators, leaders and politicians who bring education from infancy to young children.

One of the big lessons of COVID-19 is the sudden realization that child care isn’t just a problem for families – it’s everyone’s problem.

The dominoes started falling at the start of the pandemic and kept falling: loss of child care led to loss of work and income, then business closures, housing evictions and increased food insecurity , resulting in the failing health of our families and our economy. In response, a new affinity group of visionary leaders from key sectors (housing, food, transportation, broadband, health care, and economic and community development) has formed.

Now, the Maine Alliance for Health and Prosperity (MAHP) is working to leverage the crises produced by the pandemic to advance positive “upstream” policy changes to improve the health and economic well-being of all people. Maine people and communities.

Recognizing the powerful and central role that child care plays, the Alliance for Health and Prosperity joins other state advocates, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Governor Janet Mills and members of the Maine Legislative Assembly, to urge the adoption of policies that put child care at the center of an inclusive and resilient economy.

This week, the Maine Alliance for Health and Prosperity is asking people and communities across the state to come together to honor young children and all those who make a difference in their lives. All children need and deserve nurturing care and effective early learning experiences to help them get a good start in life. Their working parents depend on a stable and strong health care and education system, and Maine employers rely on their employees’ access to child care.

Let’s use the Week of the Young Child to highlight the importance of childcare and early learning alongside the many other aspects of children’s lives that are important to their well-being, from housing to food, to health care and more.

Young children need us, the adults in their lives and leaders across the state, to recognize all aspects of health that influence their development. These are often called Social determinants of healthconditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

These powerful determinants include economic stability, access and quality of education, access and quality of health care, safe neighborhoods and the built environment, and supportive policies – all things that can have a positive or negative impact on children and families.

As nonprofit leaders in the healthcare, economic development, food security and philanthropy sectors who are actively involved with MAHP, we recognize that many efforts to support children and families are siloed. , due to imaginary and real boundaries. The mindset in our society is often that child care is a stand-alone issue. Consider the whole child, whole family and whole community as interconnected to housing, health care, transportation, racism and discrimination, income, nutritious food and air and clean water will enable more Mainers to lead healthy and prosperous lives.

Federal, state and local policies impact every community, family and child and we must come together to emphasize the importance of aligning, connecting and implementing programs and policies that work together to achieve our goals. common. Maine’s kids can’t wait.

Let’s celebrate the Week of the Young Child by focusing on meeting all the needs of our youngest and most vulnerable residents. They need us to work together. They need us to see them in their full potential, and we need to see our own collective potential to better serve the young children of Maine, and likewise, the health and prosperity of all Maine residents.

Keith Bisson is president of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. Barbara Crowley, MD, is a pediatrician. Morgan Hynd is director of the Bingham program. Kristen Miale is president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank. Tara Williams is executive director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. Shawn Yardley is CEO of Community Concepts.

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