BUILDing Strong Foundations

What We're Reading - February 1

2/2/2018 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: Build Initiative

Racial Equity

At the time they enter kindergarten, many young children face gaps that exist - by income, race/ethnicity, language, and culture - in child outcomes and opportunities, as well as in system capacity and response. Closing these gaps is fundamental to the success of each child and of the United States as a nation. BUILD supports state leaders through tailored technical assistance, capacity building, and peer learning opportunities to support them in doing so.

In this book, the authors consider “professionalizing the field” through an equity lens. Washington and Gadson describe four Guiding Principles for leading change: the need to Respect  the field’s diversity,  to seek Equity, and to acknowledge the field’s Strengths while doing the hard work to enhance Competence. This book:

  • Defines each Guiding Principle and examines how it impacts individual practitioners, early childhood programs, public policies, and professional systems.
  • Identifies potential asymmetrical conflicts related to the Principles to demonstrate the imbalances that exist.
  • Presents a diversity of voices from the field of early care and education.
  • Provides a summary with a bottom-line analysis focused on achieving balance.
  • Offers strategies for “facing Goliath” designed to accelerate a new reality for the field.
  • Includes questions for reflection to help readers relate each Principle to their own circumstances.

Sherri Killins Stewart, BUILD Initiative Director of Systems Alignment and Integration, contributed work examples to this book.

Shortly after giving birth to her son in August 2017, 27-year-old activist and Black Lives Matter icon Erica Garner suffered her first heart attack. Garner, who entered the public eye in 2014 after a police officer choked her father to death, had an enlarged heart. The stress of pregnancy—and perhaps the strain of her father’s death—further weakened it. Four months later, she suffered another heart attack. This one put her into a coma from which she never awoke. On December 30, 2017, she died.

Systems Building

BUILD’s work with states places special emphasis on equity, quality and the connections between systems. To achieve these ends, BUILD helps state leaders coordinate policies, programs and services; create infrastructure; improve integration and achieve scale in four areas: early learning, family support and parenting programs, services for children with special needs, and children’s health, mental health and nutrition. No one system can support the whole child and his or her family. Only together can the many systems’ leaders reshape the interdependent but very different factors that shape child well-being. And, only collective leadership that includes family and community voice and that represents the racial and ethnic diversity of the young child population can create an early childhood system that meets the needs of its intended beneficiaries to ensure that all children, from birth to age five, are safe, healthy, eager to learn, and ready to succeed in school and in life.

Close your eyes and think about why you chose to serve at a nonprofit or a philanthropic institution. Think about the hope you had for communities, the programs you wanted to develop, the lives you desired to impact, and the fulfillment you envisioned feeling when you went home at night, believing you’d made the world a better place through your efforts to eradicate poverty.

Early Learning

Children must reach critical health and well-being benchmarks in order to thrive, be ready for kindergarten, and read at grade level by third grade. BUILD knows that families and communities are the primary source of this foundational support for children. We help state leaders create safe, healthy, nurturing early learning experiences for all children – to better support families and communities. This “whole-systems” approach includes an emphasis on: primary and preventive health care, early intervention, and quality early care and education. That is why  BUILD Initiative assists states in focusing on standards and assessment, including kindergarten entry assessmentearly care and education, with a focus on infant/toddler and pre-K services, programs and policies; and family, friend and neighbor care

I have learned from women who have made this educational journey. Their overwhelming messages revolve around actualization, transformation, and profound appreciation. For many, their perception of themselves as smart, strong, capable women was affirmed. Their understanding of early childhood education and the import of their life’s work was transformed. And finally, for many, there had been this unachievable dream to earn a college degree. With the help of this comprehensive scholarship and a counselor who believed in them, they achieved their dream, graduating debt-free and often exceeding what they thought was possible.

Cross-Cutting Issues

And yet, due to chronic underfunding and the absence of appropriate leadership in recent years (the position of Census Bureau director is still unfilled), the 2020 Census may be in danger of failing to meet its mandates. Budget shortfalls have restricted efforts to conduct outreach and testing, potentially weakening the effectiveness of the census when it is finally fielded. And amid growing public uncertainty over how to distinguish accurate information and reliable research from fiction, some Americans may have lost sight of the fact that our nation is utterly dependent on good data—and, by extension, the institutions that produce it. Furthermore, recent correspondence between federal agencies and Congress suggests that a new question regarding citizenship is under consideration. Such last-minute and untested changes that risk lowering response rates are ill-advised.

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