After explaining our goals for meeting with communities, we showed the video "Change the First 5 Years" and invited comments. The Early Childhood Policy Platform was presented with some discussion of what it means to the community. Participants feel that implementation of the policy platform could provide more access to child care, help more unfortunate children to have a place to feel comfortable and cared for, and support more stable home environments. In addition, there would be more support for providers, less energy expended on legislative action every year so that more energy could be focused on children and the work, and more collaboration within the community.
When the discussion moved to how the community as a whole might respond to the platform, everyone agreed that most people would see the necessity of investing in young children, but there are other competing concerns in the community. Participants also felt that most community members see school readiness as beginning at 4 years of age and that there is not a complete understanding of what quality care really means.
Before leaving, we identified ways that participants can begin to build constituency in support of the Early Childhood Policy. Dr. Wells is very interested in doing a community needs assessment about how children are supported. She will be meeting with the Wellness Council with the possibility of organizing a public forum around early childhood. Cindy Cicero will work with the Southeast chapter of NMAEYC to determine possible action. Dr. Wells, Emily Lujan, Dr. Stuckey, and Natalie Munoz will speak to student groups at ENMU about the importance of early childhood experiences and how the groups might support young children in the community and provide information for parents. Dr. Stuckey will also work with community WIC personnel to see what is currently being offered to families with young children and what else is needed. (In Albuquerque, KNME works with WIC to provide workshops for parents) Emily Lujan will speak to the Clovis City Commission, but needs some support in terms of what to present, what to ask of them. Dr. Wells will work with the library to consider ways to distribute the policy platform and perhaps additional resources for parents. She will also speak with the Chamber of Commerce and KNEW to determine additional ways to educate the community about quality care, early experiences, and the policy platform. There was consensus that a booth at the spring conference for early child care providers would be an appropriate venue for distributing the policy platform and broadening the network. In addition, Dr. Edwards and her students will be trying to find ways to help those families who received letters that their child care assistance is being cut.
Hopefully, others in the community will pitch in and lend their time and support to these important actions. Think about how you might enlist Kiwanis, Rotary, the faith community, and others to share the work. We hope that you will keep us informed as to your progress and how we might support you. Your work is important and appreciated beyond what you will ever know.