First Women, Now Parents and Babies, to March on Washington for Better Care

It’s like the biggest play group ever, but political. On Tuesday, May 2, parents and babies from every state are converging on Capitol Hill and urging Congress to “Think Babies.”

Whenever there is a new initiative for babies, you can be sure there is a lot of woman power behind it. Man power, too, to be sure. But let’s face it: women still change more diapers, read more stories, and attend to more preschool dramas than men.

There is no doubt that women and entire communities benefit when babies are well taken care of. So this should be an important march, with a powerful feminist message: babies matter. Think Babies. 

From ZERO TO THREE, the organizing leading families in advocating for policies that support the littlest humans:

This Strolling Thunder event, organized by ZERO TO THREE, aims to increase legislators’ recognition about:

1. The importance of brain development in the first few years of life;
 2. How a child learns and grows;
 3. How investments in babies and toddlers are critical to our nation’s future; and
 4. Why Congress must Think Babies when it acts on legislation.
 “The greatest opportunity to influence a child’s life happens between the ages of 0 to 3, when brains grow faster than at any other point later in life,” said Matthew Melmed, executive director of ZERO TO THREE, a national nonprofit organization that works to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. “When families have the support they need to nourish the critical first few months and years of development with quality interactions and connections, we can stave off challenges down the road,” he added.

Parents will deliver that message directly when they stroll around the Capitol and visit with their Senators and Representatives. The goal of the meetings is to emphasize why making young children’s potential a national priority benefits the country, and impacts everything from economic development to military readiness.

Investments in programs and policies that support early brain development yield significant return on investment in the long run. Research shows that quality early childhood programs that begin at birth can deliver a 13 percent per year return on investment through more years of education, more employment, and better adult health.

But families without the social and economic resources to provide their babies and toddlers with positive, nurturing experiences are at a disadvantage. Nearly half of America’s babies live in or near poverty, which can undermine brain development. Giving all babies a strong start in life increases graduation rates, improves the quality of the workforce, improves health, and reduces crime.

To create that strong start, ZERO TO THREE is calling on Congress to focus on three key areas:

***Support paid family leave policies and options, so all parents have the time to build strong early relationships with their children without sacrificing their financial stability.
***Increase access to quality, affordable child care for all working families that provides babies and toddlers with close relationships with caring adults and strong early learning experiences.
***Build up mental health supports in primary pediatric care and early childhood programs to effectively support child development from day one.
 
The mothers, fathers, and caregivers taking part in Strolling Thunder represent a wide swath of Americans. They come from some of the country’s biggest cities and small rural towns. Their broad racial, ethnic, and economic diversity illustrates the widespread public demand for further federal support in early childhood programs.

“To help all children grow up as healthy as possible, we must give families and babies the support they need from the start,” said Kristin Schubert, managing director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is supporting the Think Babies campaign. “Healthy physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development throughout childhood is a fundamental part of building a national Culture of Health.”

Following Strolling Thunder, ZERO TO THREE will continue to educate the public and policymakers on the need for federal improvements in a wide range of supportive policies, including by mobilizing advocates across the nation.
Kiersten Marek

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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