State advocates joined ZERO TO THREE (ZTT), CLASP, and the Prenatal-to-Three Impact Center to discuss policy opportunities and strategies for engaging on family economic security issues impacting the country’s youngest children and their families — and the types of technical assistance available to support advocacy efforts.
The huddle highlighted early childhood state allies from Arkansas and New Mexico who are leaning into promoting policies that advance equity and family economic security. It was clear that early childhood advocates can play an important role is addressing these issues. Early childhood advocates bring the child development perspective to coalitions focused on moving family economic security policies, including:
- Cash assistance: both direct cash payments (TANF) and subsidies for purchasing food, health care, child care, and housing. This also includes paid family and medical leave policies that offer wage replacement benefits.
- Tax credits: for raising children, for dependent care expenses, on earned income, and in some states professional development for the child care workforce.
Advocates left with several key take-aways:
- Think “whole child” and “whole family.” Infants are wholly dependent on their caregivers, so the family must be part of the policy solution.
- Acknowledge the tension of meeting immediate needs and the strategic, long term goals of changing systems and structures. Opportunities exist for advocates to push states to simplify eligibility processes and remove administrative burdens that hinder economic security. Advocates have to focus on both these near-term solutions and keep working toward systemic changes that could prevent the need for services in the first place.
- Income, and income stability, impacts child outcomes. Families need broad-based supports – both income supports, and tax deductions or credits – which requires advocates to focus on tax revenue/budget policies. Tax and budget advocacy can also reduce disparities in child outcomes based on race when advocates use an equity lens in how these policies are implemented. This includes working with a diverse group of partners who center racial equity in their policy development and advocacy strategy.
- Coalition tents must be broad and built on solid, long-term relationships to outlast election and budget cycles. Most early childhood advocates do not lead on these issues. They are active coalition partners. Advocates can share power with family and community groups to develop messaging that centers lived experiences.
Lots of helpful resources were also shared, including:
From the Prenatal-to-Three Impact Center:
- Pathways to Prosperity ZTT and CLASP convened state leaders and national experts in October to discuss strategies to promote family economic security. Themes from the convening are captured in this report.
- Think Babies Messaging Guide on Family Economic Security
- State of Babies Yearbook– The 2022 version will be coming out later this spring.
From Arkansas Advocates for Children:
- Social media toolkit to support investing funds for families.
From Voices for New Mexico’s Children:
From the National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers: