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The three-headed hydra of apathy, envy and fear is not what we call kid-friendly.

Early childhood is destiny, so best to have a State Department of Early Childhood Education. Heroes know this. Hydras don’t.

“HEROES VS HYDRAS” SERIES

This fifteen-part series introduces you to the heroic partners you and your community will require to survive and thrive during pandemics and economic disruptions. The articles also provide tips on avoiding the three-headed hydras of apathy, envy and fear, those people in positions of power who are fighting to keep a broken status quo.

Since public education falls into three categories — early childhood, K–12 and higher ed — it’s vital to have an engine devoted to the first years that matter most.

Your State Department of Early Childhood Education

The success of your child, and all those in your community, may depend on one person sitting at a desk in the state capital. I truly hope that you’re living in a county served by a State Department of Early Childhood Education and Care, with its offices right next to the State Departments of Public Health, Education, Higher Education and Child Welfare. I also hope this state agency is run by a hero with the fierce intelligence of Queen of the North Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.

Since one of the vital family services for surviving and thriving is early childhood learning programs, this will make your work ensuring vital services for all county residents much easier. Especially those families with young children.

The thousands of academic articles on the benefits of early childhood learning programs make a strong argument for a state-level department, one that can support each county in setting up a seamless system of quality early childhood programs.

Three systems of education should work seamlessly together: one for children before they enter kindergarten, another for K–12 grades, and a third for post-high school that should include programs for apprenticeships, vocational education and higher education.

Why invest in early childhood learning?

If you review the latest literature on education, you will see that investing in our youngest children is vital if we are to build a foundation for a child’s future: gaining the skills needed to learn critical thinking, acquiring skills to gain a livelihood and understanding that learning is lifelong, and helping him or her adapt to new phases. But, if we look closely at how lifelong learning should begin, we see that early childhood education is fragmented and lacking in coordination and alignment with later systems of learning.

If you are lucky enough to have a State Early Childhood Education and Care Department, run by well-informed and passionate leaders, you will have an agency that is: rich in research that is easily shared; monitoring systems to ensure the quality of programs, including licensed family day care homes, preschool programs run by private operators and school districts; and any other program that might be deemed a resource for early childhood development.

A department focused on early childhood could work to advocate for universal child development programs, ensuring every parent who seeks such a program can access it. And, such programs can start very early for kids — especially important for those young humans from infancy to age three.

A vital program for every parent and child. Everywhere.

Many children’s advocates strongly believe a state should have a vision of accessible and quality programs for every parent and should work with leaders in county and city government to be in alignment on funding and supporting such learning for our most vulnerable residents.

With a tech-empowered State Early Childhood Education and Care Department, Education and Higher Education, a state can collect and share data to track a child’s progress through each of the three main phases of learning.

One vital role for the department of State Early Childhood Education and Care Department could be that of advocate for universal access to home visiting programs, which provide assistance to parents, and have been shown to be an important prevention strategy for child maltreatment.

For any local initiative focused on surviving and thriving, with one key sector focused on early childhood education, a State Early Childhood Education and Care Department is an entity to connect with. And, if your state does not yet have such a department, we strongly recommend advocating for one. (Yes, the work never ends.)

Who do I need to meet with — and what can they do for my county?

Finding the right department that oversees early childhood learning programs will require some web surfing. From there, you scan the staff to see who sounds like the right first contact. The higher up the food chain the better, but those highest in government agencies tend to be the hardest to reach. When in doubt, email all staff listed with a nice overview of what you are working and what you seek to accomplish.

Get ready to surprise those when you share that you are working to build a countywide system of early childhood development programs. The folks in most state departments are used to hearing about proposals for small projects, not systemwide reform. You will be seen as a visionary hero by the heroes running your state department of early childhood. Then again, if the agency is run by three-headed hydras, they won’t know what to do with you. But we know what to do as you ask for support to create a countywide system of accessible early childhood learning programs. Persevere as though the quality of all our children’s lives depended on it. It does.

The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Any questions? The future awaits: www.tenvitalservices.org

Written by

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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