Long time child advocate and former deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development, Joan Lombardi, urges us all to step up efforts to stand up for children.
It seems like every day we hear disturbing news about children facing violence in their communities, being separated from their parents during immigration raids or border actions, hearing hate speech in the news and beyond…when will it stop? This current crisis is on top of the fact that one out of five young children are growing up in poverty, too many families face food and housing insecurity, and new parents celebrate the joy of a new baby without paid leave or affordable quality child care. The United States can do better than this. Whether you work in education, health, or family services, as a practitioner, researcher or policymaker, now more than ever it is time for all of us to speak out for children.
Let’s be clear:
- We need comprehensive immigration reform to provide a pathway for people who have had to hide in the shadows, working under some of the worse conditions, to legally work and become citizens.
- Child protection and schools must always be informed ahead of time when children are at risk of being left behind if their parents are forcible apprehended.
- Law enforcement and immigration services at all levels must be trained on the serious negative impact that separating young children from their families has on the developing child.
- We need serious gun control, including a ban on assault weapons, which have been shown time and time again to shatter young lives and families within seconds.
- Immediate steps are needed to save the earth for our children. Climate change is already being felt in communities across the country; with the next generation inheriting the legacy of those who deny reality.
- Health care should be available for all, with special attention to child and family health and the prevention of adversity.
- Teaching young children to appreciate cultural diversity, tolerance and empathy should be a core part of early childhood. Racial justice and equal opportunity are core goals of education.
While the issues are complex, they are interrelated. Together they can impact the healthy development of our children and the strength of our families and communities.
This is not the time to stand on the sidelines. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It is time to volunteer in our communities, to take part in shaping policy, to become part of a new sense of hope; a time to listen and find common cause, a time to help build the best that the country can become. History tells us that there comes a special moment in any movement when nothing short of strong and sustained action can make a difference. This is that time for children and for their future. We have no time to waste.
Joan Lombardi, Ph.D. directs Early Opportunities LLC and is a strategic partner with CSSP. Joan served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development in the Administration for Children and Families, USDHHS (2009-11).