Family Voices: Gratitude for Family Advocates who Fuel Policy  Advancements

February 18, 2019

Family advocates speak to their lawmakers in 2018

Engaging families meaningfully in child care advocacy has been central to Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA)’s mission for over a decade. The voices of families as they share their child care experiences are critically important to contextualizing the child care system challenges that we face nationwide. I have had the privilege of personally getting to know many of the family advocates that have partnered with CCAoA over the years. This year’s call for family advocate applicants has closed and notifications of acceptance have been sent to selected advocates. I adore being witness to the excitement as I see a flood of social media posts and personal notes from family advocates as they share proudly that they have been selected to join us for this year’s Child Care Works Summit.

As I think about families readying themselves to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet and network with other advocates and share their voices on Capitol Hill, I can’t help but reflect on what their emboldened, passionately-fueled efforts really mean for them and for future of the child care system landscape.  

Our 2019 Advocates

Family advocate at Symposium 2016This year’s cadre of child care family advocates include returning seasoned advocates who have dedicated countless hours in their home state to raise awareness and make meaningful policy advances. It’s not easy, particularly for those whose purpose to advocate for quality child care was catalyzed by the serious injury or death of their own child or family member—they painfully relive their personal child care tragedy each and every time they share their story. But they do it anyway…for the noble cause of improving standards, regulations and policies so that others may not endure a similar hardship. Their strength and resilience is nothing short of remarkable and I, for one, feel indebted to them for the meaningful impact of their efforts which will have positive ripple effects for years to come.   

Then there are the first-timers selected to join this year’s elite group of 2019 Child Care Works Summit family advocates. Each one was willing to be vulnerable and share their compelling stories and submit them via online application submission. For some, their trip to Washington, D.C. will be the first time they’ve ever flown on an airplane. First-timers may not know anyone personally upon arrival in D.C., except for the voices of fellow advocates and CCAoA staff they’ve heard on preparatory calls and webinars leading up to the summit. They likely have never spoken to their own member of Congress but will get the chance to do so when they participate in meetings on Capitol Hill, which can be a daunting, anxiety provoking experience. When they join the summit, they will be embarking on an experience of a lifetime and are sure to gain invaluable advocacy training and hands-on experience, inspire and be deeply inspired by fellow advocates, and initiate new lifelong friendships with other family advocates.

To families:

I applaud you for the beautiful, impactful way you share your own story and in the way that only you can do. Thank you for the sacrifices you have and will make to advance quality, affordable, safe child care for all. We are fortunate that you’ve entrusted us with the respectful care and keeping of your stories. We are honored that you have chosen to partner with us to share your experiences through a variety of mediums. Thank you!

To those who provide support for family advocates:

Whether it be through the provision of resources for policy advocacy, creating inroads and connections for families to pursue their call to advocacy, lending a listening ear and thought partnership, or through the provision of financial support…thank you! In whatever capacity you support family advocates, your partnership is important to building and sustaining the efforts of families who are making step-by-step advancements not only in their own state but also in national policy. We have witnessed mounting support for policies and programs that are critical to families: the transformation and reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in 2014, the update and reauthorizations of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, and enhancements to the federal child tax credit policy effective in 2018, to name a few. It takes many different voices to affect change but active involvement of families who bear their experiences as detailed examples that frame why change is always needed.      

Families pose outside their Senator's officeThe stories imparted by child care family advocates are varied and underscore the dire need for continued focus on fortifying the minimum acceptable quality standards for all early childhood programs, igniting innovation in the field and reaching aspirational standards. Advocacy by families on quality, affordable child care has sparked interrelated conversations on topics now gaining traction like child care workforce development and emergency preparedness. The reach of family advocates has extended beyond the child care system and into other areas also important to the wellbeing of families such as the tax code for our country. 

If reading this has sparked you to take action, there are several things you can do right now: 

  • Tell Your Story - Submit your experience or perspective on child care and early learning for our Family Voices Series.
  • Join the Movement - Sign up for action alerts from  Child Care Works, which include ways to communicate easily with members of Congress on issues affecting early childhood care and learning.

Welcome to our Family Voices series. These stories, written by families like you, will elevate the contemporary triumphs, challenges, and opportunities present in their local child care settings and the child care system as a whole. So, grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea to enjoy while you immerse yourself in the real-world child care experiences of families from across the nation.

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Topics: Family & Community Engagement, Policy & Advocacy, Family Stories

Kim Engelman

Written by Kim Engelman

Dr. Kim Engelman was selected to join Child Care Aware® of America as a family advocate for the first time in 2011, after she played a central family advocate role in the introduction and passage of “Lexie’s Law”, a transformative Kansas State child care law that was enacted in 2010. In 2015, Dr. Engelman joined Child Care Aware® of America’s staff team where she uses her expertise and knowledge from her career in academic medicine to advance Child Care Aware® of America’s family and community engagement efforts.