Families from Every State to Advocate for Babies and Toddlers in Fifth Annual Strolling Thunder
A mother from Maine who was forced to fall behind on bills due to a lack of paid leave after a difficult birth. A family from Kentucky who lost their home during the COVID-19 pandemic, stretching their finances and making child care unaffordable. A father from Louisiana who was laid off without access to unemployment benefits, struggling to care for seven children at home. A single mother from Massachusetts who struggles to raise her child on a teacher’s salary.
These are just some of the stories that Members of Congress will hear firsthand as parents from across the country join the fifth annual Strolling Thunder event. ZERO TO THREE, the country’s leading early childhood development nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, has worked to connect families from every state and Washington, D.C. with their Members of Congress to share their experiences raising young children and what policies and programs could help their babies thrive. This year, family advocates and their babies will meet with their elected officials through virtual meetings, bringing them into their homes and their worlds.
ZERO TO THREE Chief Policy Officer Myra Jones-Taylor stated,
“Babies’ brains are built. When we invest in the infrastructure they need to thrive, we’re investing in our success as a nation, both now and in the future. I’m eternally inspired by our family advocates who are standing up to fight not only for their babies, but families just like them everywhere. Only when we ensure equitable opportunity for every baby to reach their full potential will we be able to build a strong foundation for our country, and that work will be led by parents and caregivers like these. We look forward to partnering with our Strolling Thunder families to help Congress Think Babies and advance policies to help infants, toddlers, and their families thrive.”
On Monday, May 17, Strolling Thunder advocates past and present, along with Members of Congress, will come together for a Think Babies virtual rally to raise awareness around issues facing babies and their families. The rally, which is open to the public, will be held from 2-2:30pm ET and can be viewed on ZERO TO THREE’s Facebook page. Families will meet with their Members of Congress on Tuesday, May 18, and are available for interview afterwards to discuss their conversations.
Since 2017, Strolling Thunder has supported constituent families and their babies in meeting with their elected officials – from state capitals to Capitol Hill – to share their experiences about raising young children and what they need to support their babies’ healthy development. The event is a cornerstone of ZERO TO THREE’s Think Babies, a national movement and a call to action for policymakers to prioritize the needs of infants, toddlers, and their families and to invest in our nation’s future. Federal priorities include:
- Increasing access to high-quality, affordable child care;
- Creating a national paid family and medical leave program;
- Increasing investments in Early Head Start so that more families living in poverty can benefit from the program’s comprehensive services;
- Increasing support for infant and early childhood mental health services;
- Providing support to transform the child welfare system; and
- Making the expanded Child Tax Credit permanent to increase families’ economic security.
Think Babies is also currently supporting advocacy organizations in 21 states to advance infant-toddler priorities at the state level, and partners in eight states hold Strolling Thunder events each year to focus on local legislative priorities.
Since its inception, Strolling Thunder has become one of the most anticipated advocacy events on Capitol Hill. The event has driven increased advocacy and political will for infant-toddler issues, drawing more than 6,500 families and advocates at events across the country and more than 700 visits with policymakers on both sides of the aisle.
During their meetings, family advocates will rely on data from the recently released State of Babies Yearbook, which bridges the gap between science and policy with national and state-by-state data on the well-being of America’s babies. The 2021 edition of the Yearbook provides an in-depth look into the experience of our nation’s babies and their families. It also explores substantial disparities and inequities in their experience when examined by race/ethnicity, income, and geographic setting. Findings include:
- 40.3 percent of babies nationwide live in poverty or low income, placing the U.S. 33rd for child poverty among 38 other nations. This includes nearly 19% of the nation’s 11.5 million babies who were living in outright poverty.
- When a family is living with low income, they’re less likely to obtain preventative care or developmental screening for their babies; more likely to live in crowded housing, unsafe neighborhoods, or move frequently; and their children are more likely to have multiple adverse early experiences.
- Nearly eight percent of infants and toddlers nationwide have already had two or more adverse experiences, defined as potentially traumatic events such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home or community; or growing up in a household with substance use problems or instability.
- Infant care is too expensive for many families, exceeding the cost of college tuition in more than half of states. Only 16 states allow child care subsidies for families with incomes over 200% of the federal poverty level, and just 4 percent of families with low or moderate income that could use help with paying for child care receive a subsidy.
- Only 11 percent of those income-eligible infants and toddlers have access to Early Head Start, where families can get comprehensive child development and family support services. The proportion served varies from 3% to 23% across states.
Families can learn more about ZERO TO THREE’s Think Babies, as well as how they can get involved to advocate on behalf of their own children and their communities, at thinkbabies.org.