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Strolling Thunder Is Bringing the Voices of Families Directly to Policymakers
Policy and funding decisions made at the federal level have a huge impact on the lives of babies and their families, but we know that it’s not the whole story.
By Jennifer Jennings-Shaffer, Sr. Campaign Manager
On May 8, families from all 50 states and the District of Columbia joined ZERO TO THREE in D.C. for the second annual Strolling ThunderTM event to tell Congress why they need to Think Babies and Act!TM. Many of you helped us to recruit families to participate, and your efforts contributed to making the day a tremendous success. In total, families and advocates visited more than 160 Congressional offices, including the offices of every single U.S. Senator, to share their stories and talk about programs and services important to babies, including child care, paid family leave, Early Head Start, health care, food and nutrition programs, infant and early childhood mental health, and early intervention services.
Policy and funding decisions made at the federal level have a huge impact on the lives of babies and their families, but we know that it’s not the whole story. Decisions made at the state level are a critical piece of the puzzle. That’s why ZERO TO THREE has expanded the Think BabiesTM campaign to six states in 2018. ZERO TO THREE is partnering with leading children’s advocacy organizations in Colorado, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington. The Think BabiesTM state partners have hit the ground running with four in-state Strolling ThunderTM events in May and two more in June and July. In addition, ZERO TO THREE’s Western Office will be holding Strolling Thunder California in Los Angeles. These in-state Strolling ThunderTM events are raising the profile of infants and toddlers in state policy conversations, building public awareness about the importance of children’s earliest years, and generating excitement and momentum to make real change for families of young children.
State Think BabiesTM Events:
In Colorado, Clayton Early Learning and Colorado Children’s Campaign held a rally followed by a giant play date with legislators and families on the capitol lawn on May 8. The event had a festive air with activities that included baby yoga, face painting, and kid-friendly performances.
In Georgia, Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) took a different approach to their event by bringing together families from the Atlanta metro area with policymakers on May 12 for a day of roundtable discussions that gave families an opportunity not only to share their stories but to also connect with and hear the experiences of other families of young children.
In Rhode Island, Rhode Island Kids Count held a rally and stroll around the capitol on May 16. They created a play area inside the capitol building with toys and activities, giving families the opportunity to meet with their legislators in a fun and kid-centered setting.
In New Jersey, Advocates for Children of New Jersey held a rally and stroll around the capitol on May 21. They also set up an outdoor play date on the capitol lawn with fun family activities including a photo booth and kid-friendly performances.
In North Carolina, Child Care Services Association, in partnership with NC Early Education Coalition, held a rally and stroll followed by opportunities for families to meet with their legislators on June 7.
In California, the ZERO TO THREE Western Office, in collaboration with local partners, will bring together families from across Los Angeles county on June 15 for a rally with many family-friendly activities and an opportunity to meet with local policymakers.
In Washington, Children’s Alliance will hold a rally and play date with families and policymakers on July 27.
While Strolling ThunderTM looks a little different state to state, the common thread is that these events are bringing families of babies and toddlers together with policymakers to let them know that it’s time to Think BabiesTM. We are hearing from families about how much it means to them to have the opportunity to engage in advocacy on behalf of their children in a setting that is supportive and mindful of the realities of being a parent of very young children. We are seeing the impact that hearing the stories of real families has on policymakers. And perhaps most exciting, we are feeling the energy of the community of families, service providers, advocates, community leaders, and policymakers who are ready to seize this moment to move the needle for babies and their families.