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ZERO TO THREE in My Sights
Jennifer Boss, Director, National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning
I had ZERO TO THREE in my sights in 1994. I was a young clinical social worker fresh from my master’s program starting a new fellowship at the Yale University Child Study Center, working with families and learning about childhood mental health. I joined the Young Child Team which focused on clinical work with children under 5 years old. One day as we were grappling with some concerns about a little girl, my team leader gave us a few copies of the ZERO TO THREE Journal and the DC: –3, which we started referencing regularly. That was my gateway to the infant mental health world. I was hooked. I thought to myself, “I want to make a positive difference in the lives of families with infants and toddlers, and I want to work at ZERO TO THREE one day”. As my fellowship was coming to a close and I was trying to figure out what to do next, I pulled out one of my journals (by now I had my own subscription) and found a telephone number on the inside cover and called. I don’t know who answered, but I inquired about job openings. The person sounded surprised by my question and very politely told me there were no job openings, but she’d be happy to receive my resume if I wanted to send it. I did.
Fast forward through my burgeoning professional career as a young social worker, working in the child welfare system (adoptions and foster care) and eventually Early Head Start. During this time, I also completed a 2-year program in infant and early childhood mental health at the Washington School of Psychiatry and engaged in more direct clinical work with parents and their babies as part of my practicum. All throughout, ZERO TO THREE stayed on my mind. I kept reading the journal and started paying attention to the other, new materials coming out of the organization. I could tell things were happening over there. I still wanted in. And then suddenly, one day, I was.
I was working in an Early Head Start program at the Reginal Lourie Center in Maryland (the Lourie Center was the other place I had in my sights in 1994). I was a child development specialist and home visitor, working with families and children and supervising new home visitors. I remember it was a Friday because that was the day I typically worked on reports and other paperwork. By this time my colleagues and I were all familiar with the Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC) at ZERO TO THREE. It was still a fairly new center, but they were doing some great work. Someone in my office must have said that they were hiring because I remember going to the website and pulling up the notice about 13 positions with the EHS NRC. They were hiring senior early childhood associates who would be co-located in the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) regional offices, working with Head Start federal staff to provide training and technical assistance on Early Head Start services and early childhood development. Perfect! It was 1999, just a short 5 years after I sent my resume to the nice lady who answered my call. I applied and interviewed. I was in.
It’s now been 20 years. Looking back, I think I was drawn to this place because of the amazing work, the cutting-edge information, the mission, and the dedication to children and families. I stayed because of those things and the incredibly talented people who work here. The care and devotion that the ZERO TO THREE staff pour into this place inspires me. The passion, time and energy that the leadership and the board give to this place astounds me. ZERO TO THREE has grown and changed over course of my 20 years, yet one of the constants for me is the feeling of being part of something good. Something that is rooted in mission, that revolves around making a positive difference in the lives of families and their children. That’s the something that makes ZERO TO THREE a special place. I saw it in 1994, and I still see it today.