Baby Facts Plus Messaging Toolkit = Baby Policy Story
Working families are the key to our nation’s prosperity now and in the future, as they prepare the next generation of workers.
As infant-toddler advocates, we always seem to be searching for the best way to tell the story of what babies, toddlers, and their families need policymakers to do. How do we describe the need? What statistics are useful? What is our main message? What are the solutions? What’s the take away? ZERO TO THREE has two recent products, State Baby Facts and the Infant and Toddler Messaging Guide, that can help you weave these elements together and tell the story—if you take the time to craft your message based on your own knowledge of what works in your community.
The first step in telling your story is to identify your policy topic. As an example, we’ll use the topic of child care, as it is enjoying a recent resurgence of attention, as the media plays up work and family issues and states grapple with the implementation of the new Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) law.
The next step is to begin to build your case. Why is change needed? The newest version of Baby Facts provides us with some compelling stats on child care: 62% of mothers with infants are in the workforce; the cost of infant child care takes a big bite out of paychecks (37% of a single mother’s wages); one in seven families report having employment affected by child care issues. Add to these facts what we know about the quality of infant-toddler care (that it is often of poor to middling quality) and that one in four young children are at moderate to high risk for developmental delays, and we have begun to set the stage for why we need a policy solution to the need for high quality child care.
That solution usually is increased support for early care and learning programs such as the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). We know CCDBG is an important source of support for working families with very young children, because nationally a little more than a fourth of children receiving subsidies are infants or toddlers. But how do you show that CCDBG isn’t sufficiently meeting the need already and that we need an increase in CCDBG funding? Because Baby Facts must cover a broad range of topics and indicators related to the overall well-being of infants and toddlers, we don’t dive deep into specific issues. So we look to our sister organizations who also work on these issues. From the Center for Law and Social Policy, we know that CCDBG has lost the capacity to serve 315,000 children over the past 10 years (they include data for individual states). Recent changes to CCDBG requirements will cost states money to implement—money that will have to come from subsidies if Congress and/or the states don’t step up with funding. From the National Women’s Law Center and CLASP, we also know just how far your state has to go to meet these new requirements. For additional resources from our partner organizations, be sure to download the Baby Facts toolkit.
So, we’ve assembled our data and the stage is set. How do we now package our story so that policymakers understand the need to act and feel compelled to do so—and know what they should do? The Infant-Toddler Messaging Guide, created by Advocacy & Communications Solutions, LLC (ACS) with ZERO TO THREE, offers tips for successful messaging specifically for infant-toddler advocates, along with examples from a national scan of how the early childhood community has been talking about our issues. Some important ones: present the issue, problem, and the solution; highlight outcomes for children and the broader effect on society; use your data to back up claims, but be strategic and don’t overwhelm with stats; embed a value or belief; use concrete examples; and paint a believable picture—a narrative for your entire community. There’s a handy checklist on page 18 to see if you’ve gone astray.
Now, let’s put this knowledge – our statistics - and knowhow – our messaging savvy - together for a child care pitch. For the most part, we’ve used national data, but check Baby Facts and other sources we’ve noted for your state for additional context.
Working families are the key to our nation’s prosperity now and in the future, as they prepare the next generation of workers. For families with young children, child care is the critical link that enables them to work and be productive. It also affects their children’s learning, ability to build relationships, and their start toward reaching their potential. More than three of every five mothers with infants are in the labor force. In our community, agencies that help parents find care say that more than half of all requests they receive are for infant or toddler care. Yet, care for babies is scarce, and the cost can eat up more than a third of a single mother’s paycheck in our state.
As a nation, we invest in families’ work efforts through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, or CCDBG. But this key cog in our productivity machinery has lost ground and serves 315,000 fewer children than it did a decade ago. Recently Congress took some big steps toward improving the safety and quality of care for children, but our state has a ways to go if we are to do more monitoring and background checks as required. Our state has tried to increase quality care for babies by offering higher reimbursements to providers who provide high quality care for infants and toddlers. Increasing funding for CCDBG would help states like ours ensure that parents can continue earning and their children’s development can flourish.
ACS advises that the context in your state and community should shape your ultimate message. Tying your issue to areas of emphasis in your community can grab immediate interest. Knowing your audience can help avoid pitfalls such early childhood “insider talk” to try and sway those with no experience in the area. In other words, keep your radar on to learn how others across the nation are telling the story of babies and public policy, but stay grounded in how best to tell that story at home!
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It is up to advocates to make sure that early childhood policy is informed not just by research, but by demographics and a sense of equity.