Policy Resource

Blogging NTI: Saturday’s Question of the Day

Dec 21, 2011

Our NTI Policy Question of the Day for Saturday invited our attendees to play off a favorite Sunday morning ritual in Washington, watching the Chris Matthews Show.

At the end of the show, Matthews always asks his panel of reporters and pundits to “Tell me something I don’t know” and provide an insight to the future. We asked folks who stopped by the Policy Booth to play the pundit and tell us something they learned at NTI or something going on back home in their states or communities that makes them optimistic about the future of infants and toddlers.

An example of some positive news from back home came from an Early Childhood Manager and Mental Health Specialist from Chapel Hill, NC, who shared that North Carolina is starting an “Infant/Young Child Mental Health Association!!” Infant Mental Health Associations help promote greater attention to the importance of, and strategies for, supporting the social and emotional development of young children–the mortar to the bricks of cognitive development.

Another respondent arrived at the Policy Booth fresh from a session called “Birthed in Chains—The Worst Way to Start Off in Life”, which focused on the dehumanizing practice of shackling women in prison as they give birth. Filled with outrage, this director of a family child care program asked if she could share her thoughts on this practice: “I was surprised to learn that women are shackled during childbirth of their babies—and how only 10 states prohibit shackling and New Jersey still shackles! I live in Jersey City.” The session sought to give attendees information on how to get involved in policy and advocacy and build bridges between the work in early childhood on the one hand and reproductive justice and prison reform on the other.

Others underscored the dual messages threaded through the conference about the vulnerability of very young children to negative early experiences and the opportunity for intervening to put them on a more positive track. One respondent summed it up: “I am optimistic that we have the science that demonstrates the devastating impact of early adversity AND we have the science documenting how and when we can intervene to actually help children heal and recover. It is a matter of having the zeal to get the word out and to act on it every day in our community.”

Bringing the infant-toddler community together, presenting solid and persuasive science, and energizing them to put the science into practice is the essence of NTI. Our challenge is indeed to carry the zeal and energy we all feel when gathered together, listening to compelling research, back home to our communities and into our advocacy where meeting the challenges requires patience and persistence as well as passion.

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