WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Hundreds of parents, babies and advocates representing every state and the District of Columbia gathered today on Capitol Hill to call on Congress to make every baby a national priority through policies that give infants and toddlers a strong start in life, such as paid leave and quality, affordable child care. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) addressed the families in the shadow of the Capitol in support of policies that support babies’ healthy development.

Families met with more than 150 lawmakers to share their stories and ask their Congressional delegation to Think Babies and Act™ as part of the third annual Strolling Thunder, organized by nonpartisan early childhood development nonprofit ZERO TO THREE.

“As parents, we must advocate, communicate and collaborate with all agencies serving and caring for our babies,” said Anna Akins, a Strolling Thunder parent from Louisiana. “Our babies’ lives are depending on our voices. Let us continue to speak up and out about the importance of all things that help our babies thrive.”

According to ZERO TO THREE’s recently released State of Babies Yearbook: 2019, the state where a baby is born makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life. Yearbook data show that babies in many states face persistent hardships—such as rising child care costs and lack of comprehensive paid family and medical leave—that undermine their ability to grow and thrive.

“As a former member of the ‘Stroller Brigade,’ it is always a joy to join ZERO TO THREE for Strolling Thunder: a powerful force for progress for America’s families,” said Speaker Pelosi. “As I always say, the three most important issues facing Congress are the children, the children, the children. Our House Democratic Majority is proud to stand with ZERO TO THREE to drive progress for children, protecting their health, their education, the economic security of their families, a safe and clean environment in which they can thrive and advancing a world of peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.”

“It’s so great to see so many parents—and so many kids—here at our nation’s Capitol, speaking up and encouraging Congress to Think Babies,” said Sen. Murray. “Parents like you, and grandparents like me, still want to give the next generation a brighter future. And that still means fighting for funding for early childhood development and education programs that help children get started on the right foot.”

“The biggest economic challenge of our time is that Americans are in jobs that do not pay enough to live on,” said Rep. DeLauro. “And with skyrocketing costs like child care, families are having to sit at their kitchen table—with tears in their eyes and a pit in their stomach—and make impossible decisions. The grocery bill or the light bill. The retirement fund or the college fund. Quality child care or not. It is terrible. But we are taking clear steps in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee to help families, including recommending a historic investment in our children: $4 billion more for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start and Preschool Development Grants. It is the largest, single-year increase for early childhood education and child care programs, ever.”

“As a mother, a grandmother and someone who has employed many new moms and dads, I know that having a baby is both joyous, and challenging,” said Rep. Wagner. “All of us here know that babies are a blessing and we know how much they change your life.”

“I know I don’t have to tell any of you just how important access to high quality, early education and intervention is to our children’s future,” said Rep. Cunningham. “I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure that our children have access to quality and affordable health care, child care and early education programs. For the future of my child – and yours.”

The science is clear. Our brains grow faster in the first few years than any later point in life, forming more than one million new neural connections every second. When babies have nurturing relationships, early learning experiences and good nutrition, those neural connections are stimulated and strengthened, laying a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. When babies don’t get what their growing brains need to thrive, they don’t develop as they should. This leads to life-long developmental, educational, social and health challenges.

“Families are struggling every day, in every state, and we are urging our leaders to act,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer of ZERO TO THREE. “Most of our investments in early childhood start too late, at age 4 or older. By that time, the most important years of brain development have passed. Today’s babies become tomorrow’s workers, parents and leaders. Now is the time for policymakers on both sides of the aisle to make every baby a priority through policies built on the science of brain development and budgets that put babies and families first.”

To ensure a brighter future for all babies, ZERO TO THREE is working with Congress to prioritize the needs of babies, toddlers and their families and invest in our future. The organization’s policy agenda includes establishing a comprehensive national paid leave program that provides adequate time off to care for newborns or newly adopted children, and allows families to take leave if their children or another family member is experiencing a serious illness; expanding access to quality, affordable child care by increasing investments in our country’s child care system now, while working toward a comprehensive, long-term solution for working families; as well as expanding investments in programs that support babies’ healthy development, such as Early Head Start and infant and early childhood mental health.

To learn more, visit thinkbabies.org/strollingthunder.

To see how babies and toddlers in your state are faring, visit stateofbabies.org.


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About ZERO TO THREE
ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a ZERO TO THREE member, please visit zerotothree.org,facebook.com/zerotothree or follow @zerotothree on Twitter.

About Think Babies
ZERO TO THREE created the Think Babies campaign to make the potential of every baby a national priority. When we Think Babies and invest in infants, toddlers and their families, we ensure a strong future for us all. Learn more at thinkbabies.org or follow @zerotothree on Twitter.

Madeline Daniels Benderev
ZERO TO THREE
202-857-2994
mbenderev@zerotothree.org