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Heart Day 2015

For kids to learn and grow, policy makers must expand educational opportunities

charlotte.linton 02/28/20

From their earliest weeks of life, babies are growing in a very special way. They’re building their ability to interact with the people in their lives.

As their still-forming brains create new neural connections at the astonishing rate of 1 million per second, babies seek out positive interactions with mothers, fathers, foster parents, professional caregivers in child care, aunties and uncles, and grandparents. Every bright smile or singsong voice elicits a response.

These babies are learning to use their growing brains to anticipate and respond to the smiling faces, baby talk, and guided movements of pat-a-cake.

When repeated consistently, all those positive interactions give babies a fundamental building block of social-emotional learning: the ability to channel their behavior so they get what they need.

Baby sleeping on carer's shoulder

Child care professionals like Lois Martin know this. Martin is president and director of the Community Day Center for Children, carrying on a legacy established by her mother, who founded the child care center in 1963 to promote quality early learning in Seattle’s Central District.

Like her mother, Martin wants all children to have the quality interactions that trigger learning, growth and play. But to build the strong relationships proven to enhance learning and social-emotional growth, child care providers need to be able to stay on the job. Good wages and workable opportunities for professional development can help them maintain their commitment to helping kids learn and grow.

By helping caregivers, policymakers can help kids. House Bill 2556 supports the development and funding of community-based training pathways to help more child care professionals meet the state’s education requirements. Under the bill, child care providers with a diverse array of experience can demonstrate their ability to foster young children’s learning. With higher numbers of qualified providers ready to work, we can increase the supply of affordable, high-quality child care for Washington’s families.

Every person dedicated to babies, toddlers, and other young children should have the tools to fulfill their commitment. It’s good for kids and families, and for Washington’s ongoing efforts to achieve racial justice. As Martin noted,

“Having a community based professional development pathway allows providers the opportunity to choose how they want to enhance their teaching skills. This is particularly important to educators of color, who often adapt to cookie-cutter policy decisions that do not take into account the systemic barriers that have often excluded us from determining our own educational trajectory. This is fundamental to our democracy; it is the foundation of racial equity.”

To help make sure our youngest children can continue to learn and grow in stable, high quality care, click here.