Early childhood parent leaders to continue collective advocacy

For the past year, we have mobilized diverse parents of young children across New York State and equipped them with the tools to influence policymakers and advocate for systemic changes supporting families and young children through EdTrust-NY and Raising NY’s Early Childhood Policy and Advocacy Lab.

Eleven parent leaders — each with a child under the age of five — participated in the inaugural Lab, all of whom have experienced a diverse set of challenges in accessing the services they need for their families — from affordable, high-quality child care to Early Intervention services to health and developmental services.

Parent leaders participated in monthly sessions to further educate them on policies related to child care, maternal and infant health and poverty reduction. Additionally, the sessions helped parents develop their skills in communications, community-based advocacy, and power mapping to identify key policymakers in early childhood systems. Guest speakers, including members of state agencies, the New York State Legislature, the NYC City Council, and those from influential early childhood community-based and nonprofit organizations, brought diverse perspectives to each session.

The sessions empowered parent leaders to uplift their lived experiences by providing public testimonies at the state and city level, writing first-person accounts as blog posts, meeting with elected officials, and participating in the following rallies:

Rosario Jimenez Ramirez, a Lab participant, says she utilized the skills she learned in the Lab by writing testimony to share her support of a child tax credit increase at the state level and by sharing her story as a mother seeking early childhood services with policymakers.

“I related my own experiences in many challenges as my young daughter began early education and needed speech therapy,” said Jimenez Ramirez. “I shared how I resolved the many barriers along the way to get her the right special needs services.”

As the Lab wrapped up in May, parent leaders will continue this work by participating in collective advocacy efforts with each other, continuing to follow early childhood policy developments and to testify at public hearings, as well as spreading information to parents in their communities to organize them in advocacy efforts.

In words of advice for next year’s cohort, Julissy Acosta, a Lab participant, offers: “Let your experiences be the guide to your advocacy work.”

We look forward to continuing to partner with these incredible parent leaders as they advocate for equitable programs and policies that support young New Yorkers’ development.