"to develop a comprehensive birth-to-three plan to provider education and support through a continuum of options."
Early learning options was a strong theme in my Early Childhood Education Master's program. That was the height of the universal preschool push in California and across the nation. The bill I referenced above is Washington's effort in that direction, though not being billed as universal preschool). Here is the letter I sent to my local representative:
The options referred to throughout the bill imply that all options pertain to non-parental/custodial care arrangements, which neglects the percentage of Washington children who are cared for by one of their parents who are not in the work-force. To truly support all options when it comes to promoting learning of young children, provisions must be included to provide at home parents learning resources and programs that do not remove their children from their care.
In the first year of life, this is especially important given the significance of breastfeeding on child's health. Mothers who return to the workforce soon after the birth of a child are significantly less likely to breastfeed, and wean earlier even when pumping milk for their child. In turn, health care costs for formula fed babies are increased. Many mothers, if there were able to choose to stay home with their baby, would. The state can make at home parenting a viable option for more families by granting the same funding to at home parents as they to do child care providers. This completes the continuum of care options and provides young children with the biological care that is suited to their needs. The state of Minnesota has piloted programs granting funds to at home parents. Even better known is the funds given to at home parents by European nations like Sweden and France.
The state of Hawaii offers a model in a program called Tutu and Me, also called a Family Child Learning Interaction Program. In this program, the state funds early learning classrooms where parents stay with their children and participate in early learning activities facilitated by a skilled ECE professional. The professional models learning activities across the learning domains that at home parents can replicate with their children. Parents also receive a positive model for child guidance and discipline. A sense of community between families is also fostered. This program provides an opportunity for family life and parenting skills education in an hands-on setting, thereby strengthening family functioning and in turn communities. The Tutu and Me program is also a setting for exempt providers (family, friend and neighbor care providers) to learn early learning activities and effective child guidance strategies.
I would like to see provisions for at home parents be included in this bill to promote early learning. There are many economic and social benefits that can be derived from showing equal support to at home parents who care for their children by staying out of the workforce. By providing early learning options for at home parents, parents are given greater freedom of choice in care appropriate care settings for their children, rather than being obliged to place their child in non-custodial care in order to financially support their children.
As a stay at home mother, early learning educator and researcher, I can provide a strong case for the many reasons why this idea would be beneficial fiscally for our state.
Jenne Alderks, M.Ed.