The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) held its annual “Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child” event April 9th to raise awareness of the most important time of all children’s lives — the first five years.
“We take this time each year to thank every legislator for supporting and prioritizing programs that serve our youngest children,” said APC executive director, Gail Piggott. “They understand that the first five years of a child’s life are critical to ensuring their healthy development. Investing in strong families, early childhood health, and quality early learning programs are necessary to improve outcomes in Alabama.”
Week of the Young Child spotlights the need to make early childhood education and development a state priority. It also brings awareness to the programs and partnerships in Alabama that are vital to ensuring all children, their families, teachers, and child care providers, have access to every resource they need to be successful.
Child advocates and volunteers delivered to every state legislator packets, which contained handprints made and decorated by preschoolers from around the state. It also provided important information on several programs that serve children including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, Help Me Grow Alabama, T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, and Project LAUNCH.
The APC coordinates the annual Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child event in conjunction with the national Week of the Young Child which is designed to bring attention to the needs of young children ages birth to five and the critical importance of the first five years of life.
On March 27th, Governor Kay Ivey signed a proclamation making April 8 – 12, 2019, the Week of the Young Child in Alabama. The proclamation states that “high-quality early childhood services represent a worthy commitment to our children’s future and an investment in improved schools and a brighter future for Alabama.”
Child advocates from across the state volunteer each year for this Joining Hands event to help collect handprints that children have traced and decorated. APC staff and volunteers deliver them to the Alabama Legislative offices with the hope of meeting personally with the elected officials representing their districts.
Secretary Jeana Ross, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), kicked off the day by welcoming the event’s volunteers, and thanking them for spending their day focused on making early childhood education a priority for legislators. ADECE provided the meeting space for volunteers to gather and coordinate the deliveries.
“I look forward to this event every year, and I am so grateful to the volunteers that help bring attention to the needs of Alabama’s young children,” said Sec. Ross. “Seeing the children’s handprints go up on doors all over the State House is inspiring and encouraging. We thank our legislators for making support for the programs that promote the best possible start for children – during the most critical first five years of their lives – a high priority.”
Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director for the Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA), shared with the volunteers ASRA’s work to expand Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-k program statewide, and the progress that has been made thanks to their partners and the support of the Alabama Legislature.
“I proudly stand with the Alabama Partnership for Children in shining a light on the needs of young children in our state,” said Muhlendorf. “Alabama’s early childhood community is united in our desire to provide the high-quality care and support to children and their families beginning at birth. I was very pleased to hear from many lawmakers that they are supportive of a comprehensive early childhood vision and are prioritizing new funding to help expand Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program to more families as part of this commitment.”
Stephen Woerner, the executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, also shared support and information during the event, outlining VOICES legislative priorities that, if embraced by state leaders, will have a positive impact on services to Alabama’s children and families.
“VOICES for Alabama’s Children is delighted to support Week of the Young Child and the Alabama Partnership for Children,” said Woerner. “Our youngest Alabamians need powerful advocates and special consideration. Week of the Young Child is a tremendous opportunity to engage with legislators and decision makers to ensure that these most vulnerable and important residents are accounted for and considered in all decisions.”
The Week of the Young Child™ is an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.org) to spotlight early learning, young children, their teachers, families, and communities.
The Alabama Partnership for Children is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. For more information, visit www.SmartStartAlabama.org.