“More neurological connections are formed in the first three years of life than at any other point in development.”
I remember hearing those words in my Child Development class at the University of Arkansas and thinking, “How can anyone think that there is work more important than serving our youngest children?”
I have been in the early childhood field for 15 years. I always knew I wanted to work with children. My vision for what that looked like changed and grew throughout my degrees and the beginning of my career. Ultimately, everything led me to the work I’m doing now, which is an Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Mental Health with a state-wide initiative at a non-profit in Nebraska.
Our initiative strives to enhance the social and emotional well-being of all young children in Nebraska, while also working to build the early childhood mental health systems across communities. I currently co-lead Nebraska’s Pyramid Model State Leadership Team, and work closely with Nebraska’s early childhood coaching system as well.
I was born and raised in Arkansas but moved to Nebraska in 2017. A primary focus of my work has always been social and emotional development in young children, and building strong families. I’ve worked as an early childhood classroom teacher, a Mental Health and Disabilities Specialist and Family Advocate with Head Start, and a director of a Child Care Center.
While this field has always been my vocation, having my son has given me an entirely new viewpoint on the importance of access to high quality child care. I have immense privilege in being able to enroll my son in a high quality child care with excellent teachers, but the cost for him alone is equivalent to our mortgage.
Child care is an economic necessity. Communities must have access to high quality child care for everyone to thrive. Without it, our economy would crumble. Unfortunately, the high price of quality child care is rarely enough to sustain the high price that is necessary to run a child care program. Teachers are paid low wages, parents pay high tuition rates, and every single month, centers or child care family homes are closing because they cannot afford to keep their doors open.
Nationally, we have to recognize the child care crisis and act. Early child care teachers are some of the hardest working, most intelligent professionals in the workforce. They help to support the workforce of our entire country while also helping to grow and develop the leaders of tomorrow.
As more individuals outside of the early childhood field are beginning to recognizing the importance of access to high quality child care and early education, I am hopeful that our voices will be louder in demanding change. These are our children. Our communities. We must support the early childhood workforce because THIS is the most important work.