The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the economic downturn it brought and the racial inequities it exacerbated, exposed cracks in our system of early childhood services. Across early care and education, family support, maternal and child health, and other family-focused services, these events have heightened the need for policy leaders, providers, advocates, and families to work together to build new foundations for our youngest children, prenatal to age five.
To understand how early childhood systems responded to the crises, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative-funded National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers (NCIT) interviewed 101 public and private leaders—from grassroots to state level—during the summer of 2020. Focusing on people in five states (IL, LA, MA, NM, OH) and on many tribal leaders as well as leaders who work with multiple tribes, we learned of opportunities to create a stronger system for the future.
The BUILD Initiative wrote blogs about the opportunities those on the front lines have seen in their particular areas of work—Part C Early Intervention, maternal and child health, race equity, and others. The blogs are based on interviews performed by Eva Carter, ECE Consultant; Harriet Dichter, BUILD Consultant; Kay Johnson, Johnson Group Consulting; Saeed Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC; and Gail Nourse, MSW.
From the moment families discover that their children need early intervention (EI) services, a new, often confusing world unfolds before them. From one moment to the next, there are emotions to reckon with, diagnoses to understand, services to schedule, and bureaucratic mazes to negotiate. For many families, it is an overwhelming process. Ideally, EI advocates offer the support and guidance desperately needed at this time. Since the pandemic took hold, however, there has been no easy way for advocates to be in touch with families, many of whom do not have access to technology.
The Pandemic Reminds Us That Access to Healthcare is a Basic Human Right That We Are Not All Afforded
The pandemic has shown me the awe-inspiring ability of maternal and child health professionals to grow and be flexible, and of the community to collaborate. I have seen, for example, the resiliency and resourcefulness of our staff as they transitioned to a virtual platform while keeping our patients engaged, all without missing a beat. And, I have witnessed the flexibility and unity of the healthcare system to convert to virtual health visits (i.e., telephone or web conferencing).