The Alabama Partnership for Children held its annual “Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child” event April 9 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 Gail Piggott, the partnership’s executive director. “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 the resources they need to be successful.
Child advocates and volunteers delivered to every state legislator packets that contained handprints made and decorated by preschoolers from around the state. The packets 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 partnership coordinates the annual Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child event in conjunction with the national Week of the Young Child.
On March 27, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a proclamation making April 8-12 the Week of the Young Child in Alabama. The proclamation says 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 the Joining Hands event to help collect handprints that children have traced and decorated. Partnership staff and volunteers deliver them to state legislative offices with the hope of meeting with the elected officials who represent their districts.
Jeana Ross, secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), kicked off the day by thanking volunteers for spending their day focused on making early childhood education a priority for legislators.
“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,” Ross said. “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, executive director of 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 Legislature.
“I proudly stand with the Alabama Partnership for Children in shining a light on the needs of young children in our state,” Muhlendorf said. “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, executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, outlined 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,” Woerner said. “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.”