National League of Cities Honored for Supporting Early Childhood Initiatives
(8/17/2006) Washington, DC, March 21, 2006 – For its work in assisting local governments in supporting the parents of young children and expanding access to affordable, high-quality early learning opportunities, the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF) is the recipient of the 2006 Parents as Teachers Child and Family Advocacy Award. NLC President James C. Hunt, council member from Clarksburg, W.Va., will accept the award on behalf of the organization today in St. Louis, Mo.
NLC is being honored for its City Challenge for Early Childhood Success program, which has inspired more than 100 cities and towns across the country to develop innovative multi-year strategies to support early childhood development. The challenge was the brainchild of former NLC President John DeStefano, Jr., mayor of New Haven, Conn.
“John showed us that local governments play a pivotal role in helping to support young families and children. Certainly, one thing I’ve learned in my 21 years of serving in local government is that parents are the key to their children’s success,” Hunt said. “By listening to and working with parents, cities are making great strides toward the goal of inclusiveness while at the same time building programs that will give children a fair and healthy start.”
Hunt said the participants at the Parents as Teachers Conference should actively seek out their local officials and engage them in efforts to improve early childhood policy and program implementation. Examples of these efforts could include assessing community needs and resources; expanding access to affordable, high-quality developmental programs; building local support by engaging key stakeholders and using their “bully pulpit” to generate public will for early childhood initiatives; promoting child health and safety through public outreach and education campaigns; and ensuring that parents have access to the information, tools, and supports they need to get their children off to a good start in life.
Mayor DeStefano said he is especially proud of the award given the emphasis New Haven has placed on early childhood programs. “We pushed for this program at the national level through NLC because we know that success in early childhood programming benefits entire communities, from economic development to crime prevention to family stability,” DeStefano said. “Since 1997, the New Haven Public Schools and School Readiness Council have served nearly 14,000 children with high-quality early childhood programs. Now, 73 percent of children entering kindergartens in New Haven Public Schools have had a preschool education.”
NLC’s YEF Institute currently provides technical assistance to six cities that are working to create local systems of support for parents of young children. The Cities Supporting Parents of Young Children technical assistance project helps cities take concrete steps to develop or enhance parent support through communications campaigns; initiatives to connect families with early childhood resources; programs to engage and empower parents; and efforts to establish or expand family-friendly workplace policies.
“A wealth of research shows that early care and education are two of the smartest and most effective investments a community can make,” said Clifford Johnson, executive director of the YEF Institute. “Positive early experiences for young children lead to better academic achievement and employment success, reduced crime, economic development bolstered by a stable workforce, and stronger families.”
Parents as Teachers (PAT) is an international, early childhood parent education and family support program serving families throughout pregnancy until their child enters kindergarten, usually age 5. Each year, Parents as Teachers honors an individual or organization that has been an outstanding advocate for children and families with the esteemed Child and Family Advocacy Award. Past recipients include the United Way of America, Marian Wright Edelman, Dolly Parton, and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.
The National League of Cities is the nation’s oldest and largest organization devoted to strengthening and promoting cities as centers of opportunity, leadership and governance. NLC is a resource and advocate for 18,000 U.S. cities, towns and villages, which collectively serve 225 million people.