Find your voice and share your knowledge!
These are exciting times in Oregon for those of us who work to support families and young children, as well as the staff who care for them. Diverse members (educators, child care, businesses, the medical & faith-based community, libraries, CAP agencies) in communities across Oregon are coming together to develop local, early learning systems to support thriving families and a strong start for every child. State systems are developing to support communities’ success in prenatal-to-third grade opportunities that include a strong focus on equity for children who have typically struggled to succeed. State legislators, new and seasoned, agree on the importance of opportunities for young children as an investment in society and the future. For the first time in over 20 years, Oregon PreKindergarten Head Start funding is not at risk for reductions. State funds for Oregon Relief Nurseries and Early Head Start programs will also not experience reductions. Proposals from the Governor Brown’s office to expand prenatal-to-age 3 home visiting programs, Early Intervention/ Early Childhood Special Education, Employment Related Day Care, and preschool opportunities through additional state funds are actively being lobbied for at the legislature for the next biennium. (See the attachment Oregon Early Learning Investment Budget Proposal 2015).
Those of us with the knowledge of what Oregon’s babies and families need must be vocal in order to help these initiatives along. Please reach out and share your knowledge, the success stories of families you know, and your passion for the field of Infant Toddler Mental Health. Take the time to coach and support a family and or a staff person to tell their story about the importance of a healthy, safe, supportive beginning. These stories need to be told to state legislators who represent you and the families in your community. While you are at it, share these stories with our national leaders who are very supportive of the work that Oregon does on behalf of children and families. Talk to community members, including local government, CCO representatives, Early Learning HUB participants, and business leaders about how society’s focus on strong and stable beginnings for the babies and children in your community are necessary. Don’t forget to reach out to agencies and organizations who regularly work with families and children to help them to understand the importance of attachment and promoting attachment in their work.
Key points to remember when telling your story:
* All communication happens in context. Messengers are as important as messages.
* Mental health and well-being, as well as the importance of health attachment, are relatively unknown ‘concepts’ to the general public. Explain and educate simply.
* Your audience’s beliefs and values are more important than your own when it comes to communications. If you don’t know what your audience cares about you are unlikely to craft a message that resonates with them. Everyone wants what is best for children!
* Articulate the vision of what’s possible- make it tangible and realistic.
* Emotional messages are as important as rational messages. Tell stories that reach the heart and back them up with data.
* Have clear and specific goals for your conversations- what is your ask? Invest in early learning that supports stable and attached children, including: (list what you know/ or are in favor of)…
Be sure to peruse the ORIMHA website’s resources for tangibles and facts to include in the telling of your story. What is decided this legislative session regarding program funding for children and families is likely to set the stage for the next Governor’s administration: it is critical that programs, systems, and information regarding prevention & intervention become imbedded in our communities across our state now!
Suey Linzmeier, Head Start of Yamhill County Executive Director, Yamhill Early Learning Council Co-Chair, Yamhill Community Care Organization Board member: Early Learning Representative