This week, hundreds of families from all 50 states traveled to Washington, D.C., to be part of the advocacy effort Strolling Thunder.
Launched last year, Strolling Thunder is an opportunity for families to tell their child care stories. The goal is to “make sure that Congress thinks babies,” according to Myra Jones-Taylor, the chief policy officer of the national nonprofit Zero to Three, which sponsored the event.
“It’s really important that our legislators are taking care of our kids’ futures because it’s our country’s future too,” Amy Lingerfelt, a Kansas mom, told ABC news. Lingerfelt came to Strolling Thunder with her husband her 2-year-old son, Noah, who has a sensory processing disorder.
The family relies on WIC, a federal nutrition program, to be able to afford a special formula that Noah needs.
“There’s no way our family would be able to afford that without WIC,” Lingerfelt explained. That’s why, “Protecting and increasing funding for programs like WIC is just one of the policy priorities of Strolling Thunder.”
Agendawise, Strolling Thunder organizers and participants had three big asks of Congress:
• pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, to create a national paid parental leave program that would give parents more time to bond with newly born or adopted children.
• increase access to high-quality affordable child care, and
• increase investment in Early Head Start
Shiroma Herath, a mom from Worcsester, Mass., also attended the event with her family.
Among the elected officials who spoke at the event: was Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) who said:
“Investing in our young children is a hallmark and a reflection of the values of this great nation… If we are not looking out for our youngest, who are we looking out for in this country? We have to fight for the youngest among us with every available resource. It is an investment in our future.”
Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) said, “Today in these strollers might be the next cure for cancer, our next great artist or author or movie star.”
He added: “This is our future. This is our potential as a nation. So let’s come together, work together, and advocate together.”
Parents also meet with a number of other elected officials, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Representative Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.).
Search #StrollingThunder and #ThinkBabies to see more Strolling Thunder pictures on Twitter.
To keep the advocacy going, check out Zero to Three’s Think Babies website where there is a communications toolkit that has social media messaging, content that can be used in blogs and newsletters, sample letters to the editors, and tips for hosting elected officials at child care programs.
Remind legislators that investing in children has bipartisan support and that early, thoughtful action on behalf of families promises to pay off.
As Matthew Melmed, Zero to Three’s executive director, said:
“The greatest opportunity to influence a child’s life happens between the ages of 0 to 3, when brains grow faster than at any other point later in life.”
“When families have the support they need to nourish the critical first few months and years of development with quality interactions and connections, we can stave off challenges down the road.”