Transcript: Becoming Your Child’s First Advocate

Presented by Lindsey Ramsey

Parenting Together Pathway, Trying Together

[ Music ]

>> Lindsey Ramsey: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Becoming a Child’s First Advocate. This video is a part of the Parenting Together Pathway, a series of sessions to provide high-quality information on early childhood development to parents, caregivers, and any Allegheny County and surrounding areas. My name is Lindsey Ramsey. I’m a Regional Public Policy Coordinator for Trying Together. Trying Together supports high-quality care and education for young children by providing advocacy, community resources, and professional growth opportunities for the needs, rights of children, their families, and the individuals who interact with them. We also have our ELRC Region 5. The Early Learning Resource Center provides a single point of contact for Allegheny County families, early learning service providers, and communities to gain information and access services that support high-quality child care and early learning programs. Here we have our newletter. If you’d like to stay up to date on Trying Together news and events, you can click that link to subscribe. And those are our social media handles. We have our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. At Trying Together, we envision a future in which all caregivers feel valued. Now we can begin Becoming a Child’s First Advocate. During our presentation, we’ll be defining advocacy, Early Learning PA campaigns, we’re going to take an overview of the budget timeline and how you can advocate, COVID-19 ECE advocacy, and how you can take action. And we’re also going to take a moment for some reflections. Alright. First, we’re going to take a moment to define advocacy within the work that we do at Trying Together on our public policy team. First, let’s start with government relations. Through our work with government relations, it’s really about us influencing policy related to early childhood — children, caregivers, and educators at all levels, whether it be local, state, or federal. It’s about keeping our elected officials informed through meetings, recommendations, whitepaper, and all ongoing communication that elevates the voice of the early learning field. Through our mobilization efforts, we really connect with our grassroots advocates and grasstops advocates as well in elevating the voice of early childhood, whether it be scheduling meetings with elected officials, or writing op-eds, or having visibility events to bring awareness to all of the needs, the voices, the recommendations of what is happening in the field at the moment. Communications is very similar. It’s all about the information that we put out that’s public facing that can help inform the public about early childhood education, the importance of the field, and the needs of the field. So, like I’d mentioned previously, we have our social media handles, we have our Trying Together website, and we also work very closely with our Early Learning PA campaigns that make sure that we provide you with tons of information about what’s going on in the field. Another really important piece of our advocacy is the research that is done behind it. So it’s really important that we have accurate data, research to help back our recommendations that we have to give to our elected officials and to the public. And it really demonstrates what the needs really are at the time and helps us shape better recommendations for how we can support the early learning field. And lastly, the policy piece. All of these things rolled together really help support and change early childhood policy. So these things can help us impact the way that policies are written, also create new policies, and really help the field by providing what they need from their input and direct information from all the people doing the hard work within the field. Our audiences. So first, we’re going to start with our grassroots audience, which would be our teachers, our directors, families, caregivers of all types. Your voice is so important to this work. It’s really, really about what the needs are of the people who are doing the work, the people who are getting directly impacted by the work. So your voice absolutely matters. Then, we have our grasstops leaders, which would be our business leaders. And then, we have our elected officials and other decision makers. And they are at a federal, state, and local level and also within our school districts. Now, let’s move on to our Early Learning Pennsylvania campaigns. Our Early Learning PA campaigns are our Start Strong PA campaign, our Pre-K for PA campaign, and our Childhood Begins at Home campaign. First, we’re going to start with our Start Strong PA campaign. And this is actually our newest campaign, and it was started in November of 2019. It supports healthy child development in working families by advocating for increased access and affordability of high-quality child care with a focus on infants and toddlers. So this really focuses on our littlest learners, our infants and toddlers, and it really supports the idea of having accessible child care, affordable child care in supporting all the adequate investments that child care providers and educators need to provide high-quality services. Next is our oldest campaign. It is our Pre-K for PA campaign, which a lot of people know about. It promotes access to high-quality affordable pre-k for three- and four-year-olds through increased investment in Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Programs. We want to make sure that all of our three- and four-year-olds have access to high-quality pre-k experiences before they embark on their next educational journey. And then, lastly, we have our Childhood Begins at Home campaign. This campaign’s really important because it elevates the importance of evidence-based home visiting programs to support parents as a child’s first teacher. It’s very, very wonderful to have these programs and have parents have access early on to home visiting programs within their child’s development to help support and guide them through those early learning stages. There’s various models of this throughout the state of Pennsylvania. What does advocacy look like for Trying Together’s policy team? So just to give you a brief overview of what our cycle of advocacy looks like, the state budget cycle is an ongoing, yearlong process. It runs from July 1st to June 30th. Our ELPA campaigns meet with Secretary of Department of Human Services, DHS; the Secretary of PA Department of Education, PDE; and the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, OCDEL; and also the governor’s office. The governor delivers a budget address in early February. This is only a proposal and sets the stage for negotiations with the legislator. So during this time, we’re doing a lot of meetings with our elected officials and informing them about important recommendations and initiatives that would support early learning at this time. And here is an older picture of the February Governor’s Budget Address. This is pre-COVID. This year, he did do his address, but it was virtual, and it was just him, and it was not at the Capitol. But this is the picture from the year before. The budget process. Starting in February and March, that’s when the appropriation hearings happen, its focus on the PDE and DHS hearings, one in the House and one in the Senate. So right now, the advocacy actions are drafting questions and deciding which legislators we will encourage to ask. So which legislators would have the most impact asking those questions about crucial early childhood issues or initiatives? We share questions with PDE and DHS so the secretaries know what to expect. So we want to make sure that we keep those relationships and keep everybody well informed during the process as well. In April to May and June, there’s still budget negotiations. The House and Senate discuss budget priorities. The General Assembly works to pass a budget bill. So during this time, the advocacy actions are meeting with legislators in their district offices and in Harrisburg. It looks a little bit different for us right now because of COVID, so we are still conducting those visits, but they’re going to be more virtual and via Zoom, of course. Also, we have our Capitol Visibility Events. We have Focus Weeks to really target certain areas and do a ton of visibility effort within those areas in different counties. And then, we are also making sure there are op-eds sent out to all local newspapers, written by different grassroot advocates to really express the needs of the early childhood field. Advocacy measures that support your child’s early learning journey. So right here, we have a pretty cool picture of one of our elected officials. His name is Senator Vogel. And he is actually reading to a Pre-K Counts classroom. And I was here on this visit, and what made it so special — to give you a little bit of background about this elected official, we heard that he is quite quiet and reserved, but it was so wonderful to see him get into reading this cool book to the children. And the book was about farm animals, and he actually had a connection with the book because he is quite into agriculture and came from a background where he spent a lot of time on a farm. So it was great to hear him make all those animal noises, and he was so excited to read this book to them. And the children were so excited too, and they wanted him to not even leave. [laughs] They wanted him to stay in the classroom and keep on reading. And it’s really special to have those moments because the children really have a connection, and it’s a lesson for them to meet with an elected official. And it’s also a lesson for the elected official as well to see the environments that these children are thriving in. So this picture was taken during one of our Focus Weeks. It was actually Read Across America Week. So our theme was Dr Seuss. And we were talking about all the places that our children can go and how they are growing in their early learning environments. So we sent out messages to all of our providers to help us participate in elevating these messages. So this provider chose to have a child write what they wanted to be when they grow up and draw a picture. And so this little guy, it looks like he wanted to be a veterinarian. And we were able to push these pictures out via social media on our campaign pages and tag the legislators of the districts that these providers were in, showing them the pictures and showing them how early learning is impacting their children now and shaping their future. So, and I believe on this picture, an elected official actually retweeted it and responded back that they supported early learning. So right here in these pictures, we have a caregiver meeting with their elected official, and they’re meeting in support for Pre-K for PA. And during these visits with elected officials, it’s really important that they hear from their constituents. So as a caregiver, I feel like those are the most wonderful conversations and the most meaningful conversations for elected officials. And being able to have this caregiver express, you know, the need for Pre-K for PA and the importance that there’s access to high-quality pre-k for all of our children is really important. We also have all of our visibility events that happen at the Capitol. So this other picture, you will see a Capitol event for Start Strong PA elevating the voices of our caregivers and our families that support high-quality infant and toddler care. All right. We’re going to talk about taking action. So you are the expert. Early learning directly impacts our children, our caregivers, and our educators. You guys are the experts. You are living this day in and day out, and you have a story to tell. So I want you to think about some things. So you can write them down just so you can keep them in your pocket whenever you are thinking about advocating or coming up with some message that you want to elevate. So first, let’s think about what our key issue is. So what is your key issue? What do you want to advocate for? What advocacy actions do you want to take, whether that’s writing a letter to an elected official, or sending some artwork from your classroom to an elected official, or really just writing something for an op-ed or picking up the phone and making a phone call about how your child’s thriving in your program? What messaging will you use? So as a caregiver and parent, you are able to see how your child develops and grows every single day. So there’s tons of stories to tell about how early learning impacts your life. How will you share your story? Again, will you share it via social media just to, you know, your friends and your family? Will you share it to an elected official? Will you write a letter and send it to the Capitol? It could be any type of way. Any way of elevating the voice of early learning is advocacy. And who can you mobilize? Is it going to be other parents? Is it going to be somebody at the school board? Is it going to be an elected official? Again, there are so many ways that you can advocate. And because our advocacy has changed slightly because of COVID-19, and sometimes we always can’t meet face to face, here are some strategies that you can take during COVID-19 to still advocate and make that impact. So you can write letters to the editor and op-eds, and Trying Together will gladly help you get those formed and get those out. You can go on via social media and tag legislators in posts. You can use this time to educate and mobilize your network, whether it be your friends, families, other people you know, people you work with. Elevating the voice of early learning can be something that’s pushed out to anyone. You can participate in phone calls and email campaigns. You can set up a video meeting and virtual tours of, you know, your child’s program or just a video meeting with you and a legislator, just elevating the voice of early learning. And you can also watch virtual forums, like No Small Matter is a really great documentary on the impact of early childhood education on children, families, and how it is a current investment and a future investment for our children, families, and communities. And Trying Together can help you access the No Small Matter documentary as well. Also, another really important piece of being an advocate is making sure that all children are safe. And that would be becoming a mandated reporter. So here is some information on the mandated reporter training. You know, advocating for young children could be done so many ways, and, again, we want to make sure those children are healthy and safe. And as a caregiver advocating for them, it’s very important that you take this training. And it just makes sure that you are educated on what all signs of abuse and neglect are for a child. And right down there is a link below that gives you access to the mandated reporting training and the mandated reporter resources. So what’s next? What are some of the things that you can take away from this presentation to help you advocate as a parent and caregiver? So one of the things you can do is sign up for Trying Together’s public policy alerts. And you can go straight to our website,, and you could hit the Policy tab, and you’ll be able to sign up. You can join our Start Strong PA, Pre-K for PA, and Childhood Begins at Home campaigns. You can set up a call with your legislator, and we can help you do that. And you could sign up for additional resources at Trying Together. And through that, you can always reach out to us. If you have other ideas of ways that you want to advocate, we will help you execute those in any way we can. Again, we want you to join our Early Learning Pennsylvania campaigns — our Start Strong PA campaign, our Pre-K for PA campaign, our Childhood Begins at Home campaign — and you can also take some time to support our public policy agenda. And there are all links below listed to access those. Here are some upcoming events through Trying Together. We have our Raising Readers Together Club, our Fathers Trying Together virtual sessions, our Women’s Rap virtual sessions, and our Rise Together virtual sessions. These are great sessions for caregivers to help come together as a community, support each other, learn from each other, and learn new techniques to help support their children. So there are some more resources from Trying Together. And again, I want to thank you all for joining me today and participating in this session. First is our Allegheny Child Care. If you are a caregiver seeking child care for early learning, after-school or out-of-school, summer camp, and virtual programs, you can use this tool to search all available spots in Allegheny County. We have our Early Learning Resource Center Region 5. Again, families can utilize the ELRC to gain information and services that support high-quality child care and early learning programs. We have our Homewood Early Learning & Family Center. Families in Homewood or surrounding areas can utilize the Hub & Family Center for activities for their children, individuals, or support groups of parents. Next, we have our Developmentally Appropriate Parenting (DAP) Series. The DAP Series helps us utilize developmentally appropriate practices for our children. It helps us navigate a variety of topics related to early childhood, with new content that’s constantly added throughout the series throughout the year. As a part of the DAP Series, families can opt in to receive cards with helpful information mailed directly to them as they are developed. To enroll in this program and provide feedback on the Parenting Together Pathway Series, please visit the link on this screen. And again, we would love you to share your feedback. And here goes that link available for you. And make sure you sign up so you can receive those cards in the mail. Again, here is my contact information. My name is Lindsey Ramsey, and my email is If you want to advocate, have any interest, have any ideas or stories that you want to tell, please contact us at any time so we can help elevate your voice and elevate the voice of early learning. Thank you so much for joining me today, and I am so excited to hear the next steps of your advocacy journeys.

[ Music ]

Parenting Together Pathway

The Parenting Together Pathway is a video-based learning series to provide high-quality information on early childhood development to parents and caregivers in Allegheny County and surrounding areas.

Learn more about the series.



Image: An early learning professional works with a young student to put together a puzzle of a young boy.
Line separator