Kentucky family to call on Congress to prioritize babies

Published 4:38 pm Monday, April 29, 2019

LOUISVILLE — On April 30, hundreds of parents, babies and advocates from across the country will rally on Capitol Hill and call on Congress to make the potential of every baby a national priority through policies such as comprehensive national paid leave and quality, affordable child care.

Charlene Flores, mother of 10-month old Avron from Louisville, will be joining the event. The family will meet with Sens. McConnell and Paul and Rep. Yarmuth to share their experience balancing the demands of parenthood without paid leave, staggering child care costs and inadequate programs to support babies’ healthy emotional and physical development.

The Flores family was selected to travel to Washington to share their story and ask their Congressional delegation to Think Babies and Act as part of the third annual Strolling Thunder, organized by nonpartisan early childhood development nonprofit ZERO TO THREE.

According to ZERO TO THREE’s recent State of Babies Yearbook: 2019, the state where a baby is born makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life. Overall, Kentucky ranks in the bottom 25 percent of all states in areas essential to give our babies the best beginning.

“Kentucky families like mine need Congress to invest in early intervention services for infants and toddlers,” said Charlene Flores. “That’s why I’m traveling to Washington with 50 other families to share my story with Senators McConnell and Paul, and Congressman Yarmuth, and urge them to Think Babies.”

The science is clear. Our brains grow faster in the first few years than any later point in life, forming more than one million new neural connections every second. When babies have nurturing relationships, early learning experiences and good nutrition, those neural connections are stimulated and strengthened, laying a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. When babies don’t get what their growing brains need to thrive, they don’t develop as they should. This leads to lifelong developmental, educational, social and health challenges.

“Families are struggling every day, in every state, and we are urging our leaders to act,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer of ZERO TO THREE. “Most of our investments in early childhood start too late, at age 4 or later. By that time the most important years of brain development have passed. Today’s babies become tomorrow’s workers, parents and leaders. Now is the time for policymakers on both sides of the aisle to make every baby a priority through policies built on the science of brain development and budgets that put babies and families in Kentucky, and across the nation, first.”

Babies in America face persistent hardships— such as rising child care costs and lack of comprehensive paid family and medical leave—that undermine their ability to grow and thrive. In Kentucky, policies that ensure their families have access to paid family leave have not been implemented.

To ensure a brighter future for all babies, ZERO TO THREE is working with Congress to prioritize the needs of infants, toddlers and their families and invest in our future. The organization’s policy agenda includes establishing a comprehensive national paid leave program that provides adequate time off to care for newborns or newly adopted children and allows families to take leave if their children or another family member is experiencing a serious illness. The agenda also includes expanding access to quality, affordable child care by increasing investments in our country’s child care system now, while working toward a comprehensive, long-term solution for working families, as well as expanding investments in programs that support babies’ healthy development such as Early Head Start and infant and early childhood mental health.

To learn more about your state, visit stateofbabies.org.

To learn more about Strolling Thunder, visit thinkbabies.org/strollingthunder.