Strolling Thunder: A Storm of Advocacy for Infants and Toddlers

By Mindy Binderman, Executive Director of GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students

That’s why on Saturday, May 12thGEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students partnered with ZERO TO THREE to host Strolling Thunder in Atlanta and bring parents from around Metro Atlanta together to urge their elected representatives to make babies’ care and development a priority in 2018 and beyond. Families enjoyed a fun morning of activities along with an opportunity to speak with their city, county, and state elected officials about issues that matter to them. State Senator Nikema Williams and Fulton County Commissioner Natalie Hall both spoke at the event and shared their support for improving the lives of infants and toddlers in Georgia. For some parents, it was a unique opportunity to advocate for their children in a setting that was family-friendly and informal. It’s all part of the Think Babies campaign to call on all policymakers to invest in infants, toddlers, and their families, and GEEARS is leading the Think Babies campaign in Georgia.

When babies have nurturing relationships, early learning experiences, and good health and nutrition, those neural connections are stimulated and strengthened, laying a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. But when babies don’t get what their growing brains need during this crucial time, it can lead to life-long developmental, educational, social, and health challenges.

Families often are the best advocates for their children, and we should listen to their voices.

We asked the families attending the event, “What has been one of the more challenging parts of parenthood/guardianship?” and we’ve listed some of those responses, and their county of residence below:

  • “It’s a challenge to keep him on track to be successful. We’re good on the basics, but I don’t understand the Pre-K system or how to navigate the lottery.” – A DeKalb County family.
  • “I’m a first time parent at 40. I was focused on birth and breast feeding, then I was less prepared for after she was born. I realize now I should have focused more on what to do once you bring them home from the hospital.” – A Cobb County family
  • “Maintaining a work-life balance is difficult. Trying to make sure I provide a nurturing environment is a challenge.” – A Fulton County family

We also asked the families, “What does a city that supports infants and toddlers look like?” and those responses are below:    

  • It looks like a city with:
    • “Parental leave”
    • “More Pre-K availability”
    • “Free or affordable child care”
    • “More family-friendly parks”
    • “Time off for doctors’ appointments”
    • “More spaces to breastfeed”
    • “More spaces for parents to gather”
    • “Better resources to support a lower child/teacher ratio and more resources to find services for families”

GEEARS works every day to advocate for the needs of infants, toddlers, and their families. Some of concerns and hopes that families expressed are directly tied to the policies that GEEARS continues to advocate for in Georgia. Our mission is to support high-quality early learning and healthy development for Georgia’s youngest children, from birth to five, by championing policies, promoting innovative and evidence-based practices, and building public will. Through our partnership with ZERO TO THREE, GEEARS will lead a coalition of partners to focus on achieving the following policy priorities in Georgia:

  • Making sure every family who needs it has access to quality, affordable child care for their infants and toddlers that offers one-on-one relationships with caring adults and strong early learning experiences. 
  • Offering families improved access to infant and early childhood mental health (behavioral, trauma, and emotional) services.

 Accomplishing these wins for families in Georgia will be a collaborative effort, and that’s why we need our policymakers to #ThinkBabies by supporting policies that benefit children 0-3 and their families. 

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