Editor’s Note: Policy Research Associate Elizabeth Lopez Everett attended the Prenatal to 3 Years Summit hosted by the Hunt Institute and BUILD Initiative. Under the leadership of North Carolina governor Jim Hunt, the Hunt Institute is an independent, nonpartisan group working to design strategy, shape policy and drive educational improvements on the national and state levels. It began at the University of North Carolina and now is affiliated with Duke University. The BUILD Initiative works with early childhood leaders in the private and public sectors in states and nationally to better prepare young children to thrive and succeed. Programs, services and policies are tailored to the needs of states’ unique young child populations.
Early brain development, policy ideas and innovative programs to support and nurture babies, toddlers and their families were the focus of the Prenatal to 3 Years Summit I attended in mid-June in Raleigh, N.C. The Hunt Institute, in partnership with the BUILD Initiative, hosted the summit with delegates from Nebraska and Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia.
Dr. Junlei Li, Co-Director of the Fred Rogers Center, delivered the keynote address. In his presentation, Dr. Li stressed the importance of developing early childhood systems for infants and toddlers that embrace human interactions. Nurturing and supportive relationships are the active ingredient in child development and can help infants or toddlers acquire the social and behavioral skills needed to thrive in school and in life. Dr. Li also encouraged state delegates to remember caregivers when developing early childhood systems. Parents, child care employees and early childhood professionals all need support to thrive in their roles.
State delegates participated in a gallery walk at the Summit. Each state delegation created a poster board with illustrations outlining their early childhood landscape. Melody Hobson, administrator of the Nebraska Dept. of Education’s Office of Early Childhood, presented for Nebraska in the gallery walk, speaking on our state’s unique Sixpence Early Learning Fund and Step Up to Quality while citing budget cuts and legislative term limits as two obstacles facing Nebraskans working to advance quality early learning in our state. Others representing Nebraska at the summit were Senator Mike Hilgers (Dist. 21); Senator Sara Howard (Dist. 9); Jessie Rasmussen, president of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Nicole Vint, child care subsidy administrator in the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services and Amy Bornemeier, administer of Sixpence.
As a policy associate on early childhood, it was interesting to learn how some states implemented new family medical leave policies and how some increased their early childhood budgets. Being surrounded by experts in the field afforded participants the opportunity to learn new strategies and policies that could be implemented in their states.
The Hunt Institute and the BUILD Initiative are making huge strides in the early childhood field and it was an honor to participate in the conversation as a member of Nebraska’s delegation at this excellent conference. Attending conferences and exchanging ideas with our peers is key to implementing nationwide changes to the early childhood field. We must think boldly and work together to help our youngest children excel.
Elizabeth Lopez Everett
First Five Nebraska