Several kids between the ages of two to four built cardboard block towers together at City Hall today, illustrating that investment in quality child care and Pre-K is critical for building brighter futures. Their working parents who depend on child care and their teachers representing seven childcare programs throughout Philadelphia joined with City Council members and staff for Early Childhood Action Day, June 19, 2018. Sponsored by Councilwoman Cherelle Parker’s office, the event took place from 11:00 to 12:00 in the Mayor’s Reception Room on the second floor of City Hall.
“This is an annual event that is going on today as usual in Harrisburg at the Capitol, but this is the first year we are also celebrating here in Philadelphia,” announced the leader of the event, Khadijah Sabir, a field organizer for First Up: Champions for Early Education (formerly the Delaware Valley Association for Young Children). “This is our future, and we’re going to build it with quality child care, brick by brick and block by block.”
“Quality child care is beneficial to my child, of course, but it’s also important for me as a parent and as a professional,” said Shantell Wingster is mom to three kids, the youngest one at Lovie Lee’s Stars of Tomorrow – Child Care & Day Care. Ms. Wingster works as a caseworker for Children’s Mental Health at Merakey. “If they’re not taken care of, I can’t work. I would never rely on a babysitter, who may have her own personal issues to deal with. But I know I can count on a stable child care facility for my youngest, as well as good after-school care for my older kids.” That leaves her comfortable and confident on doing her best job for her clients, who are also parents who need child care in order to work or return to school.
After playing with the kids and helping them construct more stable, solid projects, Councilman Bill Greenlee pointed to them, saying, “That’s our future. If you, as a young child, don’t have the benefit of quality child care, then you’re always going to be playing catch-up.”
Yolanda Sanchez, who had four children go through child care and will have a grandchild beginning this fall, spoke passionately at the podium: It’s not just child care. It’s a community, one where children can be who they are.” She focused on her son, Noah: “I have one child who was withdrawn, he was not verbal. And now he is out and about.”
Another parent, Caprice Williams, echoed that sentiment. “My child was not social before starting child care, and now he is building social skills, he is talking, he is having conversations.” A single parent, Ms. Williams recognized that the Kinder Academy was not just a place to drop off her kids. She attended events, learning from teachers and her own child how to cultivate behavioral and cultural learning. Despite 8 years in the fast food industry, she felt her interest in early childhood education piqued, and is now pursuing certification to become a pre-school teacher.
Councilman Derek Green shared that one of his kids, too, was diagnosed with autism when he was in a child care program. Now that child is thriving in public school, and Green points out how the pre-K community benefitted his son and his family, enabled him to work and his wife as well, knowing their child was safe and nurtured.
Councilman Green went on to tout the economic benefits of quality early childhood programs. Speaking of Philadelphians who are running high quality early childhood centers, he is proud to know that, “We’re supporting entrepreneurs, especially first-time female entrepreneurs.” Bringing up the grim statistics, where 25.7% of Philadelphia’s children grow up in poverty, he sees quality early education providing first, an opportunity for young children to rise up out of poverty, and second, an opportunity for employees to know their children are cared for and to get ahead. “You can’t be a highly functional employee if you’re worried about your kids.” And that means employers reap the benefits of a workplace with good morale, and more productive work force. “Here’s how we get the best return – if I remember correctly, $16–on every single dollar invested. If we want to build a stronger city, we have to do right by its youngest members.”