This year marks Child Care Services Association’s (CCSA) 50th Anniversary, and we could not be more excited to celebrate all that CCSA has accomplished in partnership with dedicated staff, families, early learning educators, community partners, and friends. CCSA started as two independent organizations in 1974, to meet community child care needs. Today, we are a leader and advocate in early care and education on a local, state and national level.
As we embark upon this new year, 2024 promises to be another year of growth and hurdles for early care and education. While positive steps are on the horizon, the field will continue to grapple with the persistent and longstanding issues of low compensation and lack of respect, demanding creativity and resilience from educators, business leaders, policymakers, and families alike to find viable and sustainable solutions.
I believe that we will see public funding for early care and education in incremental boosts at the state and local level, a testament to growing recognition of early care and education importance. However, I fear these increases will not reach a transformative level needed to fully support early care and education programs and adequately compensate early educators.
With limited funding boosts, attracting and retaining educated early educators will remain a struggle. This may lead to advocates and policymakers exploring lowering standards and decreasing educational requirements for educators. We cannot let this happen. Ultimately, the success of early care and education will depend on the collective efforts of educators, policymakers, families, and advocates to adapt, innovate, and advocate for policies that prioritize the well-being and development of all young children and support the educational advancement and professionalization of the workforce. These solutions are critical because it is our nation’s youngest minds who will ultimately suffer the consequences of high teacher turnover and an unstable learning environment at the most critical time in their development. Early education directly impacts their future learning outcomes and lifelong success; it deserves our undivided attention and significant and impactful investments.
Child Care Services Association will continue to fight the fight for a highly educated and well-compensated early care and education workforce. For thirty years, North Carolina has been a national leader in recognizing the importance of early care and education and investing in it accordingly but that investment has stagnated in the 21st century. When North Carolina led the nation in early childhood policy and investment at the turn of the century, the consensus behind the approach was that investing in early childhood was an investment in our state’s future and vitality. Investing in early care and education creates upward mobility by providing all children with a solid foundation for long-term success in life. Children who receive a high-quality early care and education program are more likely to earn higher wages, live healthier lives, avoid incarceration, raise strong families, and contribute to society. The benefits of high-quality programs from birth through age 5 do not end with one child but instead extend to the entire family, now and in the years to come. CCSA will continue to uphold the mission that has created our legacy, and that same mission will propel us into the future.
My hopes are that CCSA will continue to champion the need for accessible high-quality early care and education for all children and families, a thought partner in the creation of innovative solutions for the child care industry, and an advocate for a respected and well-compensated early learning workforce. CCSA will be a beacon of hope for families and their children.
I look forward to welcoming hundreds of early educators from across the state to our 51st Annual Advancing Skills and Knowledge (A.S.K.) Conference on February 17, for a day of professional development and fellowship. It is important that early educators are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources to build the brain architecture of the children in their care.
Additionally, I am excited about the 2024 Triangle Child Care Awards Breakfast which gathers community leaders, early educators, and advocates to celebrate the dedicated individuals working to ensure the Triangle’s children receive the highest quality of care and early learning. It takes a village to raise a child and it is important to recognize those community champions who help us move the field forward. The event will take place on March 8, at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.
As we celebrate our success over the past 50 years, we invite you to be a part of a robust year-long celebration that will engage thousands of individuals in the community from our past, present, and future – children and families, early educators, current and former staff, and community partners – through these type of special events and programs. The year ahead promises a dynamic and unpredictable ride for early care and education. However, I am proud to lead our team onto the road. By staying informed, engaged, and committed to advocating for high-quality early education for all, we can navigate the crossroads of progress and challenges and ensure that every child has a foundation for a bright future. Thank you for walking alongside me.