Kathy Hollowell-Makle, Jamal Berry and Cynthia Davis have become a collective force in the D.C. early childhood advocacy community. Kathy is Executive Director of the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children; Jamal is President of the District of Columbia Head Start Association and Vice President of Programs at Educare DC; and Cynthia is Executive Director of D.C. Family Child Care Association and owner of Kings & Queens Child Care Center, a home-based early learning program. Together, they represent educators and administrators in every type of early childhood education program setting in the District. Their knowledge of federal and District early childhood policy, coupled with a full understanding of how these policies are experienced on the ground, creates a collaborative force that is creating change.
“Initially, we recognized that we had a lot of overlapping work,” explains Jamal. “We started to talk about how if I started emphasizing child care and family child care in my advocacy, then Kathy and Cynthia could start advocating for Head Start. From there, it became a unified effort to address issues with the whole system. We think about policy in a way where everybody wins.”
Shayna Cook, Director, Early Childhood Systems for the foundation, says investing in equity-focused and practitioner-led early childhood advocacy organizations is a deliberate choice.
“These local advocacy groups can often mirror the inequities faced by the early childhood workforce as a whole because of decades of neglect from philanthropy,” she says. “In D.C., these organizations, led by Black and brown advocates, are often under-resourced. It is important for the foundation to recognize this racialized pattern and to ensure that these organizations are supported for the specialized and important role they play in the policy and advocacy ecosystem.”
There has never been a more important time for this collaboration. The District has received more than $87 million in federal early childhood funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and two other funding packages designated for COVID-19 relief. The three organizations share a collective goal for the equitable implementation and use of this funding in their aligned advocacy work. In collaboration with the broader advocacy community, their work helped shape how the funding was allocated and how to use funding to better support high-quality implementation of programs and services. For instance, the three organizations’ work supported better compensation for early childhood educators as well as increased child care subsidy reimbursement rates in order to maintain and improve quality of child care.
“Initially, we recognized that we had a lot of overlapping work. We started to talk about how if I started emphasizing child care and family child care in my advocacy, then Kathy and Cynthia could start advocating for Head Start. From there, it became a unified effort to address issues with the whole system. We think about policy in a way where everybody wins.”
“It is incredibly helpful to family child care providers when Kathy and Jamal make family child care a part of their conversations with policymakers,” notes Cynthia. “We run quality programs with quality educators like centers and schools and everywhere else. If you’re ‘for’ child care, you need to also be ‘for’ family child care. It’s that simple. I’ve been shouting that from the rooftops for a long time, but it’s incredibly beneficial to hear about the importance and quality of family child care from multiple sources. That really helps our efforts.”
It is hard to overstate the passion of these leaders and the impact that their work is having on educators and early childhood programs across all settings. When these three organizations collaborate, they can collectively hold policymakers and agency leaders accountable for 1) maintaining a mixed-delivery system where all families can choose the best program type for their child and 2) providing equitable access to public funding and resources for all early childhood programs — no matter their setting — to improve and maintain high-quality services. The foundation is collaborating with these organizations to provide facilitation services, dedicated funding for capacity-building and in-kind services to support each of these three leaders in developing infrastructure for sustainability. This includes building out strategic fundraising and communications, hiring new staff, and supporting access to dedicated office and meeting spaces.