There is a strong sense of hope that the social distancing, endless Zoom meetings, and virtual classes are all behind us. The community is getting back to normal. Normal school. Normal work. Normal gatherings. A return to normal feels comfortable.
Normal, though, has never been comfortable for thousands of children and families in our community. A rush back to normal is a return to longstanding and persistent inequities that have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and further exposed by the nation’s increased focus on racial justice.
“The underlying structural issues such as disproportionate poverty, unemployment, education, and lack of health insurance are responsible for the poor environment and health outcomes for Black and Latinx people in our communities” explained Salvador Lopez, KConnect President. “These issues have been normalized for decades and there needs to be a shift in the distribution of resources and opportunities if we hope to achieve equitable outcomes for all children and families”
“Brain research tells us young children need to feel safe and loved; be in a nurturing environment; and have opportunities to learn, play, and develop their natural skills,” said Annemarie Valdez, CEO of First Steps Kent. “All of that is more difficult if families face economic insecurity, homelessness, or lack of access to quality child care or health care.”
Normal Was Never Enough is an awareness campaign that looks at the community we have compared to the community we want and what we need to do differently to close the gap between the two. In Kent County, stakeholders in our Early Childhood System have envisioned a community in which:
- Babies are born healthy;
- Young children are healthy, thriving, and developmentally on track; and
- Children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.
Household economic security, good health, and school readiness are all important factors in a child’s long-term success, but data show young Black and Brown children face significant disadvantages compared to all children countywide.
The Normal Was Never Enough campaign aims to provide a better understanding of the underlying causes of disparities, local strategies that are effectively attacking racial inequities, and policies that could create lasting and meaningful change.
“Kent County recognizes investing in our youngest children is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do,” Valdez said. “We have made great progress in developing a coordinated system of early childhood resources and programs. Collectively, we need to continue our work to address the conditions that lead to disparate outcomes and push for policies that strengthen and empower families and allow all children to thrive.”