The promise of another new school year puts added distance between us and the Covid-19 pandemic. While the virus is still with us, the massive disruptions to work, school, and play appear to be behind us. The same cannot be said for the disparities and injustices laid bare – and often made worse – by the pandemic. Far too many children in our community still don’t know if there will be enough healthy food to eat, if their family will be able to stay in their home, or if they’ll have a safe place to play. Too many parents and caregivers still don’t know if they can find quality child care or preschool or if they’ll be able to take their kids to the doctor, dentist, and therapist when they need to go. Disproportionately, the children and parents asking those questions are Black and Brown.
Research tells us household income and wealth, good health, and school readiness are all critical factors in a child’s long-term success, but the data also tell us young Black and Brown children face significant disadvantages compared to all children across Kent County. That was true before the very first case of Covid-19 and remains true today.
A year ago, First Steps Kent, KConnect, and many of our partners in the Early Childhood System launched Normal Was Never Enough, an awareness campaign that looks at the community we have today compared to the community we want. In Kent County, we are committed to 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.
Normal Was Never Enough is helping us imagine what that community would look like and what we need to do to make that vision a reality.
As a return to normal feels inevitable, there is an urgent need to make sure our new normal is different – more inclusive, more just, more intentional. Over the last year, we have shared stories that provide an understanding of the underlying causes of disparities, local strategies that are effectively attacking racial inequities, and policies that could create lasting and meaningful change. We will continue that work – and intensify it – as we approach the elections in November 2022. Collectively, we can demand that the people who want our votes center their policies around the needs and futures of all children.
We invite you to join us in this campaign. We have links to some of the topics we have covered thus far – family economic security, child care, maternal health, and more. Over the next few months, we will focus on issues such as housing and environmental health, in addition to providing advocacy tools and issue guides related to the upcoming elections.
Normal was never enough, and it still isn’t. Regardless of color, background, or zip code, all children deserve to live and play in thriving neighborhoods and safe housing, learn in nurturing and vibrant environments, eat good food, get the care they need for their body and mind, and grow up knowing they are valued by their community. Together, let’s build that better future for all our kids.