Getting prepared and being an effective advocate blog header

Getting prepared and being an effective advocate

In a recent webinar on advocating for early childhood education, Cindy Lehnhoff, Director of the National Childcare Association joined us to discuss advocacy in the early learning space. We explored newly proposed legislation surrounding childcare, the 3 C’s of advocacy, and how we can use them to support us. Finally, we gained actionable strategies for how to take those crucial first steps towards advocacy.

What is an advocate?

Advocacy involves promoting the interests or cause of someone or a group of people. An advocate is a person who argues for, recommends, or supports a cause or policy. In other words, advocacy is also about helping people find their voice. 

There are three types of advocacy: self-advocacy, individual advocacy, and systems advocacy. Our focus as childcare providers and educators is on systems advocacy: changing policies, laws, or rules that impact how people live their lives.

Why you need to be an advocate for early childhood education

Who knows more about childcare and early education than the people who work in that space? You know the issues. You know how broken our childcare system is and you probably have a lot of ideas for how to fix it. As childcare professionals, we have a responsibility to come together and speak in a unified voice to demand childcare be more equitable, accessible, and affordable.

The 3 C’s of advocacy

Children in a classroom

The 3 C’s of advocacy are: Collaborate, Connect and Communicate

Here are some tangible ways to leverage the 3 C’s: 

  • Join a childcare association/organized group and/or a Chamber of Commerce at the federal, state, or local level
  • Join committees/councils representing the Office of Childcare in your state or province
  • Get familiar with the legislators in your district, your governors, and administrators of early childhood education training programs in community colleges and higher education.
  • Connect rather than complain. Be solution-oriented.
  • Tailor your communication to the agency or leader engaged.
  • Remember that YOU are a stakeholder, a voter, and an essential business representative, and YOUR voice matters

How to use your advocacy skills effectively

  • Ensure leaders at multiple levels understand the scope of the childcare crisis that has been building for years. Use personal stories and data. Ensure childcare is respected and recognized as an essential business.
  • Ask for changes that will support equity, accessibility, and affordability for the families you serve. Share issues and present possible solutions.
  • Require a robust plan that will allow a business owner to execute a sustainable high-quality early care and education program. Remember, your success as a provider and early educator keeps young children safe and learning while their parents work.

Be COMMITTED to being an ADVOCATE!

Unfortunately, childcare has never had enough advocates or voices to get what has been needed to do the work for children and families.

Silence ensures that history repeats itself.”

If the childcare industry and those it supports remain silent, we are destined to continue with the same broken system. That’s why we need to speak up and advocate for ourselves and our children! 

Watch the full webinar on advocating for early childhood education here! 

Cindy Lehnhoff

Cindy started her early childhood career in 1980 as a Preschool Teacher for La Petite Academy (LPA) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She worked for LPA, who later became part of the Learning Care Group (LCG) until she retired in 2016. Throughout her 36 years, she served as a Director, a District Director, a Division Director, and a Division Vice President. Along the way, she developed a passion for accreditation and advocacy that would help move childcare centers into high-quality early care and education centers. As a result, she led multiple LPA and LCG district teams into participating in their state’s QRIS programs which often included accrediting them. Over 100 of the centers that she supervised achieved NECPA accreditation under her leadership. She has served on the NECPA and NCCA Board for 20+ years and currently serves as the Director of the NCCA.

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