We’ve all heard the phrase, "children are our future" for a reason — because it’s true. Having spent the past few decades advocating locally and nationally for high-quality early childhood education as a social worker, and now as part of SAL Family & Community Services (SAL) and Skip-A-Long Child Development Services (SKIP), I know the profound impact early childhood education has not just on individuals, but entire communities.
I consider it a personal and professional duty to ensure every child has what they need to succeed in life, and also that every adult has access to basic human needs like food, counseling, health services and housing. Our work at SAL and SKIP is centered on robust, relationship-focused efforts that identify the root causes of the challenges children and families face — and finding solutions to tackle them.
The new Early Head Start Child Care Partnership (EHS CCP) program we announced last week is one such solution. With the $3.8 million in annual support we will now receive, we have an incredible opportunity — as an organization and region — to provide comprehensive support to infants and toddlers up to four years of age, as well as their families. Historically, educating during this early period of life has been overlooked, but not anymore.
This will be a great help in our service area of Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties in Illinois.
So many have faced incredible challenges, especially over the past year: parents have had to leave work to care for their children, or they’ve had to deal with medical challenges. That’s where our work at SAL has proved essential. Through the pandemic, and for the past 50 years, we’ve supported families with a goal of helping them navigate the barriers that prevent them from moving their life forward in a positive way. And now, thanks to EHS CCP, we’ll be able to provide that same level of care to our youngest population.
This early care, I wholeheartedly believe, is crucial to building a strong economy — and vibrant, equitable Quad Cities.
You see, the reality is that early childhood education affects everyone, whether or not they have children themselves. Young children are going to shape the future of our community, and it’s our duty to serve them during their youngest, most critical years.
As I reflect on the past 50 years that SAL and SKIP has been in operation, I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity to work for and alongside so many wonderful families — our future — right here in the Quad Cities. I’m also reminded of the incredible potential this region has. The Quad Cities we collectively envision can only be truly successful if we invest time, attention, and resources into educating our families and their children, starting at birth.
Marcy Mendenhall is the president and CEO of SAL Family & Community Services, an organization that supports, advocates, and educates kids and families in the Quad Cities region. SAL is home to Skip-A-Long Child Development Services.