What We’re Listening To

Speaking of child care, Lemonada Media’s new limited series podcast, No One is Coming to Save Us, explores America’s broken system and how it can be fixed. Hosted by Gloria Riviera and featuring Kristen Bell, the series utilizes an innovative combination of reporting and storytelling that helps bring the current crisis into sharper focus.

What We’re Reading

Everything Elliot Hapsel has been writing about the child-care industry’s massive and unprecedented staffing shortages. He’s ringing alarm bells in The Washington Post, on social media, and in his new—and great—newsletter.  Unfilled positions are leading to fewer spots and longer waiting lists in communities across the country and leaving far too many families without safe and reliable options. “The rotten seed of America’s disinvestment in child care has finally sprouted,” he writes, “and without a new, permanent source of public funding, the sector is likely to crash and pull working families down with it.”

As the budget resolution and reconciliation process heats up in Washington, this is an issue that demands our attention.

First Let’s Talk Spanish-Language Groups Launch!

The pilot of our Let’s Talk group program has expanded to two new cities: Houston, Texas, and Lexington, Kentucky. And for the first time, the program is being offered in Spanish as well as English.

Science demonstrates that parents engage with young children most effectively in their native language, and we are thrilled to have one group of Spanish-speaking parents participating in Let’s Talk in the Lexington region and two groups in Houston. The other groups in each region will meet in English.

This would not be possible without our dedicated partners who implement Let’s Talk locally. We are so grateful to Community Action Council and Children’s Museum Houston for recruiting participating parents and facilitating this powerful program in the manner that best meets their needs.

You can learn more about Let’s Talk and all of our evidence-based programs at https://tmwcenter.uchicago.edu/tmwcenter/what-we-do/evidence-based-interventions-tools/.

Yolie Flores joins the TMW Center as National Campaign Director of Parent Nation

May 10, 2021 — The TMW Center is thrilled to announce that, as of today, Yolie Flores has joined us as National Campaign Director of our new initiative, Parent Nation. Parent Nation is an exciting mobilization effort, rooted in science, to help push for a society that better supports parents in their role as children’s first and most important teachers.

Yolie joins the TMW Center from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR), where she served as Chief Learning Officer and led the CGLR Successful Parents Initiatives. She supported a network of more than 350 communities across the nation in their efforts to imbed a focus on supporting parents as they worked to ensure early school success for more children from economically-challenged families.

Over her thirty-year career, Yolie has held leadership roles in the non-profit, local government, and philanthropic sectors, where she has championed families, particularly those that are most vulnerable and most likely to be denied opportunity to succeed. Since the beginning of her career, Yolie has recognized the incredible power of parents and has focused much of her work on promoting parent engagement and parent leadership. While serving as an elected member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, Yolie authored the Parents as Equal Partners in the Education of Their Children board resolution. As CEO of the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council, she launched Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, a nationally recognized parent leadership program for Latino parents with children 0-5 years old. More recently, she was appointed to the Board of Directors of Parents as Teachers (PAT), the nation’s most replicated early childhood home visiting program, and Parent Teacher Home Visits, a national effort to foster strong parent-teacher partnerships.

“There is simply no one better qualified or more aligned with the vision of the TMW Center to lead our Parent Nation initiative,” said TMW Center founder and co-director Dr. Dana Suskind. “In her decades working on behalf of parents and children, across systems and sectors, Yolie has demonstrated her ability to ignite passion, drive change, and open doors of opportunity for all families.”

Under Yolie’s leadership, Parent Nation will launch a national multimodal campaign and introduce a science-based framework for parent mobilization that can be adopted and adapted for use by any number of family-serving organizations.

The Parent Nation framework, drawn from Dr. Suskind’s forthcoming book by the same title, uses the science of early brain development to illustrate the disconnect between what children need from parents and caregivers in order to develop optimally and what our society’s norms and policies actually enable those adults to provide. It helps parents identify the gaps they’d like to see filled in a porous social support system and incites them to action. Critically, this framework is flexible rather than prescriptive, deferential rather than dogmatic. Parent Nation recognizes and celebrates the incredible diversity of parents in this nation and strives to provide tools that individuals and groups can use to identify and advance their own needs.

“We know that parents are the most influential factor in the well-being and success of children,” said Flores. “But as a nation we do too little to give parents the support they need and deserve to succeed in their roles. Parent Nation will encourage and equip parents to call for a different society – one that honors and support parents. And it will celebrate and partner with the intrepid individuals and organizations that have been leading the fight for change for decades.” 

Over the past year, more and more Americans have come to understand what parents and allies have known for decades: our approach to supporting parents and families, particularly those in under-resourced communities and those with young children, is woefully inadequate at best and non-existent at worst. At long last, our nation is taking steps to remedy this injustice. And yet, a future in which American society is oriented around robust support for families is far from certain. It will take an enormous, concerted effort to ensure that relief is not short-lived, that parents and especially mothers have the opportunity to return to the workforce should they wish to do so, that families have the freedom and security to meet their children’s needs in the way that works best for them.

Parents and their allies have the opportunity and the power to turn this remarkable moment in American life into a watershed that alters the trajectory of our future. The TMW Center is proud to be a part of that effort, guided by Yolie Flores’s visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to parents.

What We’re Reading

Jennifer Randles, Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Fresno, recently published research on a challenge faced by a large and growing share of families across the nation: diaper need, or the inability to afford enough diapers without foregoing other essentials. Randles’ research, focused specifically on mothers facing diaper need, reveals that they adopt a variety of innovative strategies in order to provide their children with this basic necessity. As she described in a summary of the work:

The women I interviewed did three types of what I call diaper work, the physical, emotional, and cognitive labor involved in managing diaper need and related anxiety and stigma. Mothers carefully tracked limited diaper supplies, asked others they knew for diapers or diaper money, and went without their own basic needs to afford diapers.

In discussing the implications of her research, Randles offers an important conclusion: “Studying mothers’ experiences of diaper need and the diaper work they do to manage it … reveals how intersecting race, class, and gender inequalities intensify certain aspects of parenting and why we need to revise existing theories of parental labor to account for that.”

What a critically important reminder for those of us who work with and for parents. Surely, this is true of all kinds of parental labor—from providing diapers to creating a rich early language environment and promoting school readiness.

Read ‘”Willing to Do Anything for My Kids’: Inventive Mothering, Diapers, and the Inequalities of Carework” in American Sociological Review or Randles’ summary in The Society Pages.

We’re Hiring!

A diverse, interdisciplinary, and passionate team fuels the TMW Center’s ongoing progress toward our vision of a future where all children start formal schooling ready to learn and thrive. Currently, we’re looking for passionate individuals to fill several integral roles on our team. We are seeking:

  • A Managing Director of Research & Innovation to oversee strategic development and management of the TMW Center’s suite of tools, technologies, and programs.
  • A Director of Partnerships to develop a strategic vision for implementation of the TMW Center’s community-based, pediatric sector-based, and knowledge-based delivery models and to oversee the team that provides training, technical assistance, and strategic guidance to partners implementing TMW programs and tools.
  • A Data Science Analyst to further develop the TMW Center’s data system and data organization processes and protocols to ensure consistency and quality, prepare for a large volume of anticipated incoming data, and produce quality, analyzable data sets.

We also regularly have opportunities available for students, post-docs and temporary staff. More information about all of our open positions is available at https://tmwcenter.uchicago.edu/tmwcenter/careers/.

3Ts-Let’s Talk Dads! Continues in Phoenix

Just as our 3Ts-Let’s Talk program continues to expand, so too does 3Ts-Let’s Talk Dads. Let’s Talk Dads is a four-session, facilitator-led program implemented with groups of—as the name suggests—dads. Like 3Ts-Let’s Talk, this program focuses on the critical role that talk and interaction play in a child’s foundational brain development and use the 3Ts to help parents create enriching language environments.

Let’s Talk Dads is the result of our ongoing partnership with Phoenix-based non-profit Southwest Human Development and the Steve Nash Foundation. This month, we launched a fourth (virtual) wave of the program with Phoenix area dads, bringing the total number of fathers who have participated to nearly 100.

Speaking of Steve Nash and the Steve Nash Foundation, the Brooklyn Nets coach recently shared a message about the important role parents play in promoting healthy early childhood development—and a TMW Center video about our work with the Foundation—with his 2.6 million followers on Twitter. We are grateful for the many ways Nash and his organization are helping to raise awareness and empower parents.

3Ts-Let’s Talk! Launches Soon in Dallas

We are thrilled to continue our pilot of 3TsLet’s Talk, a facilitator-led group program designed to empower parents and caregivers with knowledge and skills to develop their children’s intellectual and educational potential, in Dallas, Texas. Thanks to our partner ChildCareGroup, which is implementing and facilitating the program locally, 10 families from the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’s First Five child care centers will have the opportunity to participate. Initially scheduled to begin last week, the program’s start date was pushed back due to the situation in Texas; it will begin once all registered families and facilitators have their power restored and have secure access to essentials including potable water. As ChildCareGroup has continued to support families through this tragedy, we have been reminded of how fortunate we are to work with such committed partners. We are truly grateful to them.

Like all TMW Center programs and interventions, 3Ts Let’s Talk teaches parents and caregivers about the critical role their talk and interaction play in their children’s foundational brain development. And like all TMW Center programs and interventions, it utilizes the 3Ts, simple science-based strategies to help parents create an enriching environment for their children. The 3Ts remind parents to Tune In to what your child is focused on; Talk More using a wide variety of words to build your child’s vocabulary; and Take Turns to engage your child in conversation and foster curiosity and knowledge.

Each 3Ts-Let’s Talk (virtual) group session is dedicated to a specific early childhood development topic and includes guided practice and goal setting to help families integrate the 3Ts into their everyday lives. Each family also receives one-on-one coaching with a trained facilitator between the weekly sessions.

We are grateful to PNC Grow Up Great for supporting the pilot of 3Ts-Let’s Talk in Dallas and other communities across the country.

What We’re Reading

In a new commentary piece published by JAMA Pediatrics, Perri Klass and Dipesh Navsaria discuss a powerful tool that physicians can and should use to support positive parenting and children’s healthy mental, emotional, and behavioral development: encouraging literacy and shared reading. Drawing on the scientific literature and the success of Reach Out and Read, they write:

To promote reading aloud to young children, clinicians should model strategies in the examination room for dialogue building on the words and pictures in a book, encourage regular routines with language and stories, and support the relationships essential for early childhood brain development, from language and early literacy skills to socioemotional development and behavior. Framing reading aloud and book sharing as a way parents show love to their children speaks to the science of reading aloud to children and to the emotional and relational benefits that scaffold parent identity and self-efficacy.

Read their analysis in full here.