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What will we tell the children, Part II

Last summer, like many other organizations, Smart Beginnings Virginia Peninsula issued a statement and blog post called: What will we tell the children? In that statement, I wrote that as an educator and community leader, serving in an organization that cares deeply about our communities’ children, we would “double down” on our efforts to promote understanding of equity and inclusion. I said we would hold space for conversation and learn about history, facts, structures, and systems. I said we would listen to the voices and experiences of people who live in our communities – parents, educators, human service professionals, faith and other leaders. And we have done so with a renewed effort to provide leadership to champion a collaborative system that prepares children for kindergarten and life.

Through our Early Childhood Collective Impact work, we spearhead collaboration every day and work collectively to advance fair and equitable policies and practices. Using data to understand root causes, our community partners work together so that Peninsula children birth to age five, can be born healthy, have success in school, and thrive in life.

Last summer, we acknowledged that there was pain and fear that surfaced and that there was more that we could do to build an equitable society…one that teaches our young children how to exist in this diverse world. We said we would show up differently. We said we would continue to work to bring about systems change for all of our children.

On January 14, 2021, we kept our promise to the children when we held a Community Conversation via Zoom to discuss the storming of the Capitol building on January 6th. In any type of societal unrest and pain, our families struggle with what to tell their children, especially when they see images, signs, symbols and actions that they don’t understand.

Our early educators are disturbed. Their job is to build trust with children and parents. They teach fairness (sharing) and resilience (manage feelings), and kindness (don’t cause harm to others). When children see violence, destruction, and racism they are bearing witness and will have questions. With everything else that has gone on in the past year – missing school and friends, losing loved ones, facing eviction…we cannot lay another burden at their feet.

At SBVP our stance is nonpartisan, but not silent – we condemn what was on display in DC on January 6, 2021. Our desire on January 14th was to create a space for people (especially educators and parents) to talk. Space for all attendees to speak plainly about what the children saw and experienced. The children are watching us, so what will we as grown-ups do? Let’s do better at making sure that all young children grow up without harm and can live in a just and democratic society.

Diane Umstead

Executive Director

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