Reflections on the 2018 ZERO TO THREE Conference

by Lana Nenide, Executive Director, Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health

Last week I had the privilege of attending the national Zero to Three conference – an event that gathers professionals across states and nations who are passionate about supporting babies and families.

This conference is a wonderful opportunity to connect and reconnect, listen to outstanding speakers, explore new interventions, get ideas and inspiration for future work and collaboration.

This year I had a chance to meet the new cohort of the Zero to Three fellows – an accomplished and diverse group of professionals who are just at the beginning of their 18 month journey. This reminded me of my own experience two years ago and made me miss my group so very much. Fortunately, a number of my fellow fellows were in attendance and we had beautiful moments of connection and joy.

  2016-2018 ZERO TO THREE Fellows and Lynette Aytch,       Director, Leadership Development Institute at the 2018 National Conference.    Photo credit Mimi Graham, Director, FSU Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy

2016-2018 ZERO TO THREE Fellows and Lynette Aytch, Director, Leadership Development Institute at the 2018 National Conference.

Photo credit Mimi Graham, Director, FSU Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy

As an Academy Fellow, I was invited to attend the Zero to Three “Family Dinner” where I got to witness a ceremony honoring Board members who were ending their service. To see Jeree Pawl, hear her reflect on her work – with wisdom and humour is an incredible experience. To connect with her and realize she knows and remembers me  - is such great honour!  This filled me with pride and joy.

  Lana Nenide and Jeree Pawl at the 2017 ZERO TO THREE Family Dinner    Photo by Matthew Melmed, ZERO TO THREE Executive Director

Lana Nenide and Jeree Pawl at the 2017 ZERO TO THREE Family Dinner

Photo by Matthew Melmed, ZERO TO THREE Executive Director

Another highlight of the conference was listening to Dr. John B. King (https://edtrust.org/team/john-b-king-jr/ ) speak on the transformative power of early education and what can be done to close the achievement gap. It was an excellent, powerful presentation that provided sobering data, personal examples and direction to the audience.

Dr, King shared his own story: "It is deeply personal...without a series of teachers I had, I would have been dead or in prison. A safe, stable relationship with a caring adult makes all the difference. I know that educators save lives every day."

Dr. King closed his speech with the six item “to do list” – our collective homework, a list of what needs to be done in order for us to achieve equity and justice for ALL our children. I wanted to share this list with you all:

1.       Proper prenatal care and evidence-based home visiting

2.       Better coordination between service providers, educators, and policy makers

3.       Access to high quality early care and education program for ALL children

4.       Championing diversity

5.       Better support for children and families as they transition from preschool to k-12 system

6.       Equitable access to joy and wonder for ALL children

This is a hefty and yet necessary list. It feels good to have direction and also realize while we have a long way to go, we are not starting from scratch. We’ve made significant strides in our state and we will continue to move forward.

Dr. King finished with stating our future, our economic well-being depends on the very work we all do – you do. So I too want to take this opportunity to thank you deeply for your expertise, love, care, and passion. Because of you we are shaping a better, kinder, compassionate world together for us and our children.

With all my best,

Lana

Melissa Minkoff