The First 1000 Days are Huge for Children

Organizing Policy Wade's World

           Pearl River     I’ve always said about organizing that the “beginnings prejudice the ends.”  Meaning simply, how you start things – like an organization – will have an immense impact on what that organization is ever able to do.  If you begin as a tenants’ group, it’s unlikely that you will somehow morph into a broad-based, multi-issued organization.  Not impossible, of course, but it’s very hard, and most don’t make it.  External and internal perceptions of the organization solidify expectations and ambitions.

Organizations aren’t people, so don’t get me wrong about this, but it was interesting talking to Blythe Thomas on Wade’s World about her organization, 1000 Days. The name refers to the first 1000 days, roughly three years, of a child’s life and how important that is to their development and future.  From what I gathered from our conversation, the organization is not your standard issue public health or education outfit.  What they are is a DC-area-based lobbying and advocacy shop trying to get more support for children’s critical early days.

We all know what they are saying is right.  It’s not opinion.  Endless research backs up their analysis.  If we want healthy children, we need to start by supporting healthy mothers both before and during pregnancy.  Nutrition matters for mothers and children during this critical period that contributes to brain development and increases a child’s prospects both on the short term and long term. 1000 Days wants governmental policy to better reflect what most of us agree is just plain common sense.

Thomas underlined the fact that we have federal programs that support mothers and children for the first 90 days after birth, but there is also additional support for the first full year of a child’s life, but many states don’t elect to extend the coverage.  This is a program that gets lost in the shuffle, but most of us recognize that the additional childcare support for families with children that arrived during the Biden administration created incredible reductions in child and family poverty.  It’s part of what has also mitigated the impact of rising inflation and economic stress now.  Unfortunately, despite the success of the program, Congress has not been able to bridge the political gap to put families and children first, behind politics, and continues to refuse to extend the coverage.

I keep saying that we all know this period of a child’s life is make-or-break for many, but do we really?  1000 Days’ snapshot of the US record in this area is appalling:

By several measures, the United States is failing its mothers and young children. The U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates of any wealthy country, with notable disparities along racial and ethnic lines. Our nation also ranks among the worst of our peers on key child health metrics: 1 in 10 babies is born too early, 1 in 6 babies is never breastfed, and 1 in 8 toddlers weighs too much. Workers are not guaranteed comprehensive, job-protected paid leave, jeopardizing the ability of many parents to care for themselves and their children. And too many families struggle to put nutritious foods on the table, as nearly 1 in 7 households with children is food insecure.

Dobbs has replaced Roe, but all of us are pro-mothers and children, aren’t we?  So why aren’t we together on doing right by them, especially when it’s so clearly a case of the opposition being penny wise and pound foolish?  We’re dragging our wagon when it comes to children.  We’re the richest nation in the world, and we’ve got the red ass when it comes to comparison with other countries.  Nancy Griffin has a great song, “Come on Up, Mississippi”.  We need to join 1000 Days with some commitment and loud voices that wail, “Come on Up, America!” when it comes to supporting mothers and children.