We have learned many lessons as we’ve advocated for Help Me Grow replication across the country. Chief among them is this:
The mission of Help Me Grow does not fall exclusively within either the liberal or conservative mainstream. Political beliefs can’t predict whether states and their leadership and policymakers will support early childhood system-building and early detection of vulnerable children at risk for adverse developmental and behavioral outcomes.
Instead, we have found that when states, leaders, and communities share a strong commitment to the strength of families, then they are more likely to devote resources to supporting early childhood system-building and early detection of vulnerable children.
Furthermore, we have seen that many, many states, legislators, and leaders across political parties share a core belief in the importance of supporting optimal child development and strengthening families, which is a primary outcome of Help Me Grow’s mission. The recent inclusion of Help Me Grow in the state budgets of Florida and Minnesota, under the Republican and Democratic leadership, respectively, points to the system’s nonpartisan nature.
Diverging Opinions, Common Ground
The work of otherwise wildly opposed thought leaders reflects this common ground. In November 2014, the New York Times champion of liberal causes Nicholas Kristof began a column stating that Americans love children. He then debunked this statement as myth, citing our abysmal record of low pay to child care workers and low enrollment of young children in early educational programs.
Kristof explored how effective policy and programs can support families and improve child outcomes. He cited the ubiquitous research findings of Nobel Prize laureate James Heckman, who continues to demonstrate the undeniable and substantial return on investment when young children receive high quality early childhood experiences and programs.