Española, New Mexico — The LANL Foundation is proud to commemorate this year’s Week of the Young Child, April 2-8, 2022. Sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the annual event highlights the needs of young children and their families across the nation, and recognizes the early childhood programs and services meeting those needs.
The LANL Foundation’s Early Childhood Program empowers parents and caregivers in New Mexico, and promotes early childhood health and well-being through efforts such as home visits for families, training and support for educators, and community collaborations such as the Pueblo Outreach Project and the Rio Arriba County Early Childhood Collaborative (RACECC).
NAEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy and research. “We support all who care for, educate and work on behalf of young children. Our Early Childhood Program strongly reflects the NAEYC’s goals,” said Anna Marie Garcia, the
LANL Foundation’s vice president of early childhood education. “Babies are born with limitless potential, but the positive or negative experiences they have during their first few years make an immense difference in their lives.” Garcia also described the challenges faced by some of New Mexico’s youngest, most vulnerable children, and what LANL Foundation is doing to address those issues.
“Some families struggle with issues such as trauma, substance use, domestic violence, joblessness, teen pregnancy and low graduation rates,” Garcia said. “Together we can prepare and support our children through these challenges, and guide them toward realizing their potential. We know positive relationships and equal access to quality early-childhood care and education play a unique and powerful role in shaping the trajectories for children, families and communities. That’s why a big part of LANL Foundation’s mission has been to listen to local communities and prioritize purposeful access to language, culture, and intergenerational kinship relationships. By listening to the stories, the strengths, needs and gaps, we can re-envision the role that early childhood care and education plays in the lives of children, and strengthen capacity and opportunities in a positive way — especially for communities of color.”
This year, the LANL Foundation is marking the Week of the Young Child by officially launching its Rio Arriba County Early Childhood Collaborative Plan, as well as recent grants they received to help with the work of strengthening children, families and communities. The Early Childhood Systems Building grant comes from the newly formed New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department, and will engage local communities, making sure New Mexico’s early childhood services meet the needs of the state’s youngest children. In particular, the grant will help LANL Foundation's Early Childhood Program expand outreach and engagement efforts to rural and immigrant families to include all of Rio Arriba County, building upon the Foundation’s successful work through the Rio Arriba County Early Childhood Collaborative (RACECC). The early childhood program is also using this important week to showcase a grant from the Delle Foundation to support Grandparents/Kin Raising Children, a grant from the WK Kellogg Foundation to continue the work in supporting early childhood systems in the eight northern Pueblos, and a grant from the Brindle Foundation to help support early childhood teachers in Pueblo communities to take classes leading to their early childhood education degrees.
“The Week of the Young Child is a great reminder of our mission and purpose,” noted Garcia. “The first Week of the Young Child was in 1971, and I’m happy to say that a lot of progress has been made since then. But we need to continue this work until effective, community-based early childhood services are available and accessible to families in every corner of New Mexico. That’s something we stay focused on every week of every year.”