Campaign Targets Early Childhood Development

MIAMI — Now reaching out to Miami’s diverse communities: “Teach More/Love More,” a $2.5 million-plus public awareness campaign aimed at helping parents better understand the physical, emotional and educational needs of young children.

The campaign targets Miami-Dade parents through television, radio and billboard messages. Parents can also access a multilingual web site and a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hot line (305-631-8111) providing instant help in English, Spanish or Creole.

The initiative is the result of a partnership between United Way Success By 6, a program to get kids ready for school by age 6; and The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, the recipient of a two-year $1 million Knight grant.

The multimedia campaign is designed to alert parents to the consequences of insufficient attention to early childhood development issues and to help build demand for better countywide services.

David Lawrence, president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, said the initiative could be a national model for creating public awareness in the early childhood area.

“I am convinced that we must create the ‘demand’ for early childhood basic services if we are to have a real chance of increasing significantly the ‘supply’ of such services as health insurance for children, high-quality child care and so forth,” Lawrence said.

At the core of the program are educational resources for parents and caregivers on topics such as prenatal care, the benefits of breast milk, childcare, nutrition and crisis situations.

Lawrence said the campaign would focus primarily on parents and caregivers, but not exclusively.

“There are many potential targets, e.g., the business community, the faith community, the civic and political community,” Lawrence said. “But it all starts with parents seeking — nay, demanding — the basics for their children…and that can only come when they are informed of the ingredients that would help grow a successful child.”

Other resources include a multilingual informational video for pregnant women and delivery of a new-parent kit within 24 hours of a new baby’s arrival. The kit includes a preview issue of a parent skills-building newsletter published 11 times a year, and a baby book — both available in three languages.

“There are many next steps. One of those is a forthcoming effort to build a significant ‘family literacy coalition’ in our community,” said Lawrence. “Remember that Miami-Dade has a population of 2.2 million, larger than 17 states in the Union.”

A renewed belief in the value of the well-being of children and families, one of Knight’s priority areas, led to the June grant in support of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation.