The Children’s Agenda (TCA) is a local non-profit agency whose focus is to advocate for children’s issues and to help us to keep our eyes on those issues. The month of October is dedicated to their work and so I thought I give them some attention. I begin with a story TCA shared with me recently.
Kim, mom to Vivian, told us “Early Intervention [EI] really saved our family. These providers who were coming into our home gave the whole entire family the support that we needed to take care of Vivian. Vivian is thriving today because of EI and our family is together and healthy emotionally, spiritually, physically, because they held us all together.”
The experience is that when services are available early and on time, young children with developmental delays or disabilities are more likely to develop to their full potential, and the cost is significantly less than waiting until children reach school age. If young children (ages birth – 5 yrs old) are not developing typically, they are eligible to receive services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy.
By mandate of Federal law, appropriate, timely services may be available to children of all ages. There are different programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. In Monroe County approximately 2,700 children ages, 3 – 5 benefit from Preschool Special Education (PSE) every year. Services are overseen by the NYS Education Department and operated by school districts.
What is the problem? These programs are funded with local, state and federal dollars. Right now, inadequate funding in NYS is driving professionals out of this field. With providers not available, children are waiting weeks or even months for support they need to thrive and grow.
What is the solution? TCA asks us to urge our elected officials to take action to ensure that New Yorkers, birth to 5, with developmental delays and disabilities receive services to which they are entitled, such as evaluations, speech/language therapy, physical therapy, and other services. In order to do this these things need to happen:
1. Increase payment rates for providers in New York State’s 2020-21 budget so more therapists will stay in and join this field and more children can be served.
2. Improve the system serving these vulnerable young children by aligning and better coordinating of programs. What can be done? Tell your friends, neighbors and – most importantly – address your NYS legislator about this crisis.
I encourage you to join the “Kids Can’t Wait” campaign at www.thechildrensagenda.org. As a member, you will be informed about opportunities to take action. You can also go to www.thechildrensagenda.org/partnerships/interfaith/ for a complete list of Children’s Interfaith activities.
Finally, thank you for your personal support during these difficult and trying days in our Church.
Let us continue to pray for and take action to bring about peace in our world!
In peace and courage,