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1,800 Days: The History of Early Childhood Education

Episode 1: Pandemic: Informal Structures of Childhood

Erikson Institute is excited to announce a new podcast series created by Erikson, produced by PRX, and distributed by PRX. Natalie Moore, a renowned author of The South Side and reporter for WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio, will take us through the history of early childhood care and education, the launch of Head Start, the Preschool for All initiative, and our nation’s current patchwork system of programs, policies, and shortcomings highlighted by the pandemic.

1,800 Days: The Story of Early Childhood in the U.S. podcast is a five-episode series that features national figures like Erikson co-founder Barbara Taylor Bowman, educators, caregivers, policymakers, researchers, and advocates. The series will focus on the history of the early childhood field, and most notably, how the first 1,800 days of every child’s life from birth to kindergarten is the most intense period of development in every person’s lifetime.

In this first episode, Natalie highlights the inequities in the childcare system and how they appear in two different situations in Chicago and the state of the childcare system in Illinois. She first visits Bela Moté, CEO of Carole Robertson Center in Chicago, a daycare facing extra challenges. It’s the pandemic’s beginning, and Moté is trying to balance the kids’ needs, their parents, and her staff. The stay-at-home order in Illinois ended on May 30, 2020, but before she can welcome kids back into the center, she needs to convince her staff that it’s okay to come back to work. She soon sees that the pandemic disproportionately affected children and families in certain zip codes and questions how she can safely welcome everyone back and open up Carole Robertson Center.

As we view the importance of the first years of life through the lens of the pandemic’s psychological toll on young children, we meet Patricia Brady, founder of the Center for Achieving Balance for Children and Families and a licensed mental health counselor.

Brady sees the pandemic throwing off any “new normal,” causing childcare centers to open and close erratically and putting some parents in the position of caregivers while working from home. Brady, a grandmother, knows the impact of having a parent or both parents work from home can have both pros and cons.

As Natalie looks to discuss some of the pitfalls of the current childcare system and informal structures that have developed due to the childcare gap, she visits with DeCarla Burton, owner of a home daycare business and Founder of the Supporting Professionals Network Association.

In Illinois, the state government has attempted to soften the economic blow by issuing more than one billion dollars of childcare provider relief grants since the pandemic began. Burton is grateful for the support and sees the ongoing need for policy change to make the childcare system more responsive to families’ needs.

As we look around at the state of the childcare industry, the signs of racist structures are plain to see. Childcare workers are disproportionately women of color, and their pay is stunningly low. Join us in our next episode to hear how slavery links to the foundation of America’s approach to early care and education.

To listen to episode one of 1,800 Days, visit the links below or wherever you get your podcasts and join the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages! For more information, visit

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