Senator Durbin tells Executive Fellows of need for early childhood advocacy

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois recently helped Erikson Institute welcome back our Early Childhood Leadership Academy’s (ECLA) inaugural class of McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows for their second session of training on our campus.

The McCormick Fellows in the ECLA program receive credible, up-to-date, and research-based understanding of child development that equips them with the tools to make the most informed decisions about policy-setting and resource allocation in their respective fields.

In his talk, Durbin addressed the crucial need to address early childhood issues through policy. But he also discussed the challenges in doing so, particularly at the Congressional level, using as an example his own proposed legislation that would help children who have experienced trauma.

“I’m proud to see the McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows Program prioritizing early childhood advocacy in Illinois, and I look forward to working together to provide our children with the support they need to address the emotional scars of community violence,” he said.

After his presentation, Durbin engaged in a compelling conversation with political, civic, and judicial leaders about various topics related to early childhood education, such as children choosing the path of violence, why society waits to address issues facing children until it’s too late, and ways to reach students outside of school.

“What has happened to our culture that we don’t recognize these needs and … just punish at the end?” asked McCormick Fellow Andrew Gleeson, chief judge of the 20th Judicial Circuit in St. Clair County, Illinois

“The Erikson training has caused me to constantly ask if children that I see, especially in low-income communities, are getting access to early childhood programs or not,” said Fellow Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Cook County Board commissioner. “Prior to this exposure, this was not a subject I considered very much.”

That’s what Geoffrey A. Nagle, PhD, Erikson’s president and chief executive officer, wants the Fellows to do more of as they make decisions that directly impact young children and families. In a wrap-up session call-to-action to the Fellows, Nagle challenged them to “express the dream” to affect positive change.

“It’s really powerful as leaders to put your beliefs out there,” Nagle said. “What are you trying to do as a leader? Ultimately, it is your role to inspire the people to action.”

Patricia Martin, presiding judge of the Child Protection Division in Cook County, Illinois, said she’s ready to do her part.

“It is my honor to serve as an executive fellow,” she said. “The experience of looking at early childhood development with my colleagues from such varying fields as medicine, legislative, and politics gives me a broader and more holistic view of how courts can assist in strengthening families.”

Our McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program is one of three leadership programs offered through our Early Childhood Leadership Academy, a signature initiative that provides knowledgeable leaders with dynamic and collective learning experiences to enhance their capacity to influence early childhood policy leading to positive outcomes for young children and their families.

“The 2017 cohort of McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows proved to be a dynamic and thoughtful group of 22 cross-sector leaders who are now equipped with the latest research to translate into action and on behalf of young children and families,” said Cristina Pacione-Zayas, PhD, Erikson director of policy.

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, a lead funder in early childhood, provides funding to support this initiative as part of its efforts to advance and develop strong early childhood policy and advocacy networks.

Read more about our McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program here.