Civil Rights Principles for Early Care and Education (ECE)

View the PDF version of these principles here.

The Civil Rights Principles for Early Care and Education were developed collaboratively by members of the Civil and Human Rights Leadership Conference and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. The coalition sought to identify core elements of the entire early childhood education and care system that protect civil rights and advance equity for children, families, staff and providers. The coalition continues to engage and educate diverse stakeholders and policy makers in the pursuit of an early care and education system that provides equal and meaningful opportunity and success for all children, especially those who have been historically marginalized.

To ensure that children and families have access to and are included in comprehensive, diverse and high quality early childhood education and care, we seek a policy that reflects the following principles. The civil rights community calls on policymakers at all levels to create and sustain an equitable system of early care and education for children, families, and providers by incorporating these principles into all relevant policies.

PRINCIPLE #1: INCLUSION AND NON-DISCRIMINATION. Children and families should have access to and be included in all early care and education (ECE) programs regardless of immigration status, disability or developmental delay, family income, race, ethnicity, religion, family configuration, gender (including sexual orientation or gender identity), parent’s age, preferred language, nationality, housing status, or involvement in the system of child protection. In order to understand whether our system provides a level playing field for high-quality early care and learning, families, providers, advocates, researchers, and policymakers need access to comprehensive, published, and disaggregated data.

PRINCIPLE #2: CULTURAL AND DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE CARE. ECE settings should be culturally and linguistically appropriate and developmentally appropriate for all children. For children from families who speak languages ​​other than English, programs should support the continued development of the child’s home language(s) while facilitating the acquisition of English. Children’s home language should be considered a cultural resource and should be recognized and respected. ECE programs should support children’s healthy growth and development (including social-emotional development) and school readiness (early literacy, early numeracy, cognitive skills). Families have the right to identify/self-define and are considered experts and partners in all aspects of service planning and implementation. States, districts, agencies, and programs should use system-wide, proactive, positive, and culturally and linguistically appropriate approaches to child development. Educators should be provided with free, ongoing, and frequent high-quality professional development and coaching in these approaches, available in multiple modes and languages.

PRINCIPLE #3: INVOLVEMENT AND PARTICIPATION OF PARENTS/FAMILY/GUARDIAN. Parents and families (including chosen families) are the first and most important teachers of young children and bring a wealth of knowledge about their children’s development, learning and cultural identities to care and nurturing. from early childhood. Two- and three-generation approaches strengthen family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and their family configuration. Parents/families need to be informed and involved in decision-making about their own children and about the early childhood program in which their children are educated. Early years programs should also provide information and support to families to help them understand child development, support their young child’s learning and development at home, and develop leadership skills to help improve early childhood systems.

PRINCIPLE #4: DIVERSIFIED, HEALTHY AND SUPPORTING WORK ENVIRONMENTS. ECE settings should be good places to work where staff are treated fairly with dignity and respect, with fair and equitable compensation and appropriate staffing levels, and where staff are supported in creating positive environments for diverse children and families – including with ongoing professional development, coaching, and career and salary scales.

PRINCIPLE #5: DIVERSIFIED AND ACCESSIBLE EARLY CARE SETTINGS. ECE settings should reflect the needs of children, families, and communities, including centre-based programs, family daycares, school-based programs, and care of family friends and neighbors serving children in the birth until enrollment in kindergarten. Families should be helped to overcome barriers to participation, including transportation, translation and accommodation. Children with disabilities should receive the individualized services and support they need in inclusive environments.

PRINCIPLE #6: PRIORITIZE MARGINALIZED CHILDREN ON THE PATH TO UNIVERSAL PROGRAMS. Policy makers must ensure that children and families who have been historically marginalized – including disabled or retarded children, low-income families, communities of color, immigrant families, Indigenous communities, families headed by LGBTQIA, homeless or mobile families, and those living in rural areas — are prioritized for receiving childcare support and universal preschool services. Quality improvement and supply-strengthening activities should also be offered and accessible to these communities during the first years of implementing a system aimed at ensuring universal or near-universal access to ECE. . Effective outreach to ensure that families are aware of the services available to them and that families are able to access them should be undertaken.

PRINCIPLE #7: INCLUSIVE AND PROACTIVE DECISION-MAKING. Parents/families/guardians, community members, staff, and providers are experts, and their voices must be included in the decision-making that occurs at every stage of systems development – ​​federal, state, and local. Input from families, staff members, and providers should be proactively sought, collected, and incorporated into policy reviews and policy development. Parents and families need to be able to support each other in their growth as leaders in caring for their own children and all children. The information should be provided in a language the parents understand.

PRINCIPLE #8: REJECT THE CRIMINALIZATION AND EXCLUSION OF YOUNG CHILDREN. Exclusive discipline and criminalizing practices are inappropriate and developmentally ineffective, and they disproportionately marginalize children of color, Indigenous children, and disabled and retarded children. No ECE program should use physically or psychologically harmful disciplinary practices, including corporal punishment, suspension, expulsion, seclusion, or restraint. Providers must receive sufficient support and resources to meet the behavioral needs of children in culturally affirming and developmentally appropriate ways.

PRINCIPLE #9: SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE HEAD START FUNDING AND EXPAND INCOME ELIGIBILITY. Head Start and Early Head Start (EHS), including Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN), must receive significantly more funding to ensure that all currently eligible children have access to these services comprehensive and high quality early childhood programs. Additional funds must also be available to increase access for families above current income limits.

PRINCIPLE #10: QUALITY ROOTED IN EQUITY. As states, districts, agencies, and programs engage in the urgent and important quality improvement work to support healthy child development, affirm parental priorities and decision-making, and provide support and resources to all providers, the understanding of quality must be grounded in equity. . In addition to cultural responsiveness in all measures of quality, intentionality is needed to ensure that providers (especially those that have been excluded from current quality improvement efforts, such as child care settings family settings, license-exempt providers, color providers and multilingual providers) with particular experience and expertise in responsive care for children from marginalized backgrounds are included in the design, measurement and funding of measures improvement initiatives that remove barriers to high quality child care.

Signed by:

The Leaders’ Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Leadership Conference Education Fund
American atheists
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers
American Humanist Association
Asian Americans Advance Justice | ACCA
Association of University Centers on Disability
Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation
Autism Self Defense Network
Bazelon Mental Health Law Center
Center for Law and Social Policy
Center for Learner Equity
America’s Conscious Child Care
Children’s Defense Fund
Women’s Issues Clearinghouse
Children’s Committee
Board of Solicitors and Advocates for Parents
Family equality
Feminist Majority Foundation
Hispanic Federation
human rights campaign
Impact Fund
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)
National Alliance for Equity Partnerships
National Association of Counseling on Developmental Disabilities
National Institute of Black Child Development
National Coalition for Black Justice
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Center for Parenting Leadership, Advocacy and Community Empowerment (National PLACE)
National Center for Youth Law
National Council of Jewish Women
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Education Association
National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
Indian National Education Association (NIEA)
Head Start National Association of Migrants and Seasonal Workers
National Women’s Organization Foundation
National Urban League
National Center for Women’s Rights
The residents
Teach for America
The Arc of the United States
The Education Trust
UnidosUnited States
Union for Reform Judaism
YWCA United States

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Helen D. Jessen