Parent Advocacy Is An Important Part of ECEAP
Today we would like to highlight McKyndree Rogers. McKyndree is a parent whose child was enrolled in our Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). Through her family’s engagement in our program, McKyndree began to learn skills about parent advocacy including how to advocate for her children’s needs while engaging in the school system and community services and advocating at a legislative level.
McKyndree’s passion for ECEAP and child development aligned with our work and mission at YWCA Spokane. As a result, McKyndree eventually joined our team at YWCA Spokane. She began working as one of our valued ECEAP Teachers and is now a part of our ECEAP Family Service Staff.
McKyndree Shares About Parent Advocacy
Parent advocacy through YWCA ECEAP can look differently for each parent. Engagement may include legislative education and advocacy, joining parent council, attending monthly community meetings or our parent groups, signing up to volunteer, working as part of YWCA Spokane’s staff team, or becoming a parent ambassador.
McKyndree shares about her own advocacy journey and how to be a parent advocate through the below interview with our team.
How did you first get involved with ECEAP?
I first got involved in ECEAP in 2012 when my son went to ECEAP. He needed some extra help and had a referral and an IEP in preschool. With the help and early interventions provided by the ECEAP program he started kindergarten on track and without an IEP. My daughter started ECEAP in 2016. She didn’t need as many resources but she was a little clumsy and I would meet with the student study team to develop a plan to work on her large gross motor skills. While my daughter was attending ECEAP, I got involved in the Policy Council parent group and met other moms who were in similar situations as us. I also learned about WSA, the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP!
How did you first get involved with WSA?
In 2017, the Washington State legislators tried to pass a bill to eliminate 3 year olds in ECEAP to focus funding on 4 year olds who were going to kindergarten. WSA was very active about reaching out to parents and collecting their stories of how ECEAP had helped their kids and families. They also educated parents about writing and calling our local representatives. So many parents called in and wrote their legislators in Olympia, not only did they keep 3 year olds in the program, they expanded it and added more slots. That was the first time I really saw our voices as parents making a difference and it motivated me to learn more about what else we can do to help expand ECEAP and make it more accessible to all families. In 2018 I applied to be a Parent Ambassador with WSA.
What positions have you held at WSA? What did each entail?
The first “position” if you will, was becoming a Parent Ambassador. A lot of people become WSA Reps first, but I was actually out-voted for the position and was a secretary on the policy council board instead.
But I think it’s important to talk about what WSA Representatives are. It’s a position that every ECEAP has on their parent group executive board. You run and get voted into that position by other parents in your program. The position involves going to the WSA conferences and bringing back information to your program and community and being a voice for your program.
The Parent Ambassador program is a yearlong peer to peer training program for ECEAP, Head Start and other Early Learning program parents. Parent Ambassadors go through an extensive high-quality advocacy training program. Parents learn the basics of government, about specific pieces of legislation, how to contact their lawmakers, how to provide effective testimony, and how to effectively engage parents in their community. You fill out an application and WSA picks 25-30 parents throughout Washington state to participate. I became a Parent Ambassador in 2018 and it changed my life!
I’m now working for WSA as a parent coordinator. I work with parents going through the Parent Ambassador program, I help run and plan the bi-monthly Zoom meetings and conferences, stay connected and help support my set of parent ambassadors!
What are some of the important topics that you take on as an advocate?
Some of the topics I advocate for for ECEAP and early learning are increasing ECEAP’s cost per child by 7%, aligning ECEAP entitlement with free and reduced lunch and adding 750 ECEAP slots. Other advocacy topics are things that would help families as a whole, like the working families tax credit and secure-scheduling legislation (so parents can plan for childcare) and affordable housing. Basically, if it helps people in need or people facing injustice and inequity, I advocate for it!
What is the easiest/fastest way for parents to advocate for their children?
Attend the parent group and community meetings at your local ECEAP program!
YWCA ECEAP Parent Community Meetings
YWCA Spokane hosts virtual, collaborative community meetings once a month for family and community members involved in ECEAP. Community meetings have been established in order to create a safe, consistent space to explore the following topics: advocate for children, discuss policy updates, social-emotional learning, leadership education/opportunities, community resources. Through these welcoming meeting spaces parents are able to engage in community while developing their capacity as a parent advocate.
A parent advocate is someone who:
- comes alongside those in need and is a partner
- helps them become empowered
- helps make plans
- assists with setting goals
- find community resources
There are many ways for family members to be involved with ECEAP. Learn more about ECEAP.
Washington State Association of Head Start/ECEAP (or WSA) is another way for families to advocate for their children. According to the WSA website: WSA is a statewide organization composed of representatives from Head Start, Early Head Start, Migrant Head Start, Native American Head Start and ECEAP. The association has been in existence since the late 1960’s, and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1986. WSA provides a strong voice in Washington, DC and Olympia as our legislators make decisions that affect low-income children and families. Our voice is made stronger by the continuing involvement of hundreds of Head Start and ECEAP parents and graduates.