By Barbara Yates, President and CEO of Think Small

As another school year begins, we have another opportunity to reflect on children’s readiness for the learning ahead. Think Small’s strategic plan points us toward our goal of “All children in Minnesota will be ready for Kindergarten.” We work in partnership with other organizations to achieve that result. 

For many families, this is a time of new schedules. For some, that means enrolling their young child in an early care and education program for the first time. Unfortunately, for some parents there is an added stress to the usual fears of leaving their child in the care of others. Given that, the administration’s announced Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids around the country continue to be problematic, Think Small is joining other organizations in standing up for young children and condemning these raids. 

Think Small works to increase access to high-quality early education programs because we know they can help close achievement gaps. Of course, children must be able to attend the programs in order to reap the benefits, but, when families are worried about being separated due to immigration raids, they often keep their children home from child care. 

Accumulating evidence shows that access to quality early childhood experiences will result in positive outcomes for young children, both in regards to kindergarten readiness and lifelong success and there is a robust set of research findings, both locally and nationally, supporting this conclusion. However, the threat of raids is causing fear and stress in immigrant communities and, although Minnesota has not been specifically named as a location for the raids, the announcement is already leading to negative impacts. 

Attendance is extremely important for young children to reap the benefits of high-quality instruction. Attendance Works notes, “missing more than 10 percent of school starting in preschool compromises the capacity of even a strong preschool program to instill the skills necessary for reading readiness and other school readiness skills.” In partnership with others as part of our strategic plan, Think Small aims for the result that all children in Minnesota are ready for kindergarten. When children do not attend early childhood education programs because their parents are fearful of being separated from them, those children miss out on important opportunities for learning and development. 

In addition to the threat of raids, the separation of parents and children occurring at the border are also harmful and need to stop. Sending children to mass detention centers or foster care because there is a zero-tolerance prosecution policy for their parents is detrimental to their health, development and well-being. Young children have rapidly-developing brains. Early experiences shape their future behavior, and relationships with caring adults are crucial for healthy social-emotional development.

It is critical that these young children and their parents remain in a setting that allows them to stay together as a family. 

To support the full potential for every child, Think Small commits to championing policies and practices of equity that empower a just, inclusive, and equitable care and education system for children in their crucial early years. We also must speak out when policies will bring unnecessary harm to children and their families.

We condemn these raids, and we call on the administration to stop them. We also ask that the practice of separating children and parents end now, and that leaders prioritize the well-being of children when creating policy. 

For families concerned about what to do in case of a raid, here are some resources.

ACLU: Immigrants’ Rights

For early childhood educators who want to support families and children in their care, here are some additional resources. 

Build Initiative: Early Childhood Immigration and Trauma