The Education Trust–New York Empowers Parents with the Launch of Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab

Nov 20, 2023 | Press Release

NEW YORK – Parents are their children’s first teachers. Research shows that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life—the period from birth to age three—is when 85% of brain development happens. That’s why The Education Trust–New York, which coordinates the early childhood Raising New York coalition, launched the Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab to empower and expand parent leaders’ knowledge of critical early childhood issues, NYC and NYS funding sources, available programs, and resources, and to support parent advocacy efforts. Parent leaders will help ensure that policymakers invest funding in ways that meet the needs of all young children and families — especially those most in need.

“Families experiencing the benefits and challenges of our systems are critical to ensuring we get policy right at the local, state, and federal levels, yet their voices often go unheard. Parents are true partners who should be engaged in this work deliberately, intentionally, and respectfully,” said Jenn O’Connor, Director of Partnerships and Early Childhood Policy for The Education Trust–New York. “Through the Lab, we strive to help transform parent leaders’ personal stories into power that grounds and accelerates the movement toward better systems.”

The Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab, which has hosted three sessions so far, will equip parents and caregivers of color, those from low-income backgrounds, and foster parents to contribute to high-stakes policy decisions. Working collaboratively with a statewide cohort of leaders, parents will also broaden their understanding of the early childhood landscape and develop ideas for how resources can be used or repurposed to advance early childhood efforts in their respective communities. Throughout the 10-month fellowship, parents will develop skills in policy writing, power mapping, and advocacy strategies to help advance equity. Parent leaders receive a $2,000 stipend for their participation in the Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab, to compensate them for their time and valuable input.

“This Lab is so empowering! It has provided a space for concerned parents like me to learn that we do have a voice. It has personally shown me that my struggles as a mom have not been in vain, as I can use those experiences as a platform to advocate for all families,” said Amy Funes, New York City mom and participant of the Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab.

“I was honored to join the Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab and hear directly from parents. There is power in parent advocacy and this workshop will help parents harness that power in effective and meaningful ways,” said Andrew Hevesi, New York State Assemblyman (D-Queens) and Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Children & Families.

“ECE on the Move proudly incorporates its parent leadership into the Lab sponsored by the Education Trust-NY for advocacy work in New York City. We know that the Lab will amplify crucial parent voice and offer much needed organizing tools for shaping policies and championing the future of our children,” said Shanita Bowen, CEO for ECE On The Move and Lab presenter.

“Parents and caregivers are a powerful voice on behalf of their children. They often know their kids best and have crucial perspective on how to ensure that they thrive,” said Trudy Morgan, Director of Policy at the New York State Network for Youth Success and Lab presenter. “Every time a parent or caregiver speaks up, educates others, or engages advocacy tools to improve their children’s overall experience, they are transforming their community one step at a time. This is why parent advocacy is so important.”


About The Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab

The Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab aims to equip a diverse group of parents and caregivers from across New York State with the tools necessary to inform policymakers and advocate for systemic changes that will further support families and their young children. We support the parent cohort by helping them develop skills in policy writing, power mapping, and advocacy strategies to advance equity in their respective communities. The Parent Leaders span across New York State, with a strong focus on New York City. Our parent and caregiver participants — each with at least one child under age five — have experienced a diverse set of challenges in accessing high-quality, affordable child care, Early Intervention services, and health and development services. Each parent and caregiver’s story is different — and equally important — but they thread together a common theme that highlights how New York State needs to do more to support families with infants and toddlers. The Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy Lab is an initiative of The Education Trust–New York and Raising New York.

About The Education Trust–New York:

The Education Trust–New York works to eliminate the gaps in equity and opportunity achievement that hold back too many students from reaching their full potential, especially those who are from low-income backgrounds or students of color, in order to enable all students in New York State to achieve at high levels — from early childhood through college. Learn more at