Brittany Collins, Director, PAACT
You have likely heard or used the phrase, “let’s make a pact.” You may have said it to your kids, a friend, or your neighbor. A pact is a promise, a commitment to something that is important to you. In Atlanta, PAACT is the promise of something big… PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive.
Led by GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, PAACT is a citywide alliance of public and private partnerships working to improve outcomes for children in the City of Atlanta. PAACT is tackling one of the most urgent problems facing parents in Atlanta – early childhood education. The opportunity gap in Atlanta starts early, as families with young children face housing, health care, and child care costs that are increasingly out of reach. Due to the many inequities parents and children living in Atlanta face, many families do not have access to affordable, high-quality early care and education. PAACT is committed to ensuring all young children in Atlanta are healthy, learning and developing so that they enter school ready for success, thrive once in school, and are prepared to reach their full potential as residents of our city.
Early childhood education is as much about building our city’s future as it is about circle time, story time, and playing outdoors. If every child in Atlanta had access to high-quality early care and education, they would have the power to generate tens of millions of dollars in economic activity for the city and chart a path to a more equitable future. In other words, if Atlanta doesn’t invest in their education now, we’ll pay for it later.
New challenges presented themselves in 2020 as the pandemic changed the workforce and our schools. While Georgia stayed open, schools did not, and parents were faced with new challenges. Child care providers faced challenges while working to keep their doors open when there were fewer, or in some cases, no children inside. Through the PAACT Fund for Quality, PAACT and its partners deployed over $1.2 million in stabilization grants for more than 60 providers to pay rent, pay staff and keep the lights on. The grants were administered by Quality Care for Children with help from the Reinvestment Fund.
The PAACT collaborative is focused on the following four priorities:
- Increasing access to high-quality learning environments whether children are cared for at home or in formal early learning programs.
- Increasing public awareness and engagement. Everyone must understand the importance of early education and we all have a role to play to support. The most rapid period of brain development happens before a child turns four, so we can’t wait until children enter Pre K to wrap our arms around children.,
- Aligning systems. How do families figure out where to go to get the help they need? Are the businesses working with the city government and the school systems to support working families and their children?
- Build greater capacity to serve the health and well-being needs of children and families. A child who is healthy, is a child who will learn and grow, regardless of their economic and social situations. Providing easy and affordable access to medical professionals, nutritious foods, and learning how to stay healthy will start our children on the road to success in their academic career.
The work we are doing is making a difference, but there is a long road ahead. You may be thinking, I don’t have young children or I am not a business owner. How can I help? Talk about PAACT and the importance of our youngest children for Atlanta’s future. Raise awareness around the inequities to early childhood education and join our movement by making the PAACT.
In the coming weeks, you may be scrolling on social media, or driving around Atlanta neighborhoods and see billboards asking you to Make the PAACT. This is more than a pinky promise with your best friend. It is a pledge to be a voice for and with Atlanta’s youngest children and their families.
Make the PAACT by visiting www.ChildrenRaiseAtlanta.org.
Brittany Collins is the Director of PAACT. Convened by GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive is a city-wide alliance of public and private partners collaborating to improve learning, health, and well-being outcomes for Atlanta’s youngest children and their families.