Advocacy in early childhood education and child care can take many forms and be done in many ways. Often it is integrated into our everyday work; when we have to explain what we do to someone who questions our profession, or when we actively seek opportunities to enhance our work with children and families. At other times we may engage in direct actions such as marching in the streets, engaging in discussions and consultation with the broader community, or participating in research initiatives in our field.
ECEs are often expected to advocate within their own programs but are not always considered advocates in the broader research and policy community. Conflicting understandings of advocacy are sometimes at odds with our ideas of professionalism. Advocacy is not always about being loud and visible in an aggressive or antagonistic way, but rather it is the everyday awareness that influences your work and actions. It is about being a part of something meaningful that connects your daily work to the broader ECEC sector. Although it can be challenging to find time and space to engage in advocacy, there are multiple paths to advocacy and multiple ways to advocate. Ongoing advocacy can be used to enhance your work and build opportunities for your career.
Advocacy is a tool for continued learning and a crucial strategy to strengthen your knowledge and understanding of the ECE field. Being engaged inspires us to learn about the broader issues in the field and allows us to make connections to our experience as ECEs. Understanding why, for example, our wages may be lower than we know they should be supports us to find meaningful ways to address the issue. Having a deeper understanding also allows us to cope with the everyday challenges of our work in a positive way.
Advocacy is a way to build professional identity because it continues to remind us of the importance of our work and the role that early childhood education and child care plays in society. Coming together to advocate allows us to connect with other ECEs and community members in a shared space that nurtures our collective identity. These opportunities take us outside of our day to day environments and remind us that we do not operate in isolation. Rather, we get to see that we are part of a larger community that is there to support our work and values our contribution as ECEs.
Advocacy is a way to build professional power because it puts you in a position to be a leader in the field and in your immediate work environment. This engagement may also open up new and exciting opportunities, especially in the area of leadership. Actively seeking and sharing information with your colleagues and communities makes you visible as a knowledgeable professional. ECEs have on the ground experience and crucial perspectives of what it takes to run great programs for children and families. Bringing the ECE perspective to conversations in the broader ECEC sector is extremely important and valuable.
Further reading: From Vision to Action: ECEs role in the Canadian child care movement
How does the AECEO advocate?
As the professional association for early childhood educators in Ontario the AECEO advocates on behalf of ECEs in a variety of ways.
At times, we may engage in overt advocacy through supporting existing early learning and child care campaigns or developing campaigns such as the current Professional Pay for Professional Work campaign.
At other times our advocacy work is more discreet as we work to engage in conversations around early childhood education and child care policy development, research and practice. The AECEO strives to voice the needs, concerns and rights of early childhood educators in these important discussions that have an impact on the work of early childhood educators in Ontario.
The AECEO also works with other organizations advocating for ECEC, women, and children and families. The following is a list of provincial organizations that advocate for child care and ECEC more broadly.
You can get involved with one or more of these organizations in a number of ways. Follow them on social media, join their email mailing list, become a member, sign a petition, go out to an event or demonstration. You can also bring back information about advocacy work to your colleagues, families and communities. If every ECE took one advocacy action, we could have a huge impact on ECEC in this province.
Below are some great advocacy projects by ECE students.
A group of 4th semester ECE students advocate for the value of the profession
This video was created by students through their placement with the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care to create awareness for Early Childhood Educators and Child Care Worker Appreciation Day