Open Letter - COVID-19: Impacting the lives of young children for many years to come
Montreal, November 16, 2020 — Young families are among those who have been the most affected by COVID-19. If we don’t take action now, the repercussions of the pandemic on children 5 and under will be dire and long-lasting.
With many educational services for young children put on hold during lockdown, the use of masks altering interaction in learning environments, strains on household finances and mental health, a weakened social safety net, the effect of work from home on family-work balance, unprecedented stress during pregnancy, mothers who have given birth without their partner, delays in healthcare services, increases in domestic abuse, and greater housing and food insecurity, young children are on the frontline of this crisis. The critical period of transition to kindergarten has been jeopardized by COVID-19-related restrictions and the cancellation of many of the activities that favour interaction between schools, families and the community as a whole.
And this is only some of the collateral damage that has compromised the health and well-being of younger members of our society. The consequences are even worse for children who were already vulnerable before the onset of the pandemic.
How can we, individually and collectively, do more and do better to nurture the development of babies, toddlers and preschoolers in the midst of this crisis?
Our basic instinct is the right one: we have to keep our children out of harm’s way.
How? By ensuring they have access to the resources they need to thrive.
We all contribute to a child’s upbringing in one way or another. Parents most importantly, but they are not alone. Educators, neighbours, employers, policymakers and the general public all have a role to play. We have the ability to make a real difference in their lives, especially the community organizations and local services that are so essential in bringing stakeholders together. The expertise is already in place, but the needs are even greater now in the midst of COVID-19. More time and effort than ever before must be invested in the well-being of the next generation – the adults of tomorrow. We have to make sure they all get an equal shot at blossoming into their best selves and becoming well-rounded, productive members of society. Together, we can – and we must – make this happen.
Today marks the beginning of Early Childhood Week. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to give a voice to the 530,000 children aged 5 and under in Quebec (close to 600,000 if you count all those who will be born in the coming months). Let’s make early childhood development a true social priority.
Our response is already in motion but the pandemic has brought to light how urgent it is for us to move forward faster. Taking action now will reduce the short- and long-term costs to society with regard to health, social and educational services in addition to helping keep school dropout rates from rising.
The importance of early childhood development, from the womb through to preschool years, cannot be overstated. What we do now will have a decisive influence on how solid the foundation is for their lives as they grow older.
It’s time for everyone across the province to step forward. Let’s put young children at the heart of our priorities. Let’s set an example for others to follow. By joining forces now and fighting for what they need, we can build a better future for them and for us all.
This letter is co-signed by supporters of the Collectif petite enfance
Director, Collectif petite enfance
Mayor, City of Brossard and Espace MUNI President
General Manager, Association pour la santé publique du Québec
General Manager, Association Québécoise des centres de la petite enfance
President, Cour à bois Natural Playground
Coordinator, Réseau québécois pour la réussite éducative
Full professor, UQAM
Managing Partner, Woods LLP
Olympic medalist, short track speed skating
General Manager, Fondation Olo
Full professor in special education, UQAM
Instructor, Éducation préscolaire et enseignement primaire, UQAM
Executive Director, Fédération québécoise des organismes communautaires Famille
Snowboarding Olympian and Head of Services for Athletes and Training Groups for ESIM
President, Quebec Public Library Association
President, Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation (Naître et grandir / Early Childhood Observatory)
Actress and columnist
General Manager, Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois et chroniqueuse
President, Centrale des syndicats du Québec
Emeritus Professor of Economics, UQAM
Executive Director, Marie-Vincent Foundation
Professor, Research group on human capital development, economics department, ESG UQAM
World Champion and Olympian, cross-country skiing
Ex-President, Avenir d’enfants
Executive Director, Community Health and Social Services Network
Dr Gilles Julien
President, Dr Julien Foundation
Full Professor, Department of Psychology, UQTR
Director General, International Bureau for Children’s Rights
General Manager, Réseau des Centres de Ressources Périnatales du Québec
President and Chief Executive Officer, Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal
Consultant and former president of a Commission on early childhood education
President, LS4 / LSR GesDev
General Manager, Conseil québécois des services éducatifs à la petite enfance
President, Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)
President and CEO, Foundation of Greater Montréal
P.h.D candidate, observation and assessment of child development in educational setting
Journalist & Founder, The Second Act Project
Mayor of the borough of Verdun
Chief, Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador
Dr Éric Poulin
Optometrist, President, Ordre des optométristes du Québec
General Manager, Réseau pour un Québec Famille
Actor and host
Co-founder and General Manager, Regroupement Partage
President, Association d’éducation Préscolaire du Québec
Representative, Regional Early Childhood Steering Commitees
General Manager, First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission
General Manager, Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec
Olympian (goalkeeper), Manager, Business Development, BOKS Canada
Director, Association des haltes-garderies communautaires du Québec
President, Réseau FADOQ
President, Force Jeunesse
Juan Torres, Ph.D.
Certified urban planner, professor at the School of urban planning and landscape architecture, Université de Montréal
Executive Vice President, Québec, Énergir
Co-founder and President, Pour 3 Points, certified integral development coach, lawyer
General Manager, Regroupement pour la Valorisation de la Paternité
Dr Stanley Vollant
Surgeon, President of Puamun Meshkenu