President's Message

The Science is Screaming at Us

At long last, it is spring!  New Beginnings! Fresh starts!

New York State budget negotiations often place us on the defensive – fighting to save the very same family strengthening programs we helped to build.  This year’s budget – which concluded on March 31, 2018 – was no exception.  The Executive Budget, released in early January, proposed significant cuts to programs that serve and support low-income families and children. Faced with the prospect of harsh cuts, Schuyler Center, with our many partners and allies, were compelled to devote substantial time and resources from January through March fighting hard to fend off these proposals. While we succeeded in helping to defeat some of the worst proposals, this success is bitter because it leaves us, at best, standing in place in our efforts to reduce child poverty, strengthen families, and improve child health, developmental and educational outcomes.   

We are nevertheless hopeful this spring, excited to nurture new initiatives to put children and families on a path to thrive, including the State’s focus on the first 1,000 days of life.  In fact, one of the brightest aspects of the budget for New York children and families was the inclusion of a seed investment to ensure implementation of recommendations made by New York’s trailblazing First 1,000 Days on Medicaid workgroup.  This small investment has potential to improve the health and development of the nearly 60% of New York children age zero to three who are covered by Medicaid.  It may also help cultivate and expand initiatives outside of Medicaid.  Just last month, Governor Cuomo announced a new initiative to target maternal mortality and reduce racial disparities in health outcomes, citing the importance of the first 1,000 days of life. 

What is more, New York’s innovative work is inspiring similar efforts in other states, meaning more children and families across the nation may soon be provided the supports and tools they need to flourish.  We have been asked to brief partners in North Carolina, California, and Ohio about our efforts.  Earlier this month, we learned about a new First 1,000 Days effort in Florida.

In March, we helped convene a forum, Making the Most of a Little: Why the First 1,000 Days of Life Matter to Society, with our colleagues at the Rockefeller Institute of Government.  The forum featured remarks by Jack Shonkoff, the founding director of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child; Jason Helgerson, former director of New York State Medicaid; Mary Ellen Elia, commissioner of the New York State Education Department; and Rahil Briggs, national director of ZERO TO THREE’s HealthySteps program, all of whom urged investment and collaboration across sectors and boundaries to improve child health and well-being.  Dr. Shonkoff, in his remarks, reminded the audience that we all suffer when we skimp on investments in young children.  “The science is screaming at us, if we’re willing to listen. Everybody’s budget will benefit from this.” 

Kate Breslin
President and CEO