“Every child deserves a champion-an adult who will never give up on them. Who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” Rita Pierson
Every child deserves a champion. This is somewhat different from a mentor who we wrote about in a previous blog. A champion is someone that believes the child can reach for the moon and at the very least, fall among the stars. No matter their struggles, no matter their circumstances. I am not sure why this is so hard for our society to do, believe in a child. We believe our football teams can win their championships. Why can’t we believe a child can overcome all challenges?
Championing Children: A Real Life Experience
When my children were little, we were fortunate to have some pretty incredible neighbors. Mr. and Mrs. Chinn were my children’s’ champions. Not to mention they had cookies! I remember my children running out the door each day to be greeted by hugs and smiles. The Chinn’s and my children would sit on the swing and talk about everything under the sun. They cared about what my children had to say and believed that Paul and Emily could be anything they wanted. They supported their Little League baseball games when my children were little and kept tabs on them through college. We have always said they were honorary grandparents but really they were true champions for my children.
Throughout my 35+ years of being an early educator and parent, I have had the pleasure of meeting some really wonderful teachers. When I say teachers, I actually mean anyone that comes in contact with a child and provides some type of learning opportunity. This can be a parent, a neighbor, an early care professional, a community leader, or an educator in the public school system. They have been and will be there for the children in our community. But we still have a ways to go.
There are still children in subpar early care environments, who go to bed with empty stomachs, or have no idea how they will put trauma behind them. For every “teacher” that takes on the role of champion, there are others that will place as many barriers as they can in front of our children.
Anyone can be a champion!
What does it mean to be a champion for children?
- A champion is someone that believes in the child. There is the true belief that the child can accomplish anything.
- A champion greets a child with excitement; a smile on their face and a hug for their heart.
- A champion is someone that allows the child to take the lead in a conversation or an activity. By allowing the child to take the lead, you are saying that you care enough to listen about what they have to say and think it is important.
- A champion asks a child for input and follows through. “What would you like to do with the playdough?” or “How many apple slices would you like for snack?”
- A champion gives children the skills and time they need to solve their own problems with a caring adult nearby to offer assistance when needed. The champion has the attitude, “You’ve got this!”
- A champion looks at the child with admiration and believes that they hung the moon.
What if every child had a champion?
How is it that some people can overcome or bounce back when life throws those curves more quickly than others? Devereux Foundation, an organization that studies social emotional development of young children, explains that we all have, “inner strengths or protective factors”. Protective factors can help children cope when faced with those critical moments. Attachment or relationships is one of three protective factors that Devereux has identified as being important in a child’s ability to bounce back and be successful in learning. Devereux explains,
“Secure attachment is important because it leads to trust, the belief that the world is a safe place, filled with caring people who will meet one’s needs. Attachment and trust give a child the confidence to explore the world. Securely attached children tend to be curious and get along well with peers. They tend to be more successful in school and life than children that lack this protective factor.”
ChildSavers uses many Devereux’s findings in our work with early care and building resilient children.
Just imagine what our world would be like if every child had one person that lit up when the child walked into the room. A person that cared about what they had to say enough to listen, and believed in them. Imagine if someone asked, “What happened to you?” Instead of, “What is wrong with you?” What if a child felt strong enough in their abilities to problem solve or knew how to find their own resources when needed. What if every child had that one person or more?
Whether you are an early childhood teacher, elementary teacher, parent, community leader, or a neighbor, you can be that one person – be a champion for a child! You can make a difference.
Janet Burke is the Director of Child Development Services at ChildSavers, a nonprofit in Richmond, VA that believes that all children can be safe, happy, healthy and ready to learn. She manages six core programs that support this belief; Child Care Aware of Central Virginia, Child Development Training, Child Development Associate Certificate Program, Virginia Quality, Voluntary Registration, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
Janet joined ChildSavers in 1992 where she has worked as a trainer, supervisor, coordinator, program manager and director. She has been a Master Rater and Master Trainer for Virginia’s Quality and Rating Improvement System since 2007 where she was trained in the first cohort of trainers. Along with 36+ years of experience of working in early care and with early care professionals, she has a Certificate in Early Childhood and a Certificate in Supervisory and Leadership and has taken many other child development and business classes over the years. This includes being trained by the authors for CLASS, Environmental Rating Scale, Here, Now and Down the Road, MyTeachingPartner and DECA. She holds current certifications.