With The Election Over, Work To Help Hawaii’s Kids Has Just Begun - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Kerrie Urosevich

Kerrie Urosevich is executive director at Early Childhood Action Strategy and a Commit to Keiki Steering Committee co-chair.

Alex Harris

Alex Harris is vice president of programs at Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and a Commit to Keiki Steering Committee co-chair.

As we reflect on this past election season and all that has been done to shed light on the needs of Hawaii’s youngest keiki, we feel a sense of gratitude and anticipation for what’s to come.

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With the results of this election, our state is one step closer (albeit a very large step) to making our youngest keiki a priority. We’re pleased that both Governor-elect Josh Green and Lt. Governor-elect Sylvia Luke have publicly expressed their commitments to keiki.

Commit to Keiki is a statewide, nonpartisan education campaign that is made up of Hawaii’s business, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders.

When we launched this initiative nearly two years ago, our goal was to ensure that Hawaii’s next governor champions early childhood development by making greater investments in what we have identified as our three priority areas, including 1) early learning and child care, 2) family violence prevention, and 3) mental health.

Over the past year, our steering committee engaged with all gubernatorial candidates through several talk story forums and in-person meetings to educate them on the importance of investing more into our youngest keiki.

Our steering committee members are the backbone of Commit to Keiki. They were instrumental in providing the candidates with real life examples of the issues and challenges families and their keiki face each and every day — it’s up to all of us to continue working together and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

Mahalo to Green and Luke for their time thus far, and for their willingness to continue engaging with us as we work to create a better future for our keiki.

Mental Health Needs

It is estimated that out of the 102,000 children under the age of 6 in Hawaii, more than 25,000 require mental health services, which is on par with adult mental health needs.

In speaking with the governor-elect, we are extremely optimistic about the Office of Wellness and Resilience that will be established within his office through Act 291.

Act 291 also authorizes and funds six full-time staff who will help the state’s efforts to address the needs of people dealing with childhood trauma and other mental health issues by implementing strategies to reduce family violence and increase mental health supports to our youngest keiki.

This is critical to protecting families, while addressing both their physical and emotional well-being.

We’re also excited to be working with Luke on her early learning efforts to expand pre-K classrooms across the state, which is funded through Act 257. Currently, our state ranks seventh from the bottom in its investment in children.

Today, Hawaii only has enough seats to serve about 25% of keiki ages birth to 5 in child care and preschool, and more than 3,600 child care spaces have been lost as a result of the pandemic.

While the election may be done, our work at Commit to Keiki has just begun. In the past, prioritizing issues around infants, toddlers and preschoolers have paled in comparison to other priorities, like climate change and homelessness.

Hawaii ranks seventh from the bottom in its investment in children.

But today, our keiki face unprecedented challenges that must be addressed at the executive level.

And the community agrees. Several polls commissioned by Commit to Keiki found consistent voter sentiments.

There was significant support for each of the three priority areas, with 79.5% of voters thinking it is important for Hawaii’s next governor to prioritize programs that promote family economic stability with access to early care and learning programs, 82.2% of voters in support of family violence prevention programs, and 81.9% of voters in support of programs that address mental health needs for families and young children, in the next budget.

At the end of the day, our state budget should align with our priorities and there are no greater priorities than keiki and family.

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About the Authors

Kerrie Urosevich

Kerrie Urosevich is executive director at Early Childhood Action Strategy and a Commit to Keiki Steering Committee co-chair.

Alex Harris

Alex Harris is vice president of programs at Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and a Commit to Keiki Steering Committee co-chair.

Latest Comments (0)

This statement is a clear sign that diagnostic hyperinflation in psychiatry is completely out of control. By pathologizing perfectly normal variations in human behavior, disposition and intelligence, by misrepresenting as mental illnesses many perfectly normal responses to adversity, in a quest to create a diagnosis for nearly all of life's difficulties and misfortunes, modern psychiatry has lost its way. Physician, heal thyself!

Chiquita · 6 months ago

How many of our community college campuses have a child care center for those parents wanting to attend college?

Richard_Bidleman · 6 months ago

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