Arizona family travels to D.C. to encourage policymakers to #ThinkBabies

Stefani and her family explore the Washington sights, stopping to take a photo at the Lincoln Memorial in front of the Washington Monument and reflecting pool.

Early childhood advocates traveled from across the country to meet in Washington, D.C., today for Strolling Thunder, an event coordinated by ZERO TO THREE to connect community members with the policymakers who shape the future of our communities and call national attention to the importance of the first years in a child’s life.

Strolling Thunder aims to unify families and our nation’s leaders by encouraging a shared goal to #ThinkBabies. The future of babies rests in the hands of our legislators, which is why the event is poised to spark national momentum as families from all 50 states advocate for early childhood programs and services.

Southwest Human Development Chief Executive Officer Ginger Ward took part in Strolling Thunder, meeting in Washington with Arizona legislative leaders including Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and Congressmen Ruben Gallego and David Schweikart, to advocate on behalf of children and families. The discussions emphasized how the earliest, most critical years of life directly affect babies’ abilities to develop, learn and build healthy relationships for later success.

Southwest Human Development helped send one Healthy Families participant family to Washington for the event. Stefani Lazaro, her husband Luis, 4-year-old son Christopher and 1-year-old son Casper joined Ginger at Strolling Thunder to share how national initiatives that help families facing challenges can change lives forever.

Stefani and Luis began their journey with Healthy Families in 2012 after the birth of their first son, Christopher. The lack of parental support they each overcame while they themselves were growing up fueled their desire to deliver the best possible future for their son. The Healthy Families program taught Stefani and Luis about important developmental milestones and helped prepare them for what to expect as new parents.

Casper, left, and his brother Christopher pose in their “Hey Congress, we’re coming to your crib” t-shirts.

After having their second son, Casper, Stefani and her husband continued to work with the program. Despite facing initial delays in motor skill development, Casper is now mastering skills like drawing, taking his shoes and socks off, turning pages in a book and eating with a fork and spoon.

“This program has invested time with both my boys and every time they come, I’m always learning new ways to expand my children’s development,” says Stefani.

Stefani and her family made the journey to Capitol Hill to ensure that other families have the same access to support that she has with Healthy Families. Their vision of a positive future begins with giving families in need the access to programs and services that will helps them thrive.

“No one is born knowing how to be a parent.” said Stefani. “We would have less kids in behavioral health programs and the Department of Child Safety if we informed families starting at the birth of their child.”

Stefani takes great pride in advocating for children and families in need and strives to be a role model that her children can be proud of. While in Washington, she spoke with Arizona legislators about parental support from programs like Healthy Families and the science behind the importance of babies’ developmental milestones.

Stefani’s family is one of many who shared their unique stories today with the people who have the power to make a change. As policymakers continue to make choices that directly affect the lives of babies and families, early childhood advocates will continue to give them the encouragement and tools they need to #ThinkBabies.

Take action and tell Congress why it’s time to #ThinkBabies!