Parent Spotlight – Mary is a mom and stepmom with over 20 years of ECE experience!

Mary Martens is a mom and early childhood professional from Stewartsville, MO. Mary first began navigating the early childhood systems in Missouri 20 years ago with her first child.  Since becoming a professional in the field through Head Start, and now navigating the same systems with her stepchild, she has found that families face many of the same challenges she faced two decades ago. This has fueled her passion for advocacy on behalf of Missouri’s families, in the hopes that the state will continue to move in a positive direction when it comes to providing services that families desperately need. Get to know Mary here!

How did you become an advocate for early childhood education?

I started in the early childhood education field 21 years ago out of necessity  when my oldest child was born. I have since continued in it over the last 20 years because of the future impact that can be made on communities. The support and foundation provided to families in the early years can create changes that are life long.

Why do you think it’s important to be an advocate as a parent?

I felt like I was without affordable options in 2003 when I was trying to find employment and childcare after having my first child. The reason that I worked at a childcare facility was to receive the discount off of the cost of childcare, and even with the discount I was struggling. What I realized when my step child, who is 5, was needing care is that the same issues I had 20 years ago had not improved. I have obtained my bachelor’s degree since having my oldest, found a career that provides more than a living wage and benefits, but the cost and availability of affordable quality child care is still a struggle for my family. In my current position as a Family Engagement Coordinator with Head Start I see the barriers that families face when they can not afford or can not find child care. I know this is an issue for many Missouri families.

Why should Missouri invest more in child care and early education?

The investment that Missouri is making supports our families by providing the opportunity to move families forward. It gets families connected with resources and support that can make a systemic change. This change can not only improve our communities but prepare Missourians to have a better opportunity in the educational system. We are investing in our own future!

In one sentence, what does the ideal child care and early education system look like for Missouri families?

Affordable, quality access to childcare for all Missourians.

What is one thing you’ve learned about advocacy that you’d like to share with others?

I have learned that we each have a story and voice that can be heard. In order to create change for our communities we must be part of the action.

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