Council on Women and Girls Blog
- Posted byon November 9, 2011 at 12:52 PM EST
President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, right, talk with students while visiting a classroom at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Yeadon, Pa., Nov. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Ed note: This blog was cross-posted from the White House Blog.
We know that the first years of our children’s lives are critical. That’s when the most rapid development happens in their brains and when they pick up the social, emotional, and academic skills that will help them succeed. When children get what they need during these early years, it can lay the foundation for success in school and through every stage of their lives.
President Obama and HHS’s announcement today of historic reforms to the Head Start program will help to ensure that all children in Head Start are attending top-notch programs that will help them reach their full potential. The Department of Health and Human Services will implement new rules that will – for the first time in the program’s history– require all Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous quality benchmarks to compete for continued federal funding.
Under the new rules, programs that fall short of quality benchmarks will have to compete. We will put out a notice to all early education providers in their communities: If you can do better, you’ll get the Head Start funding. And after the initial round of reviews, Head Start providers will continue to be evaluated every five years to make sure they’re maintaining a high standard of performance.
The best Head Start programs do much more than teach kids their ABCs. They help children develop the self-control and critical thinking they need to become successful learners. They connect kids with essential health services like immunizations that they may otherwise go without. They get moms and dads engaged in their children’s education. They put kids on a path to opportunity.
This rule is a key part of the President’s broader agenda to strengthen Head Start. In the last two years, we’ve also improved training for Head Start providers, provided mentors for programs that want to improve, and created 20 Centers of Excellence that are models for the rest of the Head Start community. Combined with this new system of evaluation and competition, Head Start providers today have more tools and more incentives to improve than ever before in the program’s history.
In a world where the jobs follow the best trained workers, America’s capacity to lead the world will depend on our success in educating all of our children, including those most at risk for falling behind. The early years are critical to that success. This Administration will continue to work to make sure our children can grow up with the tools and experience they need to compete.
Today’s Head Start children are tomorrow’s workforce. Today we are taking a historic step toward making sure all children in Head Start get the top notch early education they need to succeed.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Posted byon November 8, 2011 at 6:07 PM EST
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month this past October, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development collaborated to hold ten town hall events throughout the country on the topic of Engaging Men and Boys in Ending Violence Against Women.
These town halls provided a unique opportunity for federal and community partners to participate in important discussions regarding the inclusion of men in ending violence against women and helped to further the efforts of those working tirelessly for this cause in local and regional communities across the nation.
- Posted byon November 8, 2011 at 12:33 PM EST
Last week I had the honor of making my first trip to Australia to lead the US delegation to the Pacific Women's Empowerment Policy dialogue on eliminating violence against women, co-hosted by Australia and the United States. This was the third such policy dialogue, following similar gatherings earlier this year on women's empowerment and women's economic security. This series was launched by the US and Australian governments almost exactly a year ago, and this particular initiative on stopping violence against Women was announced by Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her visit to the US on International Women’s Day in March 2011. Accompanying me to Canberra was Anita Botti, Deputy Director of the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.
On Novermber 6th, 2011 Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd with Jeffrey L. Bleich, United States Ambassador to Australia with Tina Tchen, the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, at the opening of the dialogue for the 'Australia-US Pacific Women's Empowerment Policy Dialogue: Stopping Violence Against Women' initiative. November 7, 2011.
We were joined by colleagues from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, and other Pacific Island nations, as well as leaders from the Asian Development Bank, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, the World Bank, and UN Women.
The dialogue opened with an eloquent and passionate address by Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who spoke clearly to the importance of ending violence against women and girls. In addition to confronting the role of men as perpetrators, he emphasized the significance of male opposition to violence against women. Our Australian hosts also included Kate Ellis, the Minister for the Status of Women, and Penny Williams, Australia’s newly appointed first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.
- Posted byon November 3, 2011 at 5:01 PM EST
Through the bi-partisan support and passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, Congress has expressed its strong support of law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting domestic violence and other crimes. These laws also provide critical support to immigrant victims in stepping forward to report crimes. This week, we saw Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies collaborate with non-governmental organizations to ensure these laws are carried out effectively.
- Posted byon November 3, 2011 at 3:48 PM EST
Ed note: This blog was cross-posted from the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Text4baby, a free health education text messaging service for pregnant women and new moms, is reaching its primary target audience of medically underserved women and achieving a number of its health education goals, according to a preliminary assessment presented at the American Public Health Association annual meeting this week. The program, made possible through a broad, public-private partnership, is the first free mobile health information service in the United States and is an important example of leveraging widely used technology—in this case, cell phones—in new ways to improve the lives of Americans. Pregnant and new moms who sign up for text4baby (by texting BABY or BEBE to 511411) receive three text messages per week containing health tips and resources.
The study by the National Latino Research Center at California State University and the University of California, San Diego, showed “very high satisfaction with the service, increase in users’ health knowledge, improved interaction with healthcare providers, improved adherence to appointments and immunizations, and increased access to health resources.” The study consisted of interviews with 38 text4baby users and a survey of 122 text4baby users, all in San Diego County. Participants rated text4baby as an 8.5 out of 10 overall, and indicated that:
- 81% have an annual household income under $40,000
- 65% are either uninsured or enrolled in California’s Medicaid program
- 63% said the service helped them remember an appointment or immunization that they or their child needed
- 75% said they learned a medical warning sign they didn’t know previously
- 71% talked to their doctor about a topic they read on a text4baby message
- 39% called a service or phone number they received from a text4baby message (this rose to 53% among individuals without health insurance)
- Posted byon November 3, 2011 at 9:21 AM EST
Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of addressing a room full of 1,500 outstanding women – as well as a few good men – at the annual North Carolina Governor’s Conference for Women. It was an honor to join North Carolina’s governor, Bev Perdue, along with Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, elected officials, and women from across the state.
I was especially proud to be representing President Obama as the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. I had the chance to share some of the lessons I’ve learned during my own career, and to describe the ways the Obama Administration is working to create an environment where women and girls can reach their full potential.
In recent decades, women have caught up to men in a variety of areas, but as the White House’s “Women in America” report showed, disparities remain. Women continue to underperform in science, technology, engineering, and math. Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in both politics, and the private sector as well. And women still earn just 77 percent of what men earn.
President Obama is committed to closing these gaps. He knows that we cannot overcome our economic challenges without the contributions of women and girls.
That’s why President Obama’s education plan is designed to increase the number of women who study science, technology, engineering, and math, the so-called “STEM” skills that will prepare them for the jobs of the future. It’s why President has made workplace flexibility a key element of his labor agenda, and has surrounded himself with a group of strong women in the White House, and throughout his administration. It’s also why the very first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthens a woman’s right to sue her employer for equal pay.
I ended my remarks by discussing this year’s Google Science Fair. The Google Science Fair was, in many ways, a metaphor for the global competition that will define the 21st century. Over 10,000 young people submitted projects, from 90 different countries. President Obama was thrilled to hear that this year’s winners were three teenage girls from America, and he invited them to the White House so he could personally congratulate them on their achievement.
As President Obama said, “Even at a time of great uncertainty, their stories remind us that there are still discoveries waiting to be made and unlimited potential waiting to be tapped.” I know that the women leaders I met at the North Carolina Governor’s Conference for Women will help make those discoveries, and help women and girls reach their full potential.
Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
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