After the election, the work to support the children of Hawaii has only just begun

As we reflect on the 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 is yet to come.

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

Commit to Keiki is a nationwide, nonpartisan education campaign comprised of Hawaii’s business leaders, nonprofit organizations and philanthropists.

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

Over the past year, our steering committee has engaged with all gubernatorial nominees through multiple discussion forums and face-to-face meetings to educate them on the importance of investing more in our latest Keiki.

Our Steering Committee members are the backbone of Commit to Keiki. They have been instrumental in providing candidates with real life examples of the issues and challenges families and their keiki face every day – it is up to all of us to keep working together and fighting for those who are not for ourselves can fight themselves.

Mahalo to Green and Luke for their time so far and for their willingness to continue to engage with us as we work to create a brighter future for our keiki.

mental health needs

It is estimated that of the 102,000 children under the age of 6 in Hawaii, more than 25,000 require mental health services, which matches the needs of adults.

Speaking to the governor-elect, we are extremely optimistic about the Office of Wellness and Resilience that Act 291 will establish in his office.

Law 291 also authorizes and funds six full-time employees who will support state efforts to address the needs of people struggling with childhood trauma and other mental health issues by advancing strategies to reduce family violence and improve mental health support for our youngest implement keiki.

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

We are also excited to be working with Luke on her early learning efforts to expand preschool classes statewide, funded by Law 257. Currently, our state ranks seventh from the bottom in its investments in children.

Today, Hawaii only has enough seats to support about 25% of the Keiki age group from birth to age 5 in childcare and preschool, and more than 3,600 childcare slots have been lost as a result of the pandemic.

While the election may be complete, our work at Commit to Keiki has only just begun. Historically, the prioritization of issues around infants, toddlers and preschoolers has paled in comparison to other priorities such as climate change and homelessness.

Hawaii ranks seventh from the bottom for its investments in children.

But today, our Keiki face unprecedented challenges that need to be addressed at a leadership level.

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

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

Ultimately, our state budget should align with our priorities, and there are no greater priorities than keiki and family.