During the pandemic, the rest of the country has started to see what we already knew: early learning is vital, and early learning providers are essential. Essential for our children’s developing brains, essential for our parents and families, essential for our communities, businesses, and economy.

In March, Policy Council parents shared with Congress how Head Start has helped eliminate fear, build confidence, and create community in this difficult time. They shared how much their little ones look forward to virtual lessons with teachers, and how they have been empowered to navigate the K–12 system ahead.

One mother talked about how Head Start not only provided speech therapy for her preschooler, but also helped obtain support for her second-grader. Another shared that her toddler son had never met his father—out of state and unable to travel during COVID—until their family services associate facilitated their first Zoom call together. Months later, the young boy lovingly blows kisses to his now-familiar dad.

We already knew the science: that the support children receive in these crucial first five years helps shape who they become for the rest of their lives as they grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually. During the pandemic, we have seen how much our society and economy depend on the steady support of early learning and care.

This is a challenging profession, especially during COVID, but our providers rise to this challenge. Let us show our appreciation—on National Provider Appreciation Day and every day throughout the year.