Start Early. Start well.

May 22, 2024

Nebraska Family, Institute Staff Call for Stronger Early Childhood Policies at ‘Strolling Thunder’ Event in D.C.

By Erin Duffy

Shannon Gibson went to Washington, D.C. to call on Congress to invest in a cause close to her heart: infant and early childhood mental health.

As a foster mom and mental health provider from Wayne, Nebraska, Gibson has seen the telltale signs of young children affected by trauma and instability: nightmares, fussiness, fear of strangers, skill regression.

“I have spent many nights lying on the bedroom floor, trying to console an infant or toddler that has experienced stress and trauma,” she wrote. “These negative effects can alter the brain and have long-term effects across many domains such as physical, mental, and emotional development.”

Gibson’s family, including her husband and 3-year-old Leo, represented Nebraska at the April 2024 Strolling Thunder event organized by ZERO TO THREE. Each year, families from all 50 states are invited to Capitol Hill to advocate for early childhood policies like paid parental leave and affordable child care.

She was joined by members of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute: Walter Gilliam, executive director, Renee Wessels, associate executive director for strategy and external affairs, and Ally Freeman, director of communications.

The Buffett team participated in Strolling Thunder and sat in on meetings with the Gibsons and U.S. Senator Deb Fischer and the staff of U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts, both of Nebraska. The Gibsons also met with the office of U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith. They went to a White House convening featuring representatives from the U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, community development financial institutions, and child care programs.

See more photos below from the Institute’s D.C. trip. 

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