The Commit to Keiki Initiative is a non-partisan education movement to ensure that young children and families are at the top of the agenda for elected leaders.  They’re doing this by engaging with gubernatorial candidates to educate and encourage them to commit to three priorities, which are child care and early learning, family violence prevention, and early childhood mental health. Their primary goal is to be a resource to the gubernatorial candidates and our next governor to ensure that investments are made that support young children and families.

Shawn Kanaʻiaupuni says, “Early childhood development has never been more important than it is today. COVID-19 has had significant impacts on family stability and early developmental delays. These impacts are due to a lack of quality, affordable childcare and early learning programs and inadequate resources to address an increase in both family violence and mental health needs which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. According to recent data, Hawaii today can serve only about 25 percent of keiki ages birth to five in childcare and preschool, which also impacts parents and caregivers’ ability to work. In addition, more than 3,600 child care spaces for keiki ages birth to 5 have been lost during the pandemic in Hawaii. The pandemic also created a perfect storm for rising rates in family violence in Hawaii. Young children who are exposed to family violence are more likely to suffer from health-related problems, as well as academic and cognitive problems, delinquency, and involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Early adversity has a critical impact on a child’s social and emotional development. It’s a chain reaction.”

Commit to Keiki wants Hawaii’s next governor to prioritize young keiki and their families through policies and investments in programs and services that benefit them. “Children have the greatest chance to develop to their full capacity when they live in safe, secure and nurturing homes and have equitable access to early learning programs and mental health services. And our economy and businesses will thrive when families are better supported.”  Since March, Commit to Keiki has been hosting virtual talk story forums with democratic and republican gubernatorial candidates. They’re opportunities for the public to hear each individual candidate’s stance on early childhood topics and to also learn more about the Commit to Keiki initiative to ensure that Hawaii’s next governor champions early childhood development and its positive impacts through greater investments in early learning, childcare, family violence prevention and mental health.

To learn more about upcoming forums or view recordings of past forums, visit