More than 200 people packed the Sellers Auditorium this morning as the "Doing What Matters for Tuscaloosa's Children" Conference kicked off on the University of Alabama campus.
The state's leading advocate for children kicked off a line-up of speakers and sessions that will address such issues as poverty, school dropout and youth depression and suicide.
"I think we need to be able to address the needs of children on a continuum," said Marquita Davis, commissioner for the Alabama Department of Children's Affairs.
Davis talked about the state's 0-5 Initiative, Office of School Readiness, Head Start Collaboration and Office of Family and Policy Issues- areas that her department covers.
While her focus was on students before they get to kindergarten, that was the only population Davis addressed during her 30-minute presentation.
"How can we not at the state level address the needs of parents," she said.
Davis complimented Tuscaloosa on its Jump-Start Program, which prepares students for kindergarten. She cited it as a model for the rest of Alabama.
"I want to take that across the state, Davis said. "Children come ready to learn. Our investment should be on the front end."