Early Childhood Action Plan Priorities Identified for 2017 – 2018 

On July 24th, 2017, Building Bright Futures (BBF) hosted the Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP) Implementation Cycle Launch at the Vermont State House from 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Over 70 people attended the event, which was convened in order to:

  1. Celebrate accomplishments, and
  2. Identify priorities for the coming year as part of the new ECAP annual implementation cycle.

Participants included representatives of the BBF State Advisory Council, BBF Regional Councils, and BBF Action Plan Committees.

The Action Plan represents the shared agenda of Vermont’s early childhood community, and significant progress has been made in the last three years to move it forward. The implementation cycle, developed by consultant Becky Gonyea, will help BBF strengthen its role as steward and ambassador of the plan.

The implementation cycle involves setting annual priorities at a statewide summit, identifying new or existing implementation teams to move prioritized strategies and action steps forward, developing performance measures to help monitor progress, and reviewing progress and celebrating accomplishments annually.

Con Hogan, a statewide leader in human services and a lifelong champion of children and families, provided opening remarks to spark inspiration and forward-thinking for the afternoon. Con’s vast experience with data-driven decision making helped lay the foundation for the important work ahead.

Celebrating Accomplishments

The first major task of the day was to identify accomplishment across the six results of the action plan:

  • All children have a healthy start.
  • Families and communities play a leading role in children’s well being.
  • All children and families have access to high-quality opportunities that meet their needs.
  • Vermont invests in prevention and plans for the future success of children.
  • Data and accountability drive progress in early childhood outcomes.
  • The early childhood system is innovative and integrated across sectors in order to better serve children and families.

Participants recognized the following accomplishments for each result:

  • Result 1: Launch of Help Me Grow, passage of paid sick days legislation and forward momentum on paid family leave, increased evidence-based home visiting efforts such as Parents as Teachers, increased focus on early childhood nutrition through Farm to School and certain Promise Community efforts.
  • Result 2: Embedding the Strengthening Families Protective Factors framework in early childhood programs, paid sick days/paid family leave.
  • Result 3: Universal PreK through Act 166, increase in access to services (particularly in the areas of homelessness, housing, and family-centered services,) statewide coalition initiative to end homelessness by 2020.
  • Result 4: The formation and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality Affordable Child Care, the Let’s Grow Kids campaign, incremental increased investments in early childhood (CCFAP, Act 166, etc), Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) prevention fund.
  • Result 5: The development of Vermont Insights, passing of ACT 186: the 0utcomes bill, increased use of Results Based Accountability (RBA) in early childhood and the resulting changes in behavior using this framework. Also Regional/Community profiles, and the How Are Vermont’s Young Children & Families report.
  • Result 6: Great progress on integration, including the integration of professional development by transforming the workforce, BBF State Council being utilized, and the Alliance creating cross-sector legislative recommendations.

Priorities for the 2017/18 Implementation Cycle

Another goal of the event was to identify an actionable number of priority strategies and action steps for the coming year.

Attendees were asked to help prioritize ECAP strategies for the 2017-2018 year by identifying between one and five priorities per ECAP result. Criteria used to narrow the focus were:

  • Will it make a different for children and families? (Impact)
  • Are there resources available? (Feasibility)
  • What is the value/outcome? (Urgency)

Participants broke into small groups by Action Plan result to explore these questions and more toward priorities. The discussions were led by co-chairs of the BBF committee associated with each result.

The following priority strategies/action steps were identified:

Result 1: All children have a healthy start.

This group had a rigorous discussion and identified five priorities for the upcoming year:

  • Advocate for paid family leave so parents can be at home with newborns or adopted children.
  • Ensure that all children have access to adequate nutrition at home, in early learning and development programs, at school, after school, and during the summer by increasing participation in existing food and nutrition programs and expanding capacity of programs including Farm to School and Early Care and Education.
  • Focus on evidence-based home visiting and home based visiting programs.
  • Ensure access to prenatal care and preventative services (including mental health and substance abuse treatment).
  • Establish a voluntary system that connects children birth through 3rd grade (0- 8 years old) with the resources they need to support optimal growth and development, including developmental screening, through Help Me Grow and its four components.

Result 2, Families and Communities play a leading role in children’s well being.

Family engagement and getting families to the table was a big part of the conversation in this group, as well as authentically listening to their needs and ideas. Priorities that this group identified included:

  • Develop and implement intentional, evidence-based parent education and support opportunities (including care of children with special needs)
  • Implementing IFS(Integrating Family Services)
  • Embed the strengthening families framework into all aspect of EC system.
  • Parent leadership and parents as a child’s first teachers.

BBF has not yet formed a committee to support this result, but will be working to do so in the coming year. Please be in touch with the BBF team if you are interested in working on these issues.

Result 3, All children and families have access to high-quality opportunities that meet their needs.

The group felt the need to separate the strategies into those related to high quality programs and those related to supporting the early childhood workforce. This reflects the roles of the Early Learning and Development committee and the Professional Preparation and Development Committee, both of which support this result. Priorities identified include:

  • Expand access to high-quality services and programs for all families with young children by increasing quality, capacity and affordability. Including:
    1. Access to affordable, high- quality early learning and development programs
    2. Establishing universal Pre- k education in all school districts through qualified public school-based programs and/or partnerships with qualified early learning and development programs and Head Start; encourage partnerships with private full-day/full- year qualified early learning and development programs
  • Ensure quality by adequately supporting the early childhood workforce by
    1. Equip the early childhood workforce across sectors in the early childhood system with the common knowledge and skills needed to support children’s optimal learning and development and family stability
    2. Increase compensation of and benefits available to the early childhood workforce without creating a cost shift to families

Result 4, Vermont invests in prevention and plans for the future success of children.

Priorities areas that were identified included:

  • Creating public awareness around issues such as ACEs
  • Getting an updated inventory of early childhood investments in order to look at how we’re currently allocating funds in early childhood.
  • Address organizational/structural boundaries, which can create barriers to finding efficiencies.
  • Gathering data on shared services efforts to see how effective they truly are.
  • Increasing discussions of early childhood in health payment reform.

Result 5, Data and Accountability drive progress in early childhood outcomes.

This group emphasized the importance of increasing the collection, analysis, and application of data within the early childhood system. Prioritized activities included:

  • Develop an early childhood strategic data plan
  • Champion policies, procedures, and practices that enhance the use of data for continuous quality improvement across sectors (health, early learning and development, health, human services and K-3 education)
  • Utilize Results Based Accountability as the accountability framework for the EC Action Plan and Regional Plans

Result 6, the early childhood system is innovative and integrated across sectors in order to better serve children and families.

The main theme discussed was the need to commit to relationship building. This was fleshed out into four priorities:

  • Continue to work on state and regional feedback loop (recognizing that we do already have an Early childhood Interagency Coordination Team)
  • Remove as many barriers as possible to braiding and blending funds to support and strengthen the state’s early childhood system
  • Maximize resources and minimize duplication in order to streamline and simplify parents experiences of the early childhood system (incuding Help Me Grow)
  • Cross-sector professional development system.

Next Steps

The priorities identified at this event will now be brought back to the BBF Action Plan committees for further work and refinement. Through the fall committees will confirm priorities, assess capacity, identify implementations teams as needed, and develop performance measures to support improvement and progress.

Emilie Kornheiser, the new Early Childhood Action Plan Director at BBF will be supporting this work. She will also be thinking about a communications strategy for the Action Plan, considering how the ECAP implementation cycle aligns with implementation of BBF Regional Action Plans, and how the cycle will support the policy recommendation of the State Advisory Council.

We look forward to celebrating more successes as the implementation cycle moves forward and to continue data-driven, cross-sector, planning for the future of Vermont.

Click here to see more photos from the event. 

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