Putting Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan into Action

On Monday, July 23th, Building Bright Futures (BBF) convened the second annual Vermont Early Childhood Action Plan summit at the Vermont State House. The Action Plan represents the shared agenda of Vermont’s early childhood community. The event celebrated the significant progress that has been made to implement the plan since it was drafted, and invited participants to strategize around key priorities for action in the coming year.

The event was extremely successful, with 80 early childhood stakeholders from around the state attending, including a number of legislators. Participants also included representatives of the BBF State Advisory Council, BBF Regional Councils, and BBF Action Plan Committees. Former Governor Madeleine Kunin was the keynote speaker and she highlighted the progress Vermont has seen in early childhood and the importance of coalitions and collaborative work to meet the ambitious goals we have set for Vermont’s children.

The Early Childhood Action Plan is built around six results:

  • Result 1: A Healthy Start for All Children
  • Result 2: Families and Communities Play a Leading Role
  • Result 3: High-Quality Opportunities for All Children
  • Result 4: Invest Now for Our Future
  • Result 5: Know We’re Making a Difference
  • Result 6: An Innovative and Connected System

Building Bright Futures has established Action Plan Committees that drive collective action towards these goals and provide accountability for the plan.

Celebrating Accomplishments

The first major task of the day was to celebrate accomplishment across the six results of the action plan. Highlights from the last year include:

  • Result 1: Strengthening the connections between pediatric health care providers and human service professionals, particularly through dinners held around the state co-hosted by the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, Building Bright Futures, Vermont Child Health Improvement Program and the Vermont Department of Health.
  • Result 2: Development of the Families and Communities Action Plan Committee to redefine families’ role in the early childhood system to be one of partnership, where those most affected by the system or policy are partners in problem solving to better meet the needs of families.
  • Result 3: New investment to increase childcare capacity in the state through the Make Way for Kids capacity-building program by Vermont Birth to Five/Permanent Fund.
  • Result 4: The Building VT’s Future from the Child Up summit hosted by Building Bright Futures followed by the  Building VT’s Future Think Tank to develop an intentional approach to guide Vermont’s current and future early childhood expenditures.
  • Result 5: The Data and Evaluation Committee shifts focus to support developing data informed processes across the BBF network and early childhood system.
  • Result 6: Work to identify and scale up Early Multi-Tiered Systems of Support as a cross-agency strategy for promoting social emotional wellness in young children.

Other major Action Plan accomplishments since it was created include:

  • The passage and implementation of Universal PreKindergarten
  • Increased investment in early childhood through publicly funded PreK and modest increases in the Child Care Financial Assistance Program
  • Increased evidence-based home visiting efforts
  • The formation and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality Affordable Child Care
  • Increased public awareness of the importance of the early years

Prioritizing Next Steps

Another goal of the event was to clarify priority strategies and action steps for the coming year.

Each Action Plan Committee came to the summit with strategies and work plans for the coming year, as well as key questions for summit participants to advise on strategy to pursue particular goals. Participants broke into small groups by Action Plan result to explore these questions and provide input for Action Plan Committee work in the coming year. The discussions were led by co-chairs of the committee associated with each result.

Here are a sample of priorities that were drafted for the coming year,

  • Result 1: Support early childhood programs as a place for children and families to access healthy food and promote family food security
  • Result 2: Cultivate family voice in policy development through establishing a network of parent leaders to inform early childhood system and decision making.
  • Result 3: Create a marketing campaign to recruitment workforce and entrepreneurs into the early childhood field as part of a strategy to increase the number of childcare providers and the number of children and families that can be served across the state.
  • Result 4: Produce recommendations from the Build Vermont’s Future Think Tank that synthesize and refine the ideas of the Building Vermont’s Future from the Child Up Summit and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality Affordable Child Care into an actionable blueprint for the future of Vermont’s 0-5 early care and learning system
  • Result 5: Increase the knowledge, experience and application of Results-Based Accountability (RBA) as the accountability framework for the Early Childhood Action Plan
  • Result 6: Improve interagency cooperation and integration by using Early MTSS as a strategy for promoting social emotional wellness. Develop a plan to scale up Early MTSS in early care and learning programs in Vermont.

In the coming weeks, committees will hone priorities, strategies and performance measures. Priorities will be presented to the State Advisory Council in September and then strategies implemented by ECAP committees throughout the coming year.

From Plan to Reality

It can be easy for strategic plans to gather dust on a shelf, but the infrastructure Building Bright Futures has put in place to support and monitor the implementation of Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan holds us accountable to meeting our ambitious goals. We look forward to the additional progress that will be made in the coming year!

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