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Building Bright Futures’ State Advisory Council Meeting:
Supporting the Social & Emotional Well-Being of Vermont’s Children  

The State Advisory Council (SAC) had the pleasure of hearing from four panelists representing the voices of Vermont’s community members. We heard first-hand insight from:

Kate Abbott, Ph.D.
Director of Early Childhood Programs at the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union

Donna Bailey
Director of Addison County Parent Child Center

Lisa Guerrero
Director of Afterschool and Summer Programs at Annettes Preschool

Chloe Learey
Executive Director of The Winston Prouty Center

Each panelist brings years of experience within the early childhood landscape and shared powerful stories and statistics with our council that sparked discussion on how we can best approach solutions to the challenges facing Vermont’s youth.

The primary topics discussed included:

Suspension and Expulsion in Pre-K:

Kate Abbott shared personal stories and experiences regarding the rising rates of expulsion for children enrolled in prekindergarten. This trend is on the rise due to “unsafe behaviors” exhibited in the classroom (such as biting, kicking, or screaming). Often these problems surface because the child is testing the strength and/or consistency of their relationships amongst adults.

Having the Early Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (EMTSS) model in place could help solve this growing issue because of the structures and supports it puts in place for educators and programs committed to developing the social and emotional health of all children. Intervention of some kind is necessary to stop unsafe behaviors and it becomes difficult (though not impossible) to solve them beyond the ages of three-five.

It was noteworthy to Kate and council members alike that the studies on Pre-K expulsion data available in Vermont are outdated. SAC was curious about the possibility of developing a new study on these issues.

Visit http://buildingbrightfutures.org/governance/state-advisory-council/ to review Kate’s PowerPoint on Preschool Suspension and Expulsion.

Fostering a Supportive an Effective Workforce:

Lisa Guerrero spoke about the need to foster strong relationships and support systems for the early childcare workforce. Our children will receive greater benefits with a more supportive system in place for our workforce.

Other topics discussed were professional development and retention rates, as well as the need for social and emotional support in afterschool settings.

State Advisory Council members discussed the benefits of coaching and consulting models to support professional development in early care and learning settings. They also discussed attending to the needs of staff by “caring for the caregivers”.

Supporting the Social and Emotional Well-Being of Children:

Donna Bailey discussed therapeutic childcare, best practices, and principles to assist children with social, emotional or behavioral issues within high-stress situations. She stressed the importance of positive parent involvement as one piece of the puzzle.

The experiences children have during the first several years of their lives will have an enormous impact on their long-term success. Children living under extreme stress tend to exhibit considerable social, emotional, or behavior challenges. As the child matures, negative behavioral patterns will become increasingly difficult to change.

Donna stressed that providing support at the earliest opportunity can make a large difference in the strength and health of evolving family relationships.

Donna also mentioned that a publication from Addison County Parent Child Center, titled, “I’m Home” is about to be released.

Winston Prouty’s work to support the social & emotional well-being of children:

Chloe Learey walked the SAC through some great personal examples of social and emotional growth for children that are supported by a continuum of inclusive programs such as CIS, Early MTSS, and the parent voice/story.

The SAC members discussed the need and value of parent education opportunities.

In response to the panel, SAC agreed with the Early Multi-Tiered Systems (EMTSS) approach as a potential solution to the issues presented. There was also discussion regarding what systems can be established to allow for us to be more proactive. For example, what can be done and be put into place before children are ever considered at-risk or even before birth. It was acknowledged that all initiatives and systems being discussed are wonderful, but that we should still attempt to put more preventative measures in place.

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