The Families & Communities Committee strives to elevate family voice and connect families to leadership opportunities. We are one of seven VECAP Committees that are guided by Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan (VECAP), and we work to develop a statewide approach that enriches and expands family partnership and leadership at the provider, agency, and community levels. At the heart of our work is creating spaces for parents and caregivers to make connections. Our incredible family leaders share their voices, time, and expertise across the BBF network. In 2023, 32 family leaders elevated their experiences and perspectives at tables throughout the state. Here are some of the highlights we have to celebrate:
- Two family leaders serve as Families & Communities Committee co-chairs
- Two family leaders serve on the State Advisory Council
- Three strong policy recommendations related to family leadership priorities were endorsed by the State Advisory Council in the 2024 Policy Recommendations
- Two family leaders serve on the state Prekindergarten Education Implementation Committee
- One family leader serves as parent lead for BBF grant implementation
- One parent leader served on VECF grant review committee
- One parent leader attended a national conference representing the Families & Communities Committee and Vermont
- The 2022 Vermont Early Childhood Family Needs Assessment and the committee’s accomplishments were presented to staff members of Vermont’s federal delegation in D.C.
Over the past year, the Families & Communities Committee not only welcomed seven new members, but also welcomed me as the Family Leadership Coordinator to support growing the capacity and impact of our committee. The committee held 22 meetings last year connecting families to information on systems topics, such as legislative priorities and policy recommendations. The committee hosted two free parent learning sessions. We are grateful for the positive response to these offerings and are working closely with family leaders to continue to grow and strengthen them.
We are also grateful for the special projects our parent representatives led over the past year, including supporting a community giving drive that supported over 54 families and approximately 120 children. Parent leaders made national connections to family leaders in Pennsylvania that inspired BBF’s Family Photography Project. This project recruited new families to our network who were compensated for their time and were provided with portfolios of professional photography, ensuring that Building Bright Futures is using pictures of real Vermont families and children that represent the diversity of identities and experiences in our state—including the picture at the top of this very blog.
Finally, we are grateful for our parent leadership and for the parents throughout the state that made the 2022 Vermont Early Childhood Family Needs Assessment (FNA) possible. The FNA was published in 2023 thanks to months of leadership from family leaders who designed and deployed a survey on Vermont families’ experiences with early childhood services. In the spring of 2023, the Families & Communities Committee co-chairs facilitated a statewide virtual briefing on the report to elevate its findings.
We are filled with gratitude! Our parent leaders showed up and led us in so many ways in 2023. Personally, I am grateful for every conversation and interaction with the committee; it truly feels like a space for building and cultivating authentic connections, be they personal, ones based in parenting, or those striving towards a greater good.
I recently asked a few of our members what being involved in the Families & Communities Committee meant to them. Here’s what they had to say:
“One thing I love about the Families & Communities Committee is the way that I can bring my whole self to the meetings. I can attend to my child’s needs during the meetings without feeling embarrassment or shame. I’m able to share my thoughts and opinions and feel honored for my background as a professional and my current experiences as a mother—two sides of myself that in other contexts are divided. I’ve been a member of this committee throughout the pandemic, raising my daughter and having another baby, and I have loved the connections I’ve formed with other members and the staff who attend.”
“Being involved with the Families & Communities Committee has allowed me to openly express my views, ideas, and thoughts as a parent representative to strive to be a catalyst for change in our community. The Families & Communities Committee welcomes my voice and is receptive to us as parents. It has inspired and pushed me further in my own advocacy and self-healing journey. I know at the end of the day that I am helping my son, other parents, and other children in our community and our state. I am always passionately striving to help others without a voice to understand that they are heard and to make a difference for them.”
“Being involved with this committee has unlocked a door allowing me to share my story and experience in ways I’d never expected. The validation that my voice and suggestions have received over my time working with this group of amazing folks is uplifting. It has encouraged me to branch into additional areas of family advocacy and social support networking, and even granted me opportunities to train for additional skills that will serve me and my family in many ways to come. I am so grateful and look forward to learning so much more about this beautiful state and how it can and does serve its families!”
“Being a part of the Families & Communities Committee has been a way for me to keep up-to-date on topics, issues, challenges, and supports from around the state. In a busy balance with my own family and the work I do to support families in my community, the committee is an opportunity for my parent voice to be heard. While I always draw from my professional knowledge and experiences, I also get to speak from my perspective as a parent and share the joys and vulnerabilities that brings. The connection with other parents is a reminder of what we all share in common but also how different our experiences can be—and I have really found the Families & Communities Committee to value each and every perspective shared.”
“The evening meeting during the summer flooding was so powerful for me. I didn’t know I needed that outlet that night to put my questions and thoughts about what was happening out there, but I really, really did. I appreciated that no one had all the answers, everyone was open to listening and discussing, and there was no judgment about how we were all experiencing things. I was surprised how supportive this group of people I had never even met in person was at that time.”
Thank you to our incredible family leaders for sharing their voices! In joining statewide leadership activities and sharing their experiences and knowledge, parents and caregivers play a leading role in creating an early childhood system that represents the diverse needs of all young children and families.