At the Council table this year there is increasing appreciation of Federal and state support for building more holistic family engagement, developing customer feedback systems, and building family leadership. Basically, the social science shows that we are better able to support folks when they need support if they themselves tell us what they need, and if we are flexible enough to respond to family needs. Indeed, meetings this spring around how to increase use of WIC and of developmental screening have focused these issues specifically. Have we been making it more difficult for parents to find support when they need it? Have we increased or decreased stigma and agency? The Council table has been a place of insight and understanding around these issues. Discussions about the importance of language, the colonial philosophy of policy makers seeming to know what is best for families for example, are critical to understanding how to be good stewards of the public service we do in the early childhood system.
The Lamoille Council is looking forward to the release of the Preschool Development Grant funds so that we can begin this most recent effort at assessing parents and families experience of the early childhood system. Work with the Families and Communities Early Childhood Action Plan Committee has helped to emphasize the importance and sensitivity of the work ahead. At our last council meeting we were fortunate to have Capstone staff at the table in order to review with us how their Head Start Policy Council gives control and power to Head Start and Early Head Start family groups. The Capstone Policy Councils give us a great example of the amount of work we need to invest in listening, responding and designing with, instead of ‘for’, families.
The Council has begun to work more closely with our Local Inter-agency Networking Team (LINT) and was able to help to identify and respond to a gap in that group’s sense of empowerment by inviting legislators to present and inform that large group. We’re helping to strengthen the effort to make those deeply embedded professionals feel more connected to policy and spending mechanisms. We hope to introduce our local LINT more directly to the Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance as well, so they are better informed about legislative and administrative potential in the early childhood field.
As we have come to understand, or perhaps understood all along, the cooperation and integration between folks working in the field makes our work far more effective. Lamoille BBF is working towards an integration with the Maternal Child Health Team run by the Vermont Department of Health, and with the Breastfeeding Coalition. We are excited about this development as it will infuse the Council and the MCH team with energy, and reduce duplication.
Finally, Lamoille is continuing to tackle professional development gaps when they come up with partners – and CPR seems to be a sticking point! We continue to work with Creative Workforce Solutions and Northern Lights to organize inexpensive and critical training for child care providers.