News from the Network is a series from Building Bright Futures that spotlights the work of Regional Councils, updates related to early childhood data, emerging priorities from VECAP Committees, and more. This update gives a closer look at BBF’s work across the state of Vermont to improve the well-being of young children and families.
VECAP Monitoring: Making Progress Toward Our Shared Vision
On Monday, May 22, the State Advisory Council and community partners gathered virtually to celebrate progress and plan strategies for the next year. Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan, or VECAP, serves as our state’s strategic plan for early childhood, designed to build collective accountability to achieve measurable goals by 2026.
The VECAP evolves based on new information and lessons learned, which is why we take the time to reflect where we are and where we would like to go.
Regional Councils are the foundation of the BBF Network. The meeting began by unveiling BBF’s 2023 Regional Council Priorities Map, updated earlier this spring during our 12 Regional Council meetings with input from over 130 partners.
We are directly building upon these annual priority conversations that identify the most critical needs and gaps impacting children and families locally and the greatest opportunities for how to tackle these challenges in the coming year.
While there are unique regional differences, here are the top emerging themes we as a state need to consider:
- Child and family mental health (5 regions)
- Building resilience in children, families, and communities (4 regions)
- Quality and capacity of child care and early care and education (5 regions)
- Access to basic needs (4 regions)
With these themes as our guide, we then broke into small groups to share accomplishments and measure gaps to work on in the coming year.
How Are We Doing?
We are making great progress toward the four VECAP goals. Below you’ll see examples of progress captured at the summit from each goal. View the full inventory of accomplishments, priorities, and purposeful action here.
Here are highlights of accomplishments from the past year:
Goal 1: All Children Have a Healthy Start – Universal school meals were made permanent through the passage of H.165, legislation providing all students free breakfast and lunch in public schools.
Goal 2: Families and Communities Play a Leading Role in Children’s Well-Being: – H.217 includes two compensated family representatives on the Prekindergarten Education Implementation Committee.
Goal 3: All Children and Families Have Access to High-Quality Opportunities That Meet Their Needs – An expansion of loan repayment and scholarships for early childhood workforce (early childhood educators, social workers, and Children’s Integrated Services) will support recruitment and retention.
Goal 4: The Early Childhood System Will be Integrated, Well-Resourced, and Data-Informed – Vermont was awarded two major grants to support the early childhood system: the State Professional Development Grant and the Preschool Development Implementation Grant.
What Can We Move Forward?
“There are significant efforts around family engagement happening across the state. Instead of thinking of that as fragmented or siloed, how do we weave those things together so we are getting a cohesive, comprehensive look and understanding of what families’ needs truly are? So that we make sure we are as responsive and forward-thinking as we can be.” — Janet McLaughlin, Deputy Commissioner, VT Department of Children and Families
Building Bright Futures has a robust Families and Communities Committee. A theme that came up in multiple small groups was growing this committee’s capacity to address policy considerations outlined in the Family Needs Assessment, such as by forming sub-groups that work on specific topics with different partners.
Another important component of moving toward the vision articulated in the VECAP is monitoring and accountability. Over the next year (and many more to come), Building Bright Futures will support the Legislature and the Administration in collectively defining, measuring, and monitoring the process and successes of H.217 implementation as we transform Vermont’s early childhood system. Learn more about the advisement BBF provided during the 2023 legislative session. The Data and Policy Team has already engaged other states in this discussion to hear about best practices and lessons learned in monitoring significant system investments.
“I’d love to see as a measurement outcome something really concrete around not only serving more kids but also improving the quality of their lives… Can we show children not only getting more access to the system but also improving their lives in really tangible ways.” — Dimitri Garder, State Advisory Council Member, speaking to high-quality early care/education
The VECAP Summit offers a valuable place where we partner together and have an opportunity to document what we’ve seen and where we are working to create change within the early childhood system. There are many other ways to engage with the BBF Network and to make progress toward our collective vision for Vermont’s early childhood system.
Email Kate Bailey, BBF’s Partnership Coordinator, if you would like to join a VECAP Committee or learn more!