On July 22, after a brief meeting of the State Advisory Council, over 80 leaders including regional council members, ECAP committee members, legislators, state agencies, service providers and businesses from around the state convened at the Statehouse for the third annual ECAP Summit. The Summit is an important time to celebrate accomplishments of improvements to our early childhood system that are named in the plan, as well as to name priorities for the upcoming year. This Summit comes at a time where ECAP leaders are working on an update to the statewide plan, making the gathering even more impactful.
The meeting kicked off with a skit that illustrated the level of collaboration necessary to move from need, to legislation, to greater investment in workforce training, ultimately improving the well-being of children. It was a good reminder of how leaders utilized our systems including ECAP committees, SAC and advocacy. This helped to set the stage for the Summit.
Next we moved into celebrating some key accomplishments over the last year, presented in a storytelling format. These stories included:
- Project DULCE: How Appleseed Pediatrics works with the Lamoille Family Center to ensure quality family-centered care for all newborns by understanding what individual families need to be successful, and helping them gain access to supports. This program will grow from 1 to 4 sites across the state this fall.
- Just Us Moms group: A Springfield-based parent-led support group co-facilitated by Ellen Taetzch, the BBF Regional Coordinator. Ellen was joined by a parent and her 1 month old baby to talk about the power of community among this group of women.
- The Basics, a science-based campaign that empowers parents and caregivers to make the most of their time with their baby or toddler. The Southeast Vermont BBF Council is using this method as a strategy to reduce achievement gaps in Kindergarten readiness.
- the Professional Preparation and Development ECAP committee developed recommendations for training and workforce support to ensure high quality early care and learning experiences for children and families. Becky Millard and Paula Nadeau, both committee members, spoke to the process and impact of this committee’s work together.
- Using data to inform our work is a goal of the ECAP and Data and Evaluation Committee. Erin Roche shared how two research studies, Landscape Analysis of Vermont Secondary Education and the Early Care and Learning Household Study are helping to inform planning and decision making.
- The Vermont Community Loan Fund is a strategic partner for children. Becca Schrader is the founding chair of the Early Childhood Investment Committee. She spoke to VCLF loans to support Early Care and Learning, as well as the newly convened committee tasked to build investments in the youngest Vermonters, yielding results for everyone.
With everyone energized around our success stories, people moved into small groups to consider and discuss each of the ECAP results, with an eye on goals for the coming year and beyond. Everyone had the chance to visit two groups/results in the time allotted, and were prompted with questions to help inform committee work in the coming year.
- Result 1 (All children have a Healthy Start): The conversations focused on expanding/supporting existing programs like DULCE and CIS that are working successfully to support Vermont’s children, and also work to integrate mental health supports the same way we integrate physical health systems.
- Result 2 (Engaging with Families): Discussions explored the barriers to family engagement including transportation and other tangible supports, having time to participate, and even that systems work may not feel as fulfilling as volunteering at school or a library, for example. The discussion also touched on solutions, including examples of when family engagement has been strong and how to incentivize families in a way that honors their commitment to the work.
- Result 3 (Access to High Quality Opportunities): The Early Learning and Development committee had a robust discussion about the knowledge gap in the state surrounding Early Care and Learning professionals and what those roles really entail in terms of professional education and job duties. Professional Preparation and Development asked participants to review key recommendations to the Career Ladder and advise on strategy toward a more streamlined system.
- Result 4 (Investment in the Future Success of Children): This discussion centered around what funding exists for early childhood, innovative sources of funding, and how to channel all of these sources into a single fund to support early childhood priorities in Vermont.
- Result 5 (Data and Accountability Drive Outcomes) explored what data is available to inform decision making, data gaps and representation on the committee.
- Result 6 (The System is Innovative and Integrated) The groups discussed integration at both a systems and community level, reflecting on the need to have a common set of language in order to work seamlessly together. The group also continually came back to the philosophical cornerstone that our charge should always be to keep the family and their needs at the center of our work and aim to always work together for their success.
As ECAP Committees continue their work and also develop the updated Early Childhood Action Plan, the collective work of this Summit’s participants will play a vital role. The Summit marks the end and beginning of another ECAP Implementation cycle. From here, committees will update their priorities and develop workplans. The SAC will review priorities at their September meeting and jointly work together toward an improved system for children and families.