The September 29, 2020 BBF State Advisory Council explored strategies to strengthen the voice of the State Advisory Council through its membership and annual policy recommendations. Dr. Morgan Crossman, BBF Executive Director, discussed how the SAC is composed of leaders chosen as the primary advisory body to the Governor and Legislature on all things early childhood.
Current SAC member priorities
One charge of the SAC is to track emerging issues facing children, families and the EC system in order to support cross-sector collaborations and fill gaps. To open the meeting, SAC members introduced themselves and shared a current priority to address the needs of children, families, and the early childhood system of services.
A range of themes emerged including concerns about families’ ability to access basic needs, childcare, and mental health supports as well as systemic issues and gaps such as achievement gaps widening and how to support the workforce to prevent burnout during these stressful times.
- I’m really worried about where kids are right now, childcare hubs in that area are not full. We have the opportunity to make real changes and build a robust system.
- I’m looking at inequities of health and mental health due to race, how to educate ourselves better and pay attention to what is going on in the world and then what we can do to contribute in a positive way?
- Honoring the unique needs of families at this time; ultimately the priority is that everyone is afforded opportunities for both physical and psychological emotional safety right now and breaking down barriers to make that happen.
- PCC’s are focused on being the lifeline for families, making sure that families are connected also balancing the work while supporting staff that are in the homes doing the work so they don’t burn out.
- Looking at resilience development across all of the systems of care, development of protective factors, and particularly concrete supports in times of need.
- Close the achievement and opportunity gap, make sure barriers are removed to help staff can do what they need to do to keep the community healthy.
- My priority is for all kids to have safe and developmentally appropriate places to be right now.
- Working to create stability in early childhood services and care, looking for opportunities for innovation for positive change.
- Looking forward to the opportunity to think beyond Covid and take the lessons about integration we have experienced over the past several months.
- Highlighting how we can bring family voice to our meetings in a meaningful and intentional way and focusing on what is working well.
The Council then explored membership recruitment as a strategy to strengthen the voice of the Council and for BBF to achieve its charge under Act 104 as well as which sectors are not represented. BBF is the only organization that represents the entire early childhood system and focuses on integration. There are currently several vacancies including two Vermont Senate seats, a Vermont House of Representatives seat and 3 At-Large member seats potentially in the areas of pediatric health, education and finance/philanthropy. The board could also include up to one additional member of the Vermont Senate or an additional At-large seat. In addition, starting in November, the Council will include a representative from the Governor’s office as a non-voting member. More information about the 17 current members of the SAC can be found at buildingbrightfutures.org/about-building-bright-futures/meet-the-sac/.
The majority of the meeting was focused on the annual policy recommendations. The SAC priorities for the last two years are early childhood and family mental health; and workforce as a critical step to build a high quality, accessible early childhood services.
Annually BBF invites ECAP Committees to elevate gaps and barriers impacting children and families and bring them to the State Advisory Council to make policy recommendations. The recommendation process this year launched at the July SAC with concepts presented and workshopped in small groups with 5 areas of policy recommendations brought forth this year.
The Proposed 2020 SAC Recommendations are in the following 5 categories:
- Recognize Vermont’s Early Care and Education System and Workforce as Essential and continuing investment in the redesigning the state’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program
- Covid impacts on family economic stability and mental health
- Chronic inequities and racism as a public health crisis
- Family voice to build a stronger system
- Evolve the early childhood data system to address gaps
During the meeting, each recommendation was presented in alignment to Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan levels of change, which emerged from the 2020 update to the strategic plan.
Those in attendance worked in small groups to examine one of the five recommendations and then returned to the large group to discuss how the SAC can leverage its impact through these policy recommendations. Feedback will be captured and final recommendations will be presented to the SAC in October and included in the How Are Vermont’s Young Children and Families report and policy briefs that can be used to inform legislation and practice changes. Morgan expressed gratitude to ECAP committee leaders for ushering these recommendations through this process. She also commended the SAC for their commitment to the often ambiguous challenge of holding the big picture vision while determining how to use the full Building Bright Futures infrastructure (e.g. data/evidence, regional councils, VECAP committees) to monitor our system and catalyze change.
October 26 BBF State Advisory & Regional Council Assembly
The meeting closed with an invitation to the October 26 SAC meeting which will be a joint assembly of Regional and State Advisory Council members to address challenges to equitable access for children and families. This annual event is a critical opportunity to build a unified early childhood system where state, private, and community partners are working together. Register for the October 26 SAC meeting here.