In our regional Action Plan, the Springfield Area Council has identified “families and caregivers have opportunities to understand child development“ as a priority for the year. One strategy we have used in coordination with the local ACEs in Action Collaborative and Building Flourishing Communities was to have film screenings of Resilience followed by community conversations. In the past two months we have held three screenings reaching over 75 people and are planning more. Often after these screenings community members feel informed about what adverse childhood experiences are but wonder what we can do as a community to prevent them and mitigate the effects. As we continue with these showings we are learning more about how to adapt these presentations and ways in which the community would like to address the information locally.
The council is also working on the Same Page Initiative, a project aimed at increasing communication, collaboration, and coordination among preschool providers, kindergarten teachers, support staff, families and community partners. This group has two day-long trainings occurring in November and December. We have been intentionally planning to ensure relevance to all those who attend.
The Women Infants and Children (WIC) program in the greater Springfield area, as well as across the state, has seen declining numbers of eligible people participating. This is a concern of the councils due to the potential for our area to lose federal money to support the program. The council learned more about the program and the services that are provided, especially noting that this is primarily a nutrition education program and secondarily a supplemental food program. We also learned about the requirements for those participating in the program. The council brainstormed ideas on ways to help increase both enrollment and ease of completing requirements. One idea that we are moving forward is child care providers holding programs that early care settings are already required to do if they participate in STARS that would also help families meet their WIC education requirements. This would alleviate one more obligation for families, while helping early care providers meet their responsibilities.
The council also had a presentation in November from the Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance in which we heard about the likely upcoming legislative agenda. The council also briefly heard an update about the Welcome Baby Project in the region which has distributed over 250 bags and uses volunteers from throughout the community to really make this a community effort. There has also been great collaboration between organizations handing them out, but even with this wonderful effort we know we are not reaching all families. The council continues to think of ways to improve the reach.