In 2014, Building Bright Futures crafted the Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP), which codifies statewide strategies to realize the six goals for early childhood identified in the Early Childhood Framework. To review, those goals are:
- All children have a healthy start.
- Families and communities play a leading role in a child’s well-being.
- All children and families have access to high quality opportunities that meet their needs.
- Vermont invests in prevention and plans for the future success of children.
- Data and accountability drive progress in early childhood outcomes
- The early childhood system is innovative and integrated across sectors in order to better serve children and families.
These ambitious goals have been the focus of BBF’s ECAP Committees since 2014, and have driven real and tangible progress for Vermont’s young children across sectors. With some of the work of the ECAP completed, and other aspects of the early childhood system evolving, the time is right to revisit the plan with the intent to update the strategies we use to serve Vermont families.
Work is underway in 2019 to make these updates. A Working Group comprised of ECAP Committee members has been assembled, and they met to dive into this work on the last day of February. The Working Group is tasked with identifying gaps in the plan, ensuring that the right stakeholders are involved, and working with the ECAP committees during the process.
In this initial meeting, the Working Group reviewed the strategies outlined in the plan to understand what work still needs to be done and what work has been completed. Also, the group discussed strengths and weaknesses of the plan so that those can also be addressed simultaneously.
In order to ground this work on the statewide plan, Beth Truzansky, the ECAP Coordinator, reviewed an assessment tool that provided six criteria for updates to the plan, including that they be research and evidence informed, promote equity, support the full participation of each and every young child and family, that they be measurable and coordinated, and that the new plan leverages our strengths and assets. This helped the Working Group to be focused and strategic in its recommendations.
Then, small groups reviewed profiles of children that may be helped by ECAP strategies and were asked to choose a child to keep in mind while reviewing Result 3 (All children and families have access to high quality opportunities that meet their needs). These child profiles were designed to remind participants of the complex and interlocking factors that can be present in the lives of children, and to challenge participants to think about the elements and coordination necessary to support children and families.
The full group then came back together to further discuss the need for an updated plan and to consider the other documents with which the updated ECAP should align, including the Guiding Principles, the Think Tank Report, the State Health Improvement Plan, and the Head Start strategic plan before breaking into small groups a second time.
In these groups, participants were asked to choose one of the criteria from the ECAP assessment tool mentioned above and use it as a lens with which to assess a specific goal of the plan. These small groups then identified what strategies have been partially or fully completed, and identified areas that need attention. In addition, this exercise caused participants to reflect on items that may not yet be covered in the ECAP but should be. It also raised a question about how to gather public input during this process.
The ECAP Working Group will be meeting again in the coming months to consider additional updates to this critical plan for supporting each and every young child in Vermont. In the meantime, each ECAP committee will do their own review to build on the suggestions of the Working Group. Additional stakeholders will provide input in the coming months to generate a useful, concise and visionary Early Childhood Action Plan to guide our collective work.