By: Jacquelyn M. Rose, MPH
It’s not enough to be an early care and education professional because you love working with children. If you love children, you must leverage your view, your voice, and your visibility to improve the systems and quality of services for young children and families.
While a variety of words and phrases were used to describe this sentiment, for me, this was the resounding theme of the 2018 QRIS National Meeting in San Diego, California.
This year’s meeting focused on “Sparking Solutions and Sharing Systems Strategies,” and served as a “tribute to the passion, dedication, and ingenuity of all of you who are working so hard to increase quality and access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and their families,” as outlined in the welcome letter from Susan Hibbard, executive director of The BUILD Initiative, and Debi Mathias, director of the BUILD Initiative QRIS National Learning Network.
While I was only able to participate in a small number of the 148 sessions offered at the meeting, each session I attended could finish the sentence, “If you love children…”
If you love children:
- Nurture an educational culture that promotes listening to families, documenting the needs and capacities of communities, and giving voice to children and families to get the best possible outcomes – from the plenary “Liberating Frames of Early Childhood: On Voice, View and Visibility.”
- Actively cultivate both administrative and pedagogical leadership in early care and education providers as a strategy to promote positive outcomes in children and families – from the session “Whole Leadership: A Cross-Sector Framework for Learning Early Care and Education Programs.”
- Create strategies and implement activities that assist child care businesses in achieving long-term financial sustainability – from the session “The Early Care and Education Business Collaboratory: How 12 States Addressed the Business Needs of Child Care through Systems Change.”
- Effectively and efficiently translate the science of early childhood brain development to voters, policy makers, and other constituents so they understand the importance of policies and investments in early childhood – from the session “Babies and Toddlers: The Science of the First 1,000 Days and How to Tell the Story for Impact.”
Even the session in which I presented, “Help Me Grow and QRIS: A Cross-Systems Approach to Strengthening Early Learning through Early Detection, Referral, and Linkage to Services” could finish the sentence. If you love children, promote children’s optimal healthy development by integrating siloed systems to more effectively and efficiently serve children and families.
During the session, I presented on behalf of Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program and the Help Me Grow National Center, which are both programs of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health. I was joined by two Help Me Grow affiliates, Orange County, California and Vermont, as well as Debi Mathias. We described our collaboration to develop and lead a new Community of Practice for Help Me Grow affiliates to improve early detection and intervention for children in home- or center-based early learning settings who are at risk for developmental concerns.
Learn more about the Help Me Grow National Center/BUILD Initiative project here.
While early care and education professionals work diligently to support and meet the needs of children and families they serve, we know from the National Meeting they face challenges doing this work: teacher burnout, low wages, high employee turnover, limited professional development and growth opportunities, managing multiple compliance agencies and standards, and fluctuations in resources, just to name a few.
The Community of Practice seeks to support developmental promotion, screening, referral, and linkage to services among early care and education professionals. The project includes the following areas of focus:
- System Building: creating a linkage between early care and education settings and Help Me Grow affiliates to support the referral and linkage of children with mild and moderate developmental delays to services and resources; supporting cross-sector information sharing between early care and education, Help Me Grow, child health providers, and parents; and engaging with QRIS leadership to promote developmental screening as a quality indicator.
- Technology: linking results of developmental screening to Help Me Grow centralized access points; promoting family access to, and early care and education utilization of, developmental screening; and explore how registries can be leveraged to support cross-sector information sharing.
- Capacity Building: provide professional development opportunities to early care and education professionals; leverage related federal initiatives and evidence-based tools; evaluating the efficacy of professional development opportunities; and tracking developmental screening activities for individual and populations of children.
It was exciting to present this project at the meeting and to see how the roughly 60 professionals who attended the session reacted to the concept. After attending other sessions at the meeting, I left with the understanding that if you love children, you will do all that it takes to help them succeed. Increasing collaboration and diffusing innovative approaches to closing existing gaps in our child-serving systems will go a long way toward ensuring all children have an opportunity to reach their greatest potential.
The Help Me Grow National Center/BUILD Initiative work is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Jacquelyn M. Rose, MPH, is the program manager for Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program.
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