April 2017 | ISSUE 31
This Early Childhood-LINC newsletter connects communities across the country as they build and strengthen systems to help children and families thrive. Click the box below and enter your email address in the Stay Informed box to sign up. 

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Concrete Supports
Helping Families Ease Financial Stress

In late March, First 5 Alameda County, California, facilitated training for early childhood providers on local programs and services that address the needs of parents under financial stress. Beth Hoch, Training Administrator, explained that First 5 Alameda County recently aligned their training calendar with the protective factors in CSSP's Strengthening Families framework. They identified "concrete support in times of need" as a topic gap in their training offerings, and began exploring how they could assist providers to do more to help families get their basic needs met.
They began with a resource fair in November, where many community partners shared the services and supports they provide to meet families' concrete needs. Following that event, Hoch explains, "We felt we needed to dive deeper into family financial resources," including raising provider awareness of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and how to help families claim it. On March 28, over thirty providers from a variety of sectors came together to learn how to support parents who are struggling to make ends meet and/or are frequently in financial crisis. Attendees heard from nonprofits that work with families to save money, build credit, avoid predatory lenders and reduce debt, as well as tax education and preparation services to help families claim the EITC and other beneficial tax credits. The nonprofits highlighted financial services for immigrant families, an especially vulnerable group to financial struggle.

"These programs can lift families out of poverty, helping parents feel less anxious and more able to focus on their children's healthy development," Hoch explained. First 5 Alameda County plans to continue providing training on these important resources, as well as integrating financial support content into other trainings.
Sustaining Systems over Time
First Steps Kent Finds New Home for Welcome Home Baby

Early childhood systems rarely remain static. Funding shifts, personnel changes and evolving needs of children and families mean that how and where programs and services function must also change over time.

First Steps Kent of Michigan recently announced the transition of a longstanding program, Welcome Home Baby, from First Steps Kent to Health Net of West Michigan, a community partner. Welcome Home Baby provides a gateway to Kent County's early childhood home visiting system, connecting new parents to community support services in the first days of their child's life. First Steps began the program in 2010 as a demonstration project, intending to incubate it until it could be transitioned and brought to scale by another community agency.

In summer of 2015, a community Transition Task Force representing government, healthcare, home visiting providers, parents and funders was charged with identifying a long term strategy to relocate and reposition Welcome Home Baby permanently.

"The task force was really essential" to the transition process, explained Annemarie Valdez, CEO and President of First Steps Kent. "It was critical to have voices from all those parts of the community so we didn't forget a step or leave anyone out. When the time came for the transition, there was no outcry. Everyone understood it was well researched and investigated."

The Task Force chose Health Net of West Michigan due to its current partnerships with health plans, healthcare providers and community agencies. Health Net also already runs  Community Healthcare Access Program, also previously incubated by First Steps, which provides navigation of the health care system and connection to community resources.

"Health Net has a broader practice [than First Steps] in terms of helping people access the health system. Through Welcome Home Baby they can identify families that can benefit from their many other services," said Heather Boswell, First Steps Kent Director of Operations and Special Projects. For example, Health Net can provide additional home visits, help families access a medical home, arrange transportation for well child visits and offer services to older children in the family.

Community collaboration was the key to finding the right home for Welcome Home Baby. "There's power in collaboration," Valdez said. "First Steps' role is to support the community programs that can do this well, rather than to do it ourselves. That's how we can ensure that our families with young children get the best services."

Celebrate the Week of the Young Child (Next Week!) 

The Week of the Young Child (WOYC) is an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers and families. This year it runs from April 24-28. While the WOYC is right around the corner, NAEYC offers activity resources and a planning guide to help organizations, communities, classrooms and families participate. (See how Smart Start Alabama is linking the WOYC with their legislative advocacy.)
Explore Resources to Help Prevent Child Abuse

As part of Child Abuse Prevention Month , the Child Welfare Information Bureau has released the 2016/2017 Prevention Resource Guide: Building Community, Building Hope . It is intended to support community-based child abuse prevention professionals and others who work with children and families to prevent child maltreatment and promote well-being.

A related federal effort, new this year, is the WE CAN (Work to End Child Abuse and Neglect) campaign, which is putting out messages with links to prevention and family support resources each day in April. Keep up with the WE CAN messages by following the Child Abuse and Neglect Technical Assistance and Strategic Dissemination Center (CANTASD) on Facebook or Twitter - and like, share or retweet the images to help get the word out during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"Healthy, Thriving Communities: Safe Spaces for Immigrant Children and Families"
In this February 2017 brief, CSSP highlights actionable immigration-related policies at the state and local levels that can be used to promote safe spaces, economic stability and strong communities. In the wake of new and proposed federal policy targeting immigrant families and communities, advocates must be ready to defend and enact effective policies that promote child and family well-being and advance our development as an inclusive nation.
CSSP Statement on the President's "America First" Budget

In a recently released statement , CSSP notes that the President's proposed 2018 budget signals a withdrawal of strategic initiatives and investments to improve health and well-being for children and families and to advance equity. The statement highlights four ways the "America First" budget puts low-income children and families last, including reduced education investments, cuts to housing programs, elimination of health and human service programs and increased immigration enforcement funding.

In its effort to meet the needs of families facing the most significant barriers, CSSP will continue to monitor the federal budget process, providing analysis and policy strategies to support children and families.

Advocating for Young Children
Effective advocacy takes careful, lengthy planning and coordination among many people and groups. The following resources and organizations may provide guidance and inspiration for 2017 and 2018 efforts.
Introduction to Early Childhood Advocacy
The Ounce of Prevention Fund, based in Illinois, offers lessons and resources on how to  communicate the benefits of early childhood initiatives and encourage elected officials to support them.
Tour Guide
Bringing Legislators to you
The Philadelphia Association for the Education of Young Children has prepared a short guide for using legislator site visits to advocate for young children . The guide focuses on early learning centers but can be adapted for other organizations and programs.
    • For funders:  The Maine Philanthropy Center's Early Childhood Funders Group writes in the Bangor Daily News about the importance of using both philanthropic and federal funding streams to support the state's early childhood system.
    • For policy makers:   This report from the Early Childhood Action Collective analyzes infant and toddler care initiatives in 11 cities across the country. The report includes case studies, common elements across initiatives and challenges.
Early Childhood-LINC is a learning and innovation network developed by and for communities.  Our mission is to support families and improve results for young children in communities across the country with a focus on accelerating the development of effective, integrated, local early childhood systems.  We are currently made up of 10 member communities across the country.