March 2017 Newsletter
In This Issue
Spark New Hampshire's website is
 Visit it today for up-to-date information about the great work Spark NH is doing to better coordinate early childhood programs and services in New Hampshire.
Get Involved!
If you are interested in being involved in Spark NH, please contact
Director Laura Milliken at
2 Delta Drive
Concord, NH 03301
Tel: (603) 226-7900
Fax: (603) 226-7290
Find us on Google+
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Dear Friend of Spark NH,
With the generous support of NH DHHS Maternal and Child Health Section, Cisco Systems and the NH Coalition for Business and Education, Spark NH has been working with WMUR TV to create a unique public awareness campaign.  Here are some of the features:
  • Four- 10 second video ads with New Hampshire leaders: Fred Kocher, Kathleen Murphy, Eddie Edwards and Nannu Nobis; each talking about why early childhood is so important. 
  • A 30 second ad featuring our animated video "We Are the Granite State."
  • Another 30 second spot linking early childhood development to New Hampshire's future workforce (in production). 
  • A page on the WMUR TV website entitled "Early Childhood" which features articles and videos created by us.  New articles will be posted periodically.
  •  Four print/ still advertisements about the importance of the early years.  Three are on the Early Childhood webpage.  A fourth, more dynamic ad will fill the screen intermittently as users sign on to stream content on the WMUR website. 
  • Data about when our spots aired, and demographics about who went to our site, what they clicked on, how long they stayed, which articles they read, etc. 
You can visit the webpage hereThe current campaign is expected to last through June and we are seeking funding to continue the campaign. 

As you know Spark NH has been working on creating a plan for its work for the next 5 years.  An initial meeting in October yielded both high-level goals for committees and recommendations for reducing the total number of committees to streamline our work.  The Executive Committee further refined these goals and recommendations and then each of the committees considered them and made changes.  The Council and committee chairs met again at the end of January to finalize the plan.  The group agreed that we would reduce the number of Spark NH public committees to four: Policy, Workforce and Professional Development, Data, and Evaluation.  Communications and Public Awareness and Quality will be infused in the work of the other committees and the work done by Spark NH staff.
Changes to the high-level goals from that meeting will now be referred back to committees so that they can create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Reliable, Time based) objectives.  Peter Antal (our evaluation consultant) and I will be attending committee meetings in March and early April to facilitate this process.  In addition to the committee plans, I will be creating a staff plan.  By April 6 goals and objectives will be completed.  They will be reviewed by the Evaluation Committee and by the Council at the April 27th council meeting.  In May, with Evaluation Committee feedback, committees will complete their one-year workplans by adding activities and timelines for each objective.  These will be completed by June 7.  The Evaluation Committee will review these in June and the Council will review the entire plan at its June 22 meeting.  The one year work plans will begin on July 1, 2017.
Another important discussion in the strategic planning process has been how to ensure that family voices are reflected in the work of Spark NH.  At the meeting in January the group agreed  that we should convene a day-long meeting whose only focus will be how we will engage families and bring their voices to the work of Spark NH.  The group felt we should bring in a facilitator for this discussion and that some of the questions we should consider will include:  What do we need from families?  What will families get from participating in Spark?  Which organizations can we partner with to help us engage families?  Who else is working on increasing family engagement?  What do evidence-based frameworks for family engagement tell us about how to do this work?  What are the existing resources we can draw upon?  How are policies affecting families?  The group felt that the meeting should lead to a concrete plan of action for increasing family engagement/voices in the work of Spark NH.  I will be working on finding funds to support this meeting.

Respectfully submitted,
Laura Milliken, Esq.
Director, Spark NH
 "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."
- Helen Keller
Regional Early Childhood Initiative Reports

Carroll County Early Childhood Coalition

The CCECC is a work group of Carroll County Coalition for Public Health (C3PH) addressing the community health improvement priority of Early Childhood and Early Parenting Support as stated in C3PH's Community Health Improvement Plan 
The month of March the CCECC is focused on implementing VROOM throughout the Carroll County by providing materials to all home-visiting programs, Memorial Hospital's Family Birthing Center and creating a public service announcement in partnership with Mt. Washington Radio. A presentation about VROOM will also be given to the women enrolled in Memorial Hospital's New Life Program, a comprehensive coordinated treatment program for opiod-dependent prenatal patients.
In addition to VROOM, CCECC continues to work closely with SAU9 to increase the awareness of the importance of the early childhood development by offering two trainings in the presentation of Spark NH's "Children: The Bedrock of the Granite State". Training local residents will allow us to offer this presentation to a variety of community groups and events throughout the Carroll County region.
Information about the work of CCECC can now be found on-line under "Early Childhood and Early Parenting Support" on the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health website:

Safe Schools/Healthy Students, Concord School District

The Concord School District Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant Initiative is pleased to offer parents and caregivers opportunities for quality education and family engagement. This month, through collaboration with Child and Family Services and Community Bridges, Positive Solutions for Families will be offered for six weeks.  Parents and caregivers will have the opportunity to reflect on their child's growth, development and behavior.  They will be encouraged to build a positive relationship with their child through daily interactions that are natural and meaningful.

To support families in attending the workshop series, child care will be provided as well as any necessary services to remove barriers to participation. The series is free to participants.

Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families

The Coos Coalition is finalizing the 2016 yearend report. Here are some of the data points we are tracking:

  • 64% of women with children aged 5 and under in mental health, family support or health care programs in Coos were screened for maternal depression in 2016. 14% of those screened were referred for further follow up and assessment.
  • The Coalition partners did a total of 948 ASQ and ASQ-SE developmental screenings in 2016. Social/emotional behaviors continues to be the most sited reason for further assessment and referral.
  • 76 staff from mental health, childcare, Head Start and family support programs in Coos have received some training in the Pyramid Model
  • 19% of children in home visiting programs in Coos were affected by substance abuse in 2016 and 16% of children in home visiting programs in Coos are being cared for by a non-parent family member, foster parent or grandparent
  • The Coalition started Reach Out and Read in 2010. Since that time 8,171 books have been distributed to children 0-5 in Coos County at well child visits by the three Coos County Health Centers. In 2016 1,379 books were given away at well child visits in Coos County.

Impact Monadnock

Impact Monadnock and its community-led Evaluation Team is in the process of developing its evaluation report for Year 1 of Implementation of its strategic plan which ends June 30th. Highlights will include progress in integrating the ASQ-SE into medical well-child visits at area hospitals and outreach and education on the ASQ-SE for pediatricians; the emergence of a regional Learning Community for local educators who recently completed Pyramid Model training; the launch of a Child and Family-Friendly Workplace Practices program by the Impact Monadnock Business Ambassadors; and the launch of Vroom throughout the Monadnock Region.

Project LAUNCH Manchester

Project LAUNCH in Manchester has created Strategy Briefs based on its 2016 Evaluation Report. These briefs highlight the outcomes of each strategy (developmental screening, integration of behavioral health into primary care, enhanced home visitation, behavioral support coaching, and parent education) and supporting data regarding the impact of Project LAUNCH on children and families and the professionals who work with them. Anyone interested in reviewing the briefs should contact Lara Quiroga, Project LAUNCH Local Program Director, at 

Somersworth Early Childhood Coalition 

Somersworth Ready Together is continuing to make progress towards our goal of ensuring that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn.  In March, Somersworth Ready Together will have a full day retreat because we believe the time is now to dedicate an all-day work session to clarifying our next steps.  Our school librarian and city librarian have begun to hold monthly story times for children and families in Somersworth with a parent education component.  A subcommittee of Somersworth Ready Together has begun to plan launch events to introduce VROOM, the application for young children and families.    

Team Up Rochester

"Team Up Rochester" is a group of community members working together to address our shared goals of "all children in Rochester arrive at Kindergarten ready to learn and succeed". We are currently focused on our launch of a comprehensive, community-wide, "Vroom!" Promotion. The goal of this promotion is to increase parent/caregiver capacity to support their child's brain development from birth to 5. This effort, led by the Strafford County YMCA, will involve many community-based organizations and "champions" who will be given materials (posters, brochures and cards) and trained on the application and its many uses.

Thrive Laconia

Thrive Laconia hosts its 2nd event on March 9th. Key business leaders are invited to Business Needs Babies to hear why investment in the early years is important to the future of the local economy and the way of life in the Lakes Region, what research says, and what are concrete steps businesses can take to support today's workforce, and help build tomorrow's.

Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center

The efforts of the Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center to offer comprehensive supports to better the lives of our community's youngest children and their families has continued to expand.  We are pleased to advance a new Home Visiting Program and drop in Play group with the help of a VROOM Implementation Grant and funding from the Children's Auction of the Lakes Region and our cooperative partner HealthFirst Family Care Center.  Through the help of NH Listens, connecting families to resources emerged as a great need. We continue to work to with our local Federally Qualified Health Care Clinic and local stakeholders to bring the resources to the families that had been a demographic un-reached until Kindergarten Orientation.  

As we work to increase the capacity of adults parenting our community children, we continue to offer Peer Recovery Supports and parent education that is strength based and supportive of families who struggle to maintain recovery.  We are pleased to have had 6 families attend the Positive Solutions for Families parent education program, and plan to host a second session in May. We also continue to offer one-on-one parent education through the Parents As Teachers Curriculum.  

Committee and Task Force Meeting Summaries   

Workforce and Professional Development Committee - November 18, 2016
The group identified activities for funding the EC PDS. Ideas ranged from additional scholarship money, approaching funders with evidence supported data on student success, promoting participation in SELA, and revisiting the EC Portal. Peter Antal provided a summary on the Workforce Data Project. The intent was to devise a methodology for looking at the workforce, to document trends, needs, and to provide an argument for change.  We found that not many agencies are collecting data on the workforce, agencies are willing to work with us, and there is not capacity to collect data.
Policy Committee - December 5, 2016
It was decided to expand the January Policy Committee meeting to 2 hours to more deeply explore advocacy issues including how to track legislation (both positive and negative), the process of communication (including to the regions), and creating outcomes related to advocacy around the Framework.  Proposed Policy Committee goals for the 2013-2016 NH Comprehensive Strategic Plan for Early Childhood were discussed.  The draft will be modified and returned to the committee for review.   Jackie Cowell invited people to apply to be the Policy Committee Chair.  Interested parties should email Laura Milliken or Jackie Cowell.  The term would begin in January.

Data Committee - December 5, 2016
The committee reviewed the Coos website design.  There will soon be a statewide interpretation and suggested edits were shared.  The Spark NH data display will sit on Lynn Davey's server which will help with timely updates but there will be a cost.  WISDOM staff has reached out to Laura and Kim to ask that another discussion be planned.  Peter Antal has been doing additional work on the indicators.  A discussion about the future of the Data Committee took place.  Goals were brainstormed.  The group agreed on the Long-Term Data Outcomes and proposed priorities.  The committee will move to quarterly meetings. 
Executive Committee - January 3, 2017
The committee reviewed the notes from the strategic planning meeting and drafted recommendations for the larger group.  The annual budget was reviewed.  The February Council meeting agenda was drafted.  Laura is working to schedule a meeting with Governor Sununu and the objectives were brainstormed.  Changes to council membership will be made based on the new Executive Order.  There are also a few open seats that need to be filled.  Updates on the Task Force on Early Identification of Developmental Issues and the Pyramid Model were given.  Laura's annual review was discussed.        

Evaluation Committee - January 6, 2017
The Evaluation Committee met to review its goals and objectives and made some modifications to those. The Committee also worked on developing a framework for Committees to use when articulating their goals and objectives and clarifying activities. This framework will be used to guide the development of an evaluation approach. The Committee is also expanding and has reached out to representatives from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Carsey Institute to join us. 

Policy Committee - January 9, 2017
Lara Quiroga and Marj Droppa were introduced as new co-chairs. To allow for the Smart Start Early Childhood Advocacy Table to meet directly afterwards, the Policy Committee will now meet on the first Monday of the month from 9-10:15 a.m. Regional partnerships updates are in the Spark NH newsletter. The group discussed communicating advocacy efforts that were related to Spark's Framework for Action including family medical leave, kindergarten funding, grandparents as guardians, family resource centers of quality and childcare scholarships. Email at the advocacy hub to get more details on legislation.

Quality Committee
The quality committee did not meet in December due to the Chair being on medical leave and others not able to attend.  The Collaboration Toolkit was presented to the Spark Council in October with the request for feedback.  No feedback was received. The Collaboration Toolkit is close to completion with much gratitude to committee member Debra Nelson.  Once completed it will be posted on the Spark website.  We hope this can happen in the next month or so.

Upcoming Meetings 

Meetings are held at 2 Delta Drive in Concord NH unless otherwise noted.

Friday, March 3rd, 2:00-4:00
Place: Endowment for Health,
1 Pillsbury St Suite 30, Concord, NH, 03301 
Evaluation Committee
(1st Friday of Every Other Month)
Monday, March 6th, 9:00-10:15
Place: NEA, 9 S. Spring St., Concord, NH, 03301
Policy Committee 
1st Monday of Every Month)
Tuesday, March 14th, 12:00-2:00
Place: Endowment for Health,
1 Pillsbury St Suite 30, Concord, NH, 03301 
Executive Committee
(2nd Tuesday of Every Month)
Meeting Time and Date Change
Tuesday, March 21st, 1:00-3:00
Data Committee 
1st Monday of Every Third Month)

Friday, March 24th, 9:00-11:00 Workforce and Professional Development Committee
(4th Friday of Every Month) 

Monday, April 3rd, 9:00-10:15
Place: NEA, 9 S. Spring St., Concord, NH, 03301
Policy Committee
(1st Monday of Every Month)
TBD Family Partnership and Engagement Task Force
(2nd Monday of Every Other Month
Tuesday, April 11th, 12:00-2:00 Executive Committee 
(2nd Tuesday of Every Month)
Thursday, April 27th, 9:00-11:00 Spark NH Council Meeting 
(4th Thursday of Every Other Month)
Friday, April 28th, 9:00-11:00 Workforce and Professional Development Committee
(4th Friday of Every Month) 

Links of Interest

Guide on Preventing Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Childhood Settings
Source: SRI International - December 14, 2016
A new research-based tool, Preventing Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Childhood Settings: A Program Leader's Guide to Supporting All Children's Success, provides recommended policies and practices that address the underlying root causes of suspension and expulsion and effective alternatives. It was developed with guidance from a panel of national experts. The interactive guide includes resources on supporting social-emotional development, reducing challenging behavior, recognizing the role of cultural differences and implicit biases, and more. A self-assessment survey is included to help provide a tailored road-map to navigating the guide.

State(s) of Head Start
Source: National Institute for Early Education Research - December 2016
Findings from a recent analysis of Head Start program data from all 50 states and six territories, State(s) of Head Start (December 2016), reveal that access to Head Start programs, funding per child, teacher education, quality of teaching, and duration of services vary widely by state. In some states Head Start meets evidence-based quality standards and serves a high percentage of low-income children, while in other states Head Start reaches fewer children and provides low-quality instruction and insufficient hours. These findings underscore the need for improved coordination between Head Start and state and local government agencies in order to build high-quality early learning programs and ensure that every eligible child has an equal opportunity to benefit from Head Start.

Policy Statement on Babies Affected by Alcohol and Substance Exposure
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - December 21, 2016
Many communities across the U.S. are experiencing significant increases in the use of opioids and in the numbers of babies experiencing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrom
e (NAS). A new policy statement, Supporting the Development of Young Children in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities Who are Affected by Alcohol and Substance Exposure (December 2016), addresses children affected by opioids and other substance abuse during pregnancy, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). It is meant to:
  •          raise awareness of the developmental challenges children who have been exposed to alcohol or substances face;
  •          highlight culturally-based and evidence-based strategies to support the early development of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children, their families, and communities;
  •          support tribal efforts to coordinate and leverage services and activities across communities to benefit young children, families, and communities; and
  •          identify culturally and linguistically responsive resources to support tribal communities, early childhood programs, and families in fostering the early development and learning of AI/AN children.
Although the policy statement responds to the issue in AI/AN communities, it is relevant to many communities across America.

The Life-cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program
Source: The Heckman Equation - December 12, 2016
A new working paper by Nobel Laureate James Heckman and colleagues, The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program (December 2016), shows that high quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment. This is substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds. The report finds that significant gains are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors and employment. 

Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2016
Source: Child Care Aware of America - December 22, 2016
Child Care Aware of America recently released its 10th annual report on the costs of child care in the U.S. Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2016 provides an overview of the child care landscape across the U.S. and highlights strategies states and communities are using to help parents afford child care. It finds that over the past decade, child care affordability remains unchanged - in many communities across the country, child care costs exceed the cost of housing, college tuition, transportation, or food.

Early Childhood Community Engagement 
In early 2016, NH Listens partnered with the Endowment for Health and NH Charitable Foundation to support community engagement focused on early childhood education and to identify local priorities to support New Hampshire's young children and their families. Eight communities (Claremont, Greater Nashua, Greater Tilton, Mount Washington Valley, the Monadnock Region, Laconia, Rochester, and Somersworth) were selected to build upon existing local and regional work with a year of outreach and coalition building. A summary report can be found here.

New Videos: Evidence-Based Teaching Practices That Support Social Emotional Development
Source: Pyramid Model Consortium - January 4, 2017
Two new videos are available for viewing on the Pyramid Model Consortium website. The videos highlight evidence-based teaching practices that support young children's social emotional development, as demonstrated by a high fidelity Pyramid Model implementation site. A table of contents is provided at the beginning of each video so viewers can easily navigate to specific segments.
The videos were collaboratively produced by the Montana Head Start Collaborative Office, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Early Childhood Services Bureau, the Pyramid Model Consortium, and the Bal Swan Children's Center.

Early STEM Matters: Providing High-Quality STEM Experiences for All Young Learners
Source: Erikson Institute, Early Childhood STEM Working Group - January 2017
A new report, Early STEM Matters: Providing High-Quality STEM Experiences for All Young Learners (January 2017), offers guidance around the development and improvement of effective early childhood science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education policies and practices. It describes four guiding principles related to early childhood STEM education and six actionable recommendations for educational leaders, researchers, funders and policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. The report is the culmination of two years of work by the Early Childhood STEM Working Group, which includes scholars, policy makers, curriculum developers, and educators from across the U.S.
Updated QRIS Compendium
Source: BUILD Initiative - December 2016
The Build Initiative's QRIS Compendium was recently updated with new 2016 data. The compendium provides up-to-date information on the quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) in every state, territory and region/locality in the U.S. It provides answers to common questions and allows users to compare data across different states.