May 2017 Newsletter
In This Issue
Spark New Hampshire's website is
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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
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Dear Friend of Spark NH,
New Hampshire had one of the highest rates of opioid related fatalities in the country last year.  Communities across the state are reporting that there is a surge in grandparents raising their grandchildren because of both the chaos and tragedy the crisis has had on families.  Most New Hampshire citizens know at least one person affected by the opioid crisis, and so there is emerging public support for prevention.  Unfortunately, most discussions about prevention look at intervening in middle school at the earliest.  While prevention in middle school is important, we have to set our focus much earlier in children's developmental trajectories if we are to effectively prevent the kind of crises we are now experiencing.
Science tells us that brains are built over time, and from the bottom up, with simple circuits and skills providing the scaffolding for more advanced circuits and skills that develop later.  Early experiences literally shape the architecture of the developing brain, and skill begets skill. We also know that experiences such as abuse, neglect and exposure to violence can cause toxic stress responses in the brain, with lifelong consequences in health, learning and behavior. The active ingredient in healthy brain development, and the very thing that protects against toxic stress, is children's engagement in relationships with their parents and other caregivers in their family or community.
That is why effective early childhood programs and services can protect against a range of problems later in life - including substance misuse.   In addition to buffering toxic stress, early childhood programs also help to link children to the services they and their families need.
Intervening early can shape developmental trajectories by piling on protective factors and minimizing risk factors -- even for children most at risk. Programs like evidence-based home visiting, and high quality child care, preschool and Head Start can help promote the development of cognitive and social skills which are protective factors against later substance use.  These programs teach children to manage their own emotions and cope with adversity, and can help parents and other caregivers develop the skills to be supportive in ways that steer children away from substance use. 

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

Carroll County Early Childhood Coalition (CCECC) has been busy with the implementation of VROOM throughout our region. Multiple community partners have joined in distributing VROOM app cards to families at kindergarten registration days, new baby packets, home visiting programs and WIC clinics. Our local radio stations, 93.5FM and 104.5FM, have played a major role in the promotion of VROOM through the public service announcements they produced, which are airing on a regular basis through August. Many thanks for their support in "making everyday moments brain-building moments" for our children and families! 

Claremont Learning Partnership

The Claremont Learning Partnership has a couple exciting things happening. Our One-4-All Family Space has become a licensed child care center and has just begun providing child care to our high school students. We have a scheduled child care fair for May 20th to showcase our local child care programs and what they have to offer. We are also hosting a four community film events addressing homelessness, substance abuse and addiction, gender roles, and mental health. 

Safe Schools/Healthy Students, Concord School District

The Concord School District Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant Initiative is fully committed to offering developmental screenings to young children, ages birth to five.  The Ages and Stages Questionnaire - Social-Emotional (ASQ-SE) has been offered throughout the year during home visits, at the regularly scheduled Child Check Clinics and most recently, at Concord School District's Kindergarten screening events at four elementary schools.  To date, one-hundred forty-six screenings have been completed by parents and caregivers.
One of the most important aspects of offering the screenings, has been to include parent and caregiver input into the child's development and educational success.  Furthermore, opportunities to follow up on referrals that result from elevated scores on the ASQ-SE allow for families to learn about and access resources for their child in order to support healthy growth and development.  Through strong collaborative partnerships, Concord School District staff is able to provide information and referrals to area agencies including Riverbend, Child and Family Services and Community Bridges. 

Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families

The Coos Coalition recently sent out their annual report to stakeholders. One of the data points noted in the letter focused on substance abuse and its effect on young children. In 2016, Coalition partner organizations reported that the physical, social, and/or emotional development of 19% of children in home visiting programs in Coos were significantly affected by substance abuse and 16% of children in home visiting programs in Coos were being cared for by a non-parent family member, foster parent or grandparent. The Coalition only began collecting this data in April 2016, so we believe that the actual impact of substance abuse, ranging from alcohol to opiates, is even greater than this report.

Impact Monadnock

Impact Monadnock is deeply into its first year of implementation of its strategic plan. A recent accomplishment was a decision by pediatricians at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene to integrate ASQ-SE screening to assess the social and emotional well-being of young children age birth to five in hospital-based well-child visits. This was an initiative by Impact Monadnock to better reach the families of these young children, many of whom do not attend child care programs where screening might normally be available. 
Project LAUNCH Manchester

Project LAUNCH in Manchester implements parenting education from the  Pyramid Model Consortium   (formerly known as the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning ) , offering a 6-week class called Positive Solutions for Families . The feedback from the series has been extremely positive and participants requested additional opportunities to stay connected. In response, Project LAUNCH began offering Strengthening Families Parent Cafes, what the project is calling "Conversations that Matter." The cafes began in February in collaboration with the Manchester Health Department's Community Schools Initiative as part of their "Parent Universities." Project LAUNCH and Community Schools Initiative Community Health Workers, as well as Southern NH Services Head Start Family Workers, assist during the cafes as table hosts and interpreters. "Conversations that Matter" are led by the Easterseals Child Development and Family Resource Center Family Engagement Specialist. "Conversations That Matter" seek to not only help parents build the protective factors that strengthen families, but also offer additional opportunities to learn about community resources, build parent advocacy and leadership skills, and identify family needs and/or gaps in services in the community. "Conversations That Matter" were held at two Community Schools in February and March. Fifty-six parents attended across the four events.

Somersworth Early Childhood Coalition 
Somersworth Ready Together is focused on making a difference for children and families in Somersworth by improving early childhood development, ensuring language development and supporting family engagement to promote school readiness to succeed.  In May, Somersworth Ready Together is focused on implementing our Vroom launch throughout the Somersworth community.  Materials will be distributed to childcare centers and Goodwin Community Health.  We will also be presenting materials, information, and helping families sign up for the Vroom application at our Kindergarten Registration Night in early May.  Coalition members will begin to saturate our community with posters, brochures, and postcards teaching everyone they already have what it takes to be champion brain builders! 
A subcommittee of kindergarten teachers and early childhood providers are working to draft kindergarten readiness goals. This document will serve as a resource for families and caregivers to assist in helping children prepare for kindergarten. It will address goals across academic, physical and social/emotional domains and suggestions/activities for how to reach these goals.

Team Up Rochester

Team Up Rochester has been focused on the work to promote Vroom in the community and get the information out to parents and providers. The YMCA held a kick-off meeting on April 19th where Vroom materials were distributed to a set of "Community Champions" with the aim to reach families and early childhood community providers. The feedback has been great and the excitement is building! 16 Providers have become involved and will continue the effort to promote Vroom in the coming months.

Thrive Laconia

On March 9, Thrive Laconia welcomed business leaders, HR department heads,
and major funders to hear about why the early years are important to the
future of the local economy and the way of life in the Lakes Region, what
the research says, and what are some concrete steps businesses can take to
support today's workforce and help build the workforce of tomorrow. A
business ambassadors group was established to help local businesses compete
in today's marketplace, build a foundation for lasting economic security,
and help children get on track to succeed in school and life. Thrive
Laconia, in collaboration with other organizations, is planning summer
trainings for HR departments in Mind in the Making and Trauma Informed
Services (open to the public).

Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center

No update this month

Greater Nashua Smart Start Coalition
At long last, Greater Nashua Early childhood stakeholders have settled on a name and shared identity as Greater Nashua Smart Start Coalition. We are working on a vision statement.  Currently "We are a coalition of individuals and organizations that are working to together to help every child in our community thrive at home, in school and for life."  We have designed our Vroom promotional materials customized to our group so that we can track people that we engage in Vroom and invite them to join our group and learn about activities and opportunities we are promoting.  Exciting news to share from our Nashua Public Library Partner: At our last meeting Kathy Bolton and Jenn Hoskings presented the Library plans to implement the  Family Place Library program.  The Library has received grant funding for staff training and renovations.  Our group is really excited about the opportunities and possibilities.  With the renovation funding, the library will dedicate a parent/child play area for 0-3 yrs to build on their already very nice children's room facilities.  Staff will be trained to deliver the family Place 5 week program which they will begin to offer this summer at the library.  They will also be equipped to bring this program out to other places including the community schools resource building that is being planned by the city's My Brother's Keeper program and more.  Our group members will partner with Library programs to enhance and extend offerings.  We are excited about this step forward in our community.  We will launch our first annual Community Baby Shower event on Friday at Nashua Community College where parents and siblings will attend a variety of workshops and activities which will earn them tickets to exchange for baby gear, clothing, diapers, wipes, and other prizes.  During the event we will promote Vroom and show the Bedrock presentation in the workshop and activities rotation.
On May 13, at Souhegan Valley Boys and Girls Club will be repeating our Vroom display and contest and showing the bedrock presentation at the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Fair.  Here is a link to our Vroom Landing Page (a work in progress) 
Committee and Task Force Meeting Summaries   

Data Committee - March 21, 2017
The Data committee is starting a new quarterly schedule but has decided an additional meeting is needed before the next scheduled due to current project timelines.  Lynn Davey shared the progress that has been made on the data display website.  The group discussed the current data structure and possible additions and changes that may better represent the story being told.  Committee members will read over the handout provided and consider further project ideas to discuss during the next meeting.  Peter Antal assisted the committee in developing SMART objectives that will be considered in the strategic planning process for the next year.  This conversation will be continued.
Policy Committee - March 6, 2017
Peter Antal assisted the Policy Committee in developing SMART objectives to support Spark NH's strategic plan under development. This work will continue at April's meeting.  Peter will send out his notes to committee members for review. 

Policy Committee - April 3, 2017
Spark NH director Laura Milliken assisted the Policy Committee in developing SMART objectives for policy goals in Spark NH's strategic plan.  Committee members were asked to review remaining goals and give feedback prior to the next meeting.  This work will continue in May's meeting with Spark NH Evaluation Consultant Peter Antal.
Workforce and Professional Development Committee - January 27, 2017
The committee reviewed the conclusions from the Data project. Although the findings were disappointing, we have a better understanding about the lack of data available on the workforce in NH.  We brainstormed how to encourage individuals to be part of a data system.  The EC Workforce Impact Project is looking at a survey to child care professionals but it would not be cross sector. At this point in time the committee will not take further action, but will revisit it in our strategic planning process.  We spent time analyzing the four priorities which have been drafted for our committee.  For three of them we did some editing to clarify and focus.
Workforce and Professional Development Committee - February 24, 2017
The Strategic planning process for Spark NH was reviewed. Priorities for all the committees have been identified. Peter Antal facilitated a discussion on determining SMART Goals to create work plans for each committee. Moving away from global ideas to focus on realistic strategies that are streamlined and coordinated, achievable within 5 years.  He asked "what can this group do that no one else in the state can do?"  Aim is to create goals that are relevant and achievable.  The committee brainstormed ideas for three of the four priorities. 

Upcoming Meetings 

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

Monday, May 1, 9:00-10:15

Policy Committee 
1st Monday of Every Month)

Friday, May 5th, 2:00-4:00
Place: Endowment for Health,
1 Pillsbury St Suite 30, Concord, NH, 03301 
Evaluation Committee
(1st Friday of Every Other Month)
Tuesday, May 9th, 12:00-2:00

Executive Committee
(2nd Tuesday of Every Month)
Friday, May 19th, 9:00-11:00 Workforce and Professional Development Committee
(4th Friday of Every Month) 

Monday, June 5th, 9:00-10:15

Policy Committee
(1st Monday of Every Month)
TBD Family Partnership and Engagement Task Force
(2nd Monday of Every Other Month
Tuesday, June 13th, 12:00-2:00 Executive Committee 
(2nd Tuesday of Every Month)
Thursday, June 22nd, 9:00-11:00 Spark NH Council Meeting 
(4th Thursday of Every Other Month)
Friday, June 23rd, 9:00-11:00 Workforce and Professional Development Committee
(4th Friday of Every Month) 

Links of Interest

Unlocking ESSA's Potential to Support Early Learning
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) brings new and focused attention to state support for local Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs, transition planning between ECE programs and kindergarten, family engagement, and school accountability for what happens in kindergarten through second grade.  This report: Unlocking ESSA's Potential to Support Early Learning offers an introduction to how ESSA functions, what steps are being taken, and what this means for the ECE system.

Preschool Matters Today 
Giving Young Students a Bigger Slice of the Pie (Chart)  Take a look at this study from the National Institute of Early Education Research  that is exploring what kids grade K-3 spend their time doing during an average school day.  The article explores the data collected and how it compares to what students and teachers view as an "ideal school day". 

Well-being of Young Children after Experiencing Homelessness
This Homeless Families Research Brief  provides new evidence on relationships between homelessness, enrollment in early care and education, and young children's developmental outcomes.

How Do Acute and Chronic Stress Impact the Development of Self-Regulation
"Stress has been linked to long term physical health and numerous indicators of well-being and there is increasing evidence that stress experienced in childhood and adolescence may lead to physiological changes in the brain and to disruptions in development." This research brief explores the findings of  the separate reports Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress: Foundations for Understanding Self-Regulation from an Applied Developmental Perspective and Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress: A Review of Ecological, Biological, and Developmental Studies of Self-Regulation and Stress.  A third study can be found here: Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Report 3: A Comprehensive Review of Self Regulation Interventions from Birth Through Young Adulthood

Early Childhood Community Engagement: How can New Hampshire be the best place for all children and their families to play, learn, and grow?
A New Hampshire Listens Summary Report that highlights why early childhood public engagement matters and how New Hampshire's many regional initiatives are using Spark NH's framework for action  to inspire community wide change. New Hampshire's early childhood engagement continues to grow at both the state and local levels which will provide NH children and families with strong starts and services that meet their needs.

Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)
Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)  i s an interesting article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review on how policy makers and advocates must  pursue  initiatives with an approach that actively includes community leaders in order to make positive social change.  Six factors that are essential to building community support for data-driven solutions are explored.

Flourishing From the Start: What Is It and How Can It Be Measured?
Evidence indicates that early investments to positive child development can bring in large and lasting gains. In order to implement and sustain policies and programs that help children flourish this report identifies high priority measures that need to be developed for children to "flourish" 

Defining and Measuring Access to High Quality Early Care and Education (ECE)
"The ECE Access Guidebook was developed to address the need for developing a common understanding and approach to measuring access. Ultimately, this Guidebook is intended to support states' efforts to assess the reach and effectiveness of their policy initiatives aimed at expanding ECE access."

The National Center for Children in Poverty
The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) recently published the latest edition of its "Basic Facts about Low-Income Children" fact sheet series.