September  2016 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.
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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,

Five years ago, when Spark NH began, I would not have dreamed that I would spend a morning watching six of the seven major candidates for New Hampshire's governor answer questions about early childhood policy. But that is exactly what happened on August 30, when Spark NH held a Gubernatorial Forum on Young Children at the Institute on Politics at St. Anselm College.  The event was packed and its success shows the success of Spark NH's public awareness efforts.

Forum participants were Republican candidates Mayor Ted Gatsas, Senator Jeanie Forrester and Executive Councilor Sununu, and Democratic candidates Mark Connelly, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern.  All were asked to address policies, drawn from our Framework for Action for New Hampshire's Young Children, that support the healthy development of young children.

When I first learned the science about human development - that, like a house, children's brains are built from the bottom up, laying a sturdy or a fragile foundation for all the learning, behavior and health that follows - I knew that if everyone in New Hampshire understood this, they'd understand that investing in the earliest years was critical to New Hampshire's future.  Unfortunately, there was limited understanding of this science in New Hampshire and therefore poor investment in the early years.  Five years later, we're starting to change that.

With the help of our funders and our many ambassadors and volunteers, Spark NH has been working to educate communities across our state.  We have hosted many "Children: the Bedrock of the Granite State" presentations.  Sometimes because we lack capacity to reach a huge number of people at once we feel that progress is slow.  But our gubernatorial forum presented evidence that people across the state are not just aware of the importance of the early years, but want to be a part of our work to draw attention to it.

When we first started talking about a Spark NH Gubernatorial Forum on Young Children we created a small task force and asked the people at the table to ask their organizations to co-host.  Those people suggested a few others.  It speaks volumes about the level of understanding of the importance of early years to New Hampshire's future that we had 63 co-hosts for the event from across the non-profit and business community.   From there it was a smaller step to engage the candidates.
We hope to build on the momentum from the forum to make even more progress.  The transcription is available here.  The livestream video is available here We will be following up with social media messages, letters to the editor and other public awareness efforts.  You can help us by spreading the word in your communities through liking and re- tweeting /reposting, and sharing our links.
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) serves as a work group for the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, one of 13 regional public health networks in NH, working to ensure all children enter kindergarten healthy and ready to learn and thrive by 2020.  Members of the CCECC have been working in partnership with SAU9 to design and facilitate a public engagement process with the guidance of NH Listens to increase access to quality early childhood educational programming for preschool age children.  They will be hosting "Raising NH" community gatherings in September, culminating in a "Raising Mt. Washington Valley" community gathering on October 12th at Kennett High School. For more details about this event please go to: .

In Claremont, we are focused on increasing the access to high quality early childhood education for all children. We recognize the importance of early intervention to address issues related to such things as poverty, and are actively engaged in improving the outcomes for people in our community. Our drop-in play space for children ages birth-5 has already helped to break down barriers and bring people together. Collaborating with city officials, community members, school personnel and other organizations, we have formed a strong early childhood coalition. We have been so fortunate to work with NH Listens to get the ball rolling.

Concord School District Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant Initiative
The Concord School District Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant Initiative will soon begin its third year of early childhood activities.  Our goal is to continue to support young children and their families by offering Family Center, family engagement and parent education opportunities.  Once again, we will offer families opportunities for their children to receive social-emotional screenings and access to resources.  The early childhood community has developed a strong collaboration and will continue to receive high quality professional development in the areas of trauma, positive behavior support, anxiety in young children and mindfulness. We are eager to continue to build wonderful opportunities for young children to arrive at school ready to learn.

Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families 
The Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families has just completed a 6 month review (January to June) of their activities for 2016) 
  • The Maternal Depression Screening workgroup met twice in the last 6 months. 235 caregivers were screened and 32 were identified for further assessment and referral 
  • The Coos Watch Me Grow workgroup met twice in the last 6 months. 389 ASQ screenings were completed with 309 (24% of all Coos Children) unduplicated children screened
  • The Professional Development workgroup met twice. They are planning a workshop "High Quality Learning Environments" based on the Pyramid Model for September 
    • 35 staff from healthcare, Family Support, Childcare and Mental Health organizations in Coos County have been trained in at lease one evidence based curriculum including Growing Great Kids, Triple P, PAT, or the Pyramid Model
  • The Parenting Programs workgroup met 3 times this period. They presented a Growing Great Kids peer training in June attended by 25 staff from three different organizations. They also began tracking families affected by substance abuse in their data collection tool.
    • There are currently 109 families receiving home visiting services in Coos. 21 families completed the program this period (Jan-June 2016)
    • 6 families remained at the same level across the parenting practice domains, with 5 of those 6 starting with a 3, "some skill" or above level
    • The remaining 15 families all improved by at least one point (on a 5 point scale) or more by the end of the program. 
Thrive Laconia
NH Listens is working closely with the Laconia area community, business and agency leaders in our early childhood efforts. Over the past month we developed the name (Thrive Laconia) and have begun the process of establishing a presence in social media.  In conjunction with these efforts, Thrive Laconia developed a tool we are using with local focus groups in an effort to collect input on what the community feels are current and pressing issues. Along with this work, an online survey was developed to reach individuals not included in the focus groups. The idea is to reach all areas of the community to determine the most pressing issues facing young children, youth and families today. The collection of this information will allow Thrive to focus on one or two proprieties, and develop coordinating goals, strategies, indicators and outcomes.

Project LAUNCH Manchester:
In June, an application to become a trained facilitator in Positive Solutions for Families was shared throughout the State and in July, twenty-two facilitators were selected based on prerequisites and geographical location, as well as an agreement to attend training on September 14th and provide 3 trainings in their identified communities by June 30, 2017. Nearly all regions of the state will have access to a trainer, and some trainers are willing to travel to additional regions. It is the Manchester project's first intentional and concerted effort towards replication and sustainability of a Project LAUNCH strategy, consistent with SAMHSA's expectation that innovative and effective prevention/promotion practices at the local level serve as models to be sustained and replicated throughout the state.

Impact Monadnock 
Impact Monadnock has begun the implementation of its community-led strategic plan to help children age 0-5 and their families thrive in the Monadnock Region. The plan has 3 focus areas: early childhood supports & services; behavioral health; and parent & family support. Four strategies are prioritized for implementation in Year 1 (2016/2017): behavioral coaching for professional staff in child care programs; increasing developmental screening for social and emotional challenges in medical well-child settings; and empowering parents by rolling out Mind in the Making and Vroom in the region. Policy change around these and additional children & family issues will be in the spotlight at a Legislative Forum on Children and Families at Keene State College on October 10th from 6-8 p.m. for state rep candidates.  

Greater Nashua Early Childhood Initiative
The Greater Nashua Early Childhood Initiative's mission is to engage people in greater Nashua from all walks of life to improve early childhood outcomes for our young children.  Our current priority is to gather broad input from the various community stakeholders and gain a better understanding of our current EC infrastructure as well as the EC gaps/needs across our community.  We are conducting this information gathering via conversations, focus groups and community events.  In October, we will be hosting a series of Raising NH screenings, followed by community discussions.  In November, we will bring folks together to review our findings and identify one or two bold ideas that can be pursued and implemented in the coming year to improve early childhood outcomes for our kids.  Our goal is to create focused, feasible, effective actions that fit the greater Nashua community and have a long-term positive impact on our kids' futures.

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". Team Up Rochester will serve as a short-term action group focused on identifying a few concrete steps to take in the next 6-8 months. Since launching this effort in January, when we hosted a screening of "Raising NH" at Frisbie Memorial Hospital's Conference Center, we have compiled a list of more than 60 individuals into our database for communicating updates and meeting invitations. We have a Leadership Team comprised of Early Care Providers, United Way and a Business Leader actively involved in the community. We are conducting focus groups to obtain input that will be brought to the next large Coalition meeting (Sep 27) for review, discussion and prioritization.

Somersworth Early Childhood Coalition
The goal of our Coalition is to improve the early childhood experiences of young children ages 0-5 in an effort to promote school readiness and future success. Family engagement and promoting language development are key focus areas. Our committee features strong cross-sector representation from public school teachers and administrators as well as local service providers including Goodwin Community Health Center and several Strafford County agencies. Our partnership with NH Listens has assisted us in reaching out to members of the community, families and other stakeholders, to facilitate conversations and gather information specific to the young children of Somersworth. 

The Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center
NH Listens has been working with the GTA-FRC to stimulate the design and implementation of a "bold experiment" that reflects local/regional conditions, values, and resources and that can assure optimal development of all young children. We have been busy!
A local coalition of community leaders and early childhood professionals are pulling together a public engagement process customized to address specific early childhood issues the community is facing.  The lack of available quality childcare, the impact of substance use on the family, and the lack of parent education opportunities have emerged as leading concerns. Through NH Listens' guidance, we have begun a community engagementand awareness process.
Through the help of a collaborating partner, surveys were provided to the local qualified health clinic to 'gather information' from families who may have informal supports for childcare.  In addition, one of our team members approached all professional child care centers in our area to inquire on what they saw as primary concerns for families with young children. They named parent education and grandparents parenting as part of the effects of substance misuse on the families as primary concerns. Professionals from the hospital, public schools, and other formal support organizations that may be connected to early childhood in a formal way, were also canvassed.
Another interest group approached were businesses in the area. Two of the larger, best paying employers in the area at first said they had no interest in joining the coalition since early childhood did not 'affect' them. This sparked a conversation about the economic connections of the loss of potential skilled workers due to a lack of available childcare and sick hours called in due to the lack of reliable care. One of these employers is now considering the potential economic benefit of offering an onsite childcare program.  Through the help of NH Listens, we have increased awareness and interest in connecting Early Childhood issues to their interests.  This is the beginning! They now see a reason to be at the Early Childhood Coalition table.
Because the Family Resource Center sees families affected by substance use disorders almost daily, connections with other community coalitions have been made. Franklin Mayor's Drug Task Force has sent two representatives to meet with members of the Early Childhood coalition and has provided an opportunity to discuss the connection with early childhood and the life course trajectory for many that use drugs. Those who begin using substances as pre-teens and young teens often find the roots of their addiction in in early childhood.  Prevention efforts, beginning in early childhood, are now recognized as critical.
As a Family Resource Center, we see getting the larger, best employers to the table is exciting.  They are our 'go to' employers for unskilled labor that have jobs that offer the potential to build bridges out of poverty. Recognizing the need for recovery supports to extend to the whole family has been part of our comprehensive support plans, but shoring up the supports for families with young children has become a focus.  NH Listens has already been such an asset to opening our eyes to more resources in the community, while we open the eyes of others about how everyone and everything, in some way, is connected to Early Childhood and are potential collaborators. We are incredibly excited to work with these new potential coalition members as we continue with NH Listens to bring so many 'new people' to the table. The support that NH Listens has offered has truly had an incalculable impact as we see the effects rippling through our organization and through the community.

Committee and Task Force Meeting Summaries   

Executive Committee Meeting - June 7, 2016 
May summary was approved. June Council agenda was finalized. Budget and new grants were discussed. Vacant officer positions were discussed and the nominating committee will continue to work to fill them. Council members will be reminded of the requirement to participate on a committee and attendance at meetings. An updated on Vroom was given. The early childhood strand for the DOE Summer Summit was shared. Spark NH will host a Lend Fellow again this year to work with a specific committee. Equity Training and Strategic Planning Session will be scheduled for fall. The equity work with the BUILD Initiative continues. 

Executive Committee Meeting - July 12, 2016 
June Council meeting was debriefed and August agenda drafted. Budget update given and Project LAUNCH contract was received. Status of membership and officers discussed. Vroom state plan draft was shared. Request will be submitted to Bezos to fund coordinator to implement plan. Update on Summer Summit was given. The EC Leadership Team will choose a problem of practice. 

Communications and Public Awareness Committee Meeting - July 20, 2016 
Ellen Edge will be the new meeting recorder. The 2-1-1 task force continues to meet and plan to work with the newly appointed 2-1-1 director. A good discussion about communicating about who Spark NH is in addition to the early childhood public awareness took place. Using the newsletter, social media, and media story approaches were all brainstormed. Ideas for who should see the Bedrock were discussed. The Bedrock video is done and can be used in presentations or as a stand-alone webinar.

Data Committee Meeting - August 1, 2016 
Lynn Davey reviewed the "Priority Indicators for Visualization" with the Data Committee, based on the work she is doing for the grant that was funded in April. The committee reviewed Lynn's recommendations regarding what sections would be used for each item and whether or not to leave out data sets that are older and/or no longer available. She also had suggestions for data that we might want to include but wasn't on original list. Yulya Spantchak from the NH Charitable Foundation joined the committee to discuss the NH Tomorrow Initiative and Early Childhood Indicators project.

Workforce and Professional Development Committee Meeting - May 27, 2016 SPECCC is now completed and available on Spark NH portal. Sustained Early Engagement for Change Project provided training on the division of early childhood recommended practices for young children with disabilities to enhance their engagement. Sites received specialized training and collected data on children to show change in outcomes and practices. SEE Change wrapping up 2nd year. Transitioning to pyramid model. Data Element Design Project outlines and interview guide completed. A one page will be written describing the intention of plan to share with organizations that committee members will be interviewing. Will work to refine questions and develop interview sheet. 

Policy Committee - August 1, 2016 
An update on the Gubernatorial Forum was given. An update on advocacy briefs and public awareness work, including social media, was given. The work of the newly formed Advocacy Table was discussed. Planned advocacy efforts related to the Framework for Action were shared. A briefing on the Early Childhood Indicators work was done. A few members of the regional community of practice group, including Project LAUNCH, Impact Monadnock, Nashua, and Laconia gave updates. The next meeting is changed due to the Labor Day holiday. 

Evaluation Committee Update
 The Evaluation Committee fielded the Spark NH Committee Member Survey. This survey provides useful feedback about how committee members feel the work of committees and Spark NH is going. Results are also used for reporting to funders. Thank you to all who participated. The Evaluation Committee also refined the Levels of Collaboration Scale Survey, which will be completed by Council members at the August meeting. This survey, which was also implemented last summer, is required as part of the Project LAUNCH grant and provides some information about changes in relationships and collaboration across Council members. We thank Council members in advance for participating. Results for both of these surveys will be available in the fall and will be reviewed by the Evaluation Committee and shared with others.
Upcoming Meetings 

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

Thursday, September, 1:00-3:00 Communications and Public Awareness Committee
(1st Thursday of Every Other Month)
Friday, September 2, 2:00-4:00pm Evaluation Committee
(1st Friday of Every Other Month)
Monday, September 5, 9:00-10:30 Policy Committee 
1st Monday of Every Month)
Monday, September 5, 2:00-4:00pm Data Committee 
1st Monday of Every Month)
Tuesday, September 13th, 10:00-12:00
Executive Committee
(2nd Tuesday of Every Month)
Friday, September 23rd, 9:00-11:00
Workforce and Professional Development Committee
(4th Friday of Every Month) 

 Monday, October 3rd, 9:00-11:00 Policy Committee
(1st Monday of Every Month)
Monday, October 3rd 2:00-4:00 Data Committee 
(1st Monday of Every Month)
Monday, October 10th, 9:00-10:30 Family Partnership and Engagement Task Force
(2nd Monday of Every Other Month
Tuesday, October 11th, 10:00-2:00 Executive Committee 
(2nd Tuesday of Every Month)
Tuesday, October 18th 1:00-3:00 Quality Committee
(3rd Tuesday of Every Other Month) 
Thursday, October 27th, 9:00-11:00
Spark NH Council Meeting 
(4th Thursday of Every Other Month)
Friday, October, 28th, 9:00-11:00 Workforce and Professional Development Committee
(4th Friday of Every Month) 

Upcoming Events, Workshops and Webinars
Visit the PORTAL at to view upcoming events, workshops and webi nars, and job postings available throughout the state!