September 2017 | ISSUE 36
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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Research to Action
Engaging Families in Early Childhood Programs and Systems: Next Steps

The Ripples of Transformation toolkit, developed last year through an EC-LINC Research to Action project focused on families leading change in early childhood systems, is sparking parent engagement activities around the country. Communities are exploring how they can apply ideas described in the toolkit, and work is underway to address some of the challenges to successful parent engagement and develop additional tools for the field.
Ripples of Transformation identifies three distinct types of family engagement in the earliest years of children's lives. Parents can: 1) Engage with their children; 2) Shape programs and services; and 3) Influence policies and systems. The toolkit provides numerous examples of what parents do in these roles and how service providers and system leaders can support them. The toolkit also discusses the significant challenges to successful family engagement, including lack of funding and training; strategies for addressing issues of race, power and privilege; and the need to shift from a "doing for" families mindset to a "doing with" families mindset.
Applying the approach
Alameda County, where the toolkit was developed, is also in the lead in implementing the new approach. "First 5 Alameda County is committed to using the Ripples of Transformation approach to inform its Neighborhoods Ready for School and Parent Engagement and Support strategies, both of which are new to the agency as part of the 2017-21 strategic plan," said Carla Keener, F5AC's Senior Director for Continuum of Care & Linkages. " Ripples provides a platform, a lens, through which we will think about services, programs, provider capacity building and policy."
Keener further articulated the vision for this ongoing work: "Once we fully operationalize this approach, we hope to establish a different way of thinking about and implementing effective, strength-based and authentic family engagement."

Next steps: Improving the odds for family engagement
In the coming months, CSSP will continue working in partnership with consultant Melia Franklin, F5AC and other EC-LINC communities, convening leaders and parents from EC-LINC communities to better understand family engagement through a race equity lens.

"We're going to explore how addressing issues of race, power and oppression are central to successful family engagement and leadership and how authentic family engagement and leadership is a core strategy to advance equity," CSSP's Senior Policy Analyst Stephanie Doyle said.

In addition, CSSP is convening a Community of Practice to support EC-LINC communities to test and implement the Ripples of Transformation toolkit locally. The group will also develop a tool to guide organizations in shifting structures, values and mindsets to facilitate a relationship of partnership and shared power with families. These materials should be available in 2018.

Where it all started: Thinking broadly about family engagement

I n 2016, First 5 Alameda County (F5AC) led an effort to explore what family engagement looks like in early childhood across a variety of programs and systems and what it would take to better support that involvement. Through a literature review, focus groups with families and interviews with agency staff, the Research to Action project group developed tools and resources to advance a vision of parents as agents of change. See a summary of the Research to Action project , or view a webinar held in January 2017 sharing details of this project.

Other products of the work include a clear definition of the continuum of family and community engagement for use by EC-LINC members and partners and a policy brief to help program directors, agency directors, funders and policymakers form powerful partnerships with families.

Stay tuned for more details as further products are developed.
Newly Released Poverty Figures Reveal Progress, and Concerns Going Forward
Last week, updated Census Bureau data were released showing the positive impact that public investments in recent years have had on reducing poverty, improving employment opportunities and ensuring families have health insurance. Read about the improvements from 2015-2016 and CSSP's concerns about proposed cuts to the social programs that have contributed to those outcomes, here .

How to Frame the Issues

Three brief ZERO TO THREE papers explore how to communicate early childhood issues to garner widespread support from diverse stakeholders, in order to build early childhood systems based on shared values.
The Developmental Screening Pitch

The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs' new learning module on communicating the value of developmental screening incorporates evidence-based practices and diverse first-person perspectives on the use and power of the tool.

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.