Engaging parents and creating feedback loops to ensure ongoing communication between state and local policy makers, practitioners, community leaders, and families can help systems leaders make shifts to increase opportunities for young children and families in communities with significant racial, ethnic, economic, heath, and education disparities. This blog outlines Perigee’s 10 recommendations to support leaders in initiating these shifts.
As the pandemic forced a switch from in-person to remote services, the Perigee Foundation commissioned research to hear directly from families and caregivers about their experiences participating in early childhood programs. The BUILD Initiative commends this endeavor. The resulting report, How Technology Changed What’s Possible in Home-Visiting and Infant Mental Health Programs, is an excellent example of the importance of listening to families, particularly those in marginalized communities, who are meant to benefit from programs and services. The mixed-methods research that undergirds the report’s recommendations, that includes listening to and being guided by family and provider voice, demonstrates critical research practices and reflects our shared values.
To help children reach their full potential, early childhood leaders must focus on the adults in children’s lives. BUILD helps states maximize opportunities and dismantle barriers to the optimal development of young children by engaging families and communities in the work in an authentic way that recognizes that those who are the intended users of the policies, programs, and services are the best sources of information on needs and the best judges of effectiveness. By listening to the voices of families and providers, we can learn about the reality of those using the system. That understanding can fuel reform efforts and measure effectiveness.
Through our network of state, community, and national partners, we have listened to many voices describing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families. One theme that has emerged, and is consistent with the Perigee Foundation’s report, is that providers have worked to be more flexible and innovative with their provision of services during this time. The report highlights providers who listened to parent (and extended family) needs and responded with creative solutions for keeping families engaged. These providers have been flexible with program standards regarding visitation and location, have expanded their focus on parents’ mental health, and have improved infant mental health services by including parents along with their children in their remote consultations.
Engaging parents and creating feedback loops to ensure ongoing communication between state and local policy makers, practitioners, community leaders, and families can help systems leaders make shifts to increase opportunities for young children and families in communities with significant racial, ethnic, economic, heath, and education disparities. Perigee’s 10 recommendations, summarized below, can support leaders in initiating these shifts.
- Programs must actively listen to the voices of parents and be open to small or big shifts in practices to reflect those needs.
- Increase adult mental health services through telehealth.
- Expand availability of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) to infant and toddler programs.
- Add flexibility into the evidence-based models that are already proven to work.
- Embrace hybrid approaches.
- Trusted programs must consider how to expand support to meet basic needs without compromising the time and energy going towards core services.
- Invest in planning and advance preparation.
- Explore leaning into a parent-coach model of support.
- Continue to expand organizational support for staff.
- Consider continuing remote support groups.
Focusing on how to improve early childhood services by incorporating technology, using solutions that are grounded in family voice, will help ensure that parents, caregivers, and young children receive the care they need to thrive. Heeding the report’s recommendations not only will allow providers to establish and maintain the relationships with families through which their work is done but will get us closer to a time when race, place, and income are no longer predictors of early childhood outcomes.
Report February 1, 2023
The BUILD Initiative is a national effort that advances state work on behalf of young children (prenatal through five), their families, and communities. BUILD staff partner with early childhood state leaders focused on early learning, health and nutrition, mental health, child welfare, and family support and engagement to create the policies, infrastructure, and cross-sector connections necessary for quality and equity. BUILD provides consultation, planning, and tailored implementation assistance, learning opportunities, resources, and cross-state peer exchanges. These efforts help state leaders improve and expand access to quality and promote equitable outcomes for our youngest children.
Blog January 31, 2023
BUILD recently interviewed five parent leaders about their experience in parent coalitions. In addition to reminding us of the need to address implicit bias on behalf of all families and children, they provided their thoughts on ways to ensure the coalitions fulfill their purpose and best meet the needs of families, and whether there’s room for improvement in the way they function. Here’s what they told us.
Archived Meeting Resources January 31, 2023
States are making significant advancements in their quality improvement systems (QIS) as they look for solutions to widen the aperture and fully embrace a mixed-delivery system that will best serve children, families, and the early care and education workforce. To achieve this, QIS policies need to become more flexible and create different pathways to quality, including a variety of established, high-quality delivery models. In this session participants heard how Montessori programs are working with state leaders from Illinois, Michigan, and Washington to be part of the QIS.