TEAM for West Virginia Children, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Strengthening Families West Virginia and the Center for the Study of Social Policy are excited to announce a new community-level project to increase the likelihood that all young children reach their full potential within nurturing and supportive communities. Cabell and Randolph counties were selected to pilot the use the Early Learning Community Digital Progress Rating Tool to develop an Early Learning Community Action Plan that builds on existing work related to early childhood, Strengthening Families, and community development.
For more than 10 years, programs in West Virginia have used the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework to guide efforts with early care providers and family support programs to engage families and support family well-being. Research shows that the five Protective Factors (Parental Resilience, Concrete Supports in Times of Need, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, Social Connections, and Social & Emotional Competence of Children) are all linked with improved outcomes for children and families. For more info about the protective factors and Strengthening Families WV, visit www.strengtheningfamilieswv.org.
During the current COVID-19 public health crisis, we know it is a critical time when communities are coming together to support children and families. The Strengthening Families Protective Factors are more important than ever in helping families thrive and mitigate the potential negative impacts caused by this pandemic. COVID-19 has revealed structural inequities impacting the health and well-being of our state’s families and children. Many families were already struggling, and this pandemic is now more than they can manage. But the good news is that the pandemic is also bringing people together to meet the needs of families and support child development.
The project will take the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework to the next level through broader “place-based” partnerships and Early Learning Community strategic tools, designed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy in collaboration with the National League of Cities and others who make up the national Early Learning Nation partnership. For more information about Early Learning Nation, please visit http://earlylearningnation.com/.
The project will review the Early Learning Nation 4 key building blocks and the work the community is already doing in these areas and how to build on that capacity using the Strengthening Families protective factors. Early Learning Nation’s four key building blocks form the foundation of an Early Learning Community. They are based on years of deep research on what young children and their families need and point us toward a wide range of ways communities can promote healthy child development and family well-being.
- Building Block 1 Commitment to Early Childhood: The community prioritizes and invests in ensuring that all young children thrive.
- Building Block 2 Quality Services that Work for All: All children and families have access to the high-quality services and supports they need.
- Building Block 3 Neighborhoods Where Families Can Thrive: Families live in neighborhoods where their children can grow up safe and healthy.
- Building Block 4 Policies that Support Families: Local policies create a broad framework of support for all families with young children.
This is an opportunity to build on Cabell County Partners in Prevention experience with Strengthening Families, which Cabell County Family Resource Network led the way on for Strengthening Families initiative and did the first WV pilot project in early childhood programs in 2007. Cabell Co. FRN continues to be involved in the national SF training initiative in WV.
Early Learning Nation Building Block #1 Commitment to Early Childhood: The community prioritizes and invests in ensuring that all young children thrive.
Below are question and answers from community and parent discussion groups.
First question: How do communities prioritize children first?
- Mission WV puts families in touch with resources like therapy, tutoring, bedding (even after her organization reunifies families).
- For a small community, we have many resources including pre-k and home visiting.
- STARS for staff training.
- Library reading program – example Salt Rock, goal to read over the summer, books to movies
- Imagination Library for ages birth to 5 statewide (except for a few zip codes)
- Wayne County also has a reading program.
- Pizza Hut is back to their reading program (personal pizza for reading).
- Handle with care
- Universal Pre-k
- Home visiting programs
- Free little libraries in neighborhoods and playgrounds
- Numerous playgrounds well maintained
- Student Meal programs through the schools during Covid and summertime
- Community centers like boys and Girls Club
- Police officers talking to kids on playground for positive interaction
Second Question: What might not be a priority in the community?
- Foster families and kids are frustrated with the court system because of who is making the decision for them to go back to school (re: COVID). Because the students are in the custody of the state, the state decides where they go.
- Foster parents should be part of the decision.
- Necco is allowing foster parents and kids to make the decision together.
- Third Question: Do you see important messages about child (brain) development in this community:
- Billboards were already mentioned and notes that handouts, fliers, and even spoken messages count.
- Administrative Service Organizations oriented on Adverse Childhood Experiences and have parenting curriculum. They work with families who have been separated by Child Protective Services. Services provided to “hasten reunification.”
- Birth to 3
- Parents as Teachers.
- Healthy Families
- Community leaders or businesses sharing messages. Example – Toyota has supported many children’s programs, also mentions family-friendly restaurants.
- Brain Under Construction Zone signs at over 30 early education sites and hospital mother baby units
- Born Learning Trail signage of activities and messages at Ritter Park
- Head Start resources
- Day cares
- Mission WV has Facebook webinars
- Businesses support for family nights
- Nothing posted about child development and brain development that they have seen in the community
- When pregnant the doctor’s office gave fliers of information
- WIC information board
- Pediatric office information about safe sleep but not about brain development
- Brain Under Construction Zone at the hospitals and in signage in pre-K centers
- Born Learning Trail at Ritter park
Fourth Question: Do you feel most families in this community have strong social connections, people they can rely on?
- People getting help is varied and is situation dependent.
- May not have Wi-Fi
- May not have transportation
- About 50/50 for social support. If you grew up here and connected. But if you are new here you don’t know a lot of people and you don’t have a support system
- The opioid crisis brought to light generational trauma and drug abuse and either losing your support system or having a lack of a support system.
- Hard to connect to resources if you are new to West Virginia.
- Those who lived here all their lives is a closed community and it’s hard to make friends.
- Lack of financial support
- May have older family members who have time, but you don’t want to ask for help
- When you have a time crunch and lack of energy to try to connect with others and make friends.
Fifth Question: Do people know where to get help when they need help?
- 211- Community agency staff knows what exists within their bubble, but people call (United Way) every day and don’t know.
- Lack of transportation – TTA is mentioned but the fact that people must walk to a bus stop can be a hinderance.
- New situation for people now that may have never needed help before and there are some roadblocks.
- Most people have no clue (where/what resources are available) and they come from all over.
- Also noting many people without a phone.
Sixth Question: If you need help where do you start?
- Call 211 is a great resource and people don’t know about it
- Many clothing pantries are closed.
- Reach out to support programs
- School social workers
- Not sure where to start to help family members with adult care and elder care – suggested to reach out to DHHR
- Not a lot of resource information on how to connect
- Right from the Start incentives to quit smoking
- Depends on who you know and what information they are aware of
- Cannot figure out where to start
- Need a place for parents to chill out and have something for kids to do – suggested So Social Baby center
- Parents overwhelmed with Covid restrictions and school schedule changes
Seventh Question: Is there anything else that can be done to better services?
- Big need for childcare for babies — including 2nd and 3rd shifts for parents and that dental care should be free for young children.
- Dental care checkups for young children. Oral health campaign getting resource information and supplies out to early education programs to promote that.
- If people didn’t have a case worker, they have had problems getting help. This is when the faith community stepped up during Covid closures and beyond.
- More commitment through policies are needed
- Advocacy legislative and local – being in leaders’ ears about issues that are faced.
- Look at past evaluations and needs assessment progress
- Let kids go back to school
- Daycare is having a teacher come in to help students on remote days in small groups
- Put more focus on early child development
- Social skill development opportunities for younger children
- Schedule events for common age groups with kid activity and parent group at the same time
- MOPS group in Kenova was meeting one time a month with moms and birth to 3 age children
- Circle of Parents is getting ready to start with mom and baby activity – do on Zoom or Facebook live
- Know where to go when you need something
- Budget for advertising about resource information – agencies advertise together was suggested
- Big thing is word of mouth to share information that you know about
- Share information about Imagination Library
- School board gives a book to student at each grade level
- Put info boards in schools, day cares, share on social media, info on boards at post office and boards at apartment buildings
Time frame: Early Learning Community Work from August to October 2020
- Convene discussions about each of the 4 Building Blocks
- Commitment to Early Childhood: The community prioritizes and invests in ensuring that all young children thrive.
- Quality Services that Work for All: All children and families have access to the high-quality services and supports they need.
- Neighborhoods Where Families Can Thrive: Families live in neighborhoods where their children can grow up safe and healthy.
- Policies that Support Families: Local policies create a broad framework of support for all families with young children.
- Community programs and parents can create a log in to complete assessments with Digital Progress Rating Tool https://progressratingtool.earlylearningnation.com/
- Create a log in account to complete the online questions from a computer. NOTE: The online survey is not able to be completed on a mobile device.
- Select local community – > Cabell County Partners in Prevention.
- Once started, each survey will save automatically, and you can return later to complete it.
- Share this process with others to complete.
- Select local community – > Cabell County Partners in Prevention.
This process will identify areas of action currently going on and/ or ways to improve how families are getting support. For links to local Cabell County initiative log in information, go to www.cabellfrn.org.
This program is being presented with financial assistance as grants from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to the Cabell County Family Resource Network Partners in Prevention project.