February 2021

Early Learning Community pilot sites was recognized in case study work has been published on the Center for the Study of Social Policy website

This brief tells how two Partner in Prevention teams used tools from Early Learning Nation, CSSP, and the National League of Cities to develop and begin implementing an Early Learning Community Action Plan.



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November 2020

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 conducted from August to October  2020.

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


Early Learning Nation Building Block #2  Quality Services:  All children and families have access to the high-quality services and supports they need.

First question: Have you and the families you know been able to access high-quality health care? If not, what challenges have you faced in accessing health care?

  • Valley Health has programs with sliding fee you can apply on the spot and be approved. Sliding fee program is good for people who are uninsured.
  • MCO Telehealth includes both behavioral and physical telehealth calls.

Second Question: Are you satisfied with the options you have for early care and education for your child (daycare, child care, or preschool)? What challenges do you see families facing when it comes to child care?

  • After hours childcare and baby care there are limitations on those services – biggest challenge in this area is after-hours care for children, as well as drop-ins.

Third Question: Has your family accessed any family support services such as home visiting, parenting education, playgroups, or a family resource center? What was your experience with those services?

  • Family support service like family resource center healthy families parent education and playgroups family resource center and the home visitation programs are wonderful.
  • But many don’t have any direct information with those.

Fourth Question: Have any children you know needed early intervention (Birth to Three) services or other help for developmental delays? What is your impression of how well those services work? Is it easy to access them when they are needed?

    • Children need early intervention like Birth To Three have information about services to get information out to the families though can be a barrier.
    • Example preemie can get PT speech and help with the baby growing on Target.
    • Easy to access But yet not always impressed with the service.
    • Access to information about programs (like birth to three)

Fifth Question: When you take your child to the clinic, child care, or other services, do you feel that you are treated with respect by the professionals there? Does the community value parents?

  • Yes, they always guide people in the right direction
  • Overall do you feel that parents would go into a clinic or health service that they are valued and respected. Example Valley Health do you think that their respective and can connect them to other resources.

Sixth Question: What do you think your community can do to ensure that all families have access to high-quality services?

  • More advertisements
  • better internet
  • Yes, we have I-and-R, 211, the guide, but little internet access
  • I-and-R, 211 — doing an excellent job just have to make sure people know about it
  • mailings don’t work
  • Need more literature in offices
  • Social media more literature out in stores.
  • As policymakers to work to help to promote services example City of Huntington started the Wi-Fi project.
  • Government reps are on some community coalition‘s like United Way.
  • Example baby showers able to give baby supplies and information on services- baby- but only limited to 100.
  • 211 and information and referral doing great service connections.
  • In the past we have done the Prevention packet that went to medical and church groups as well as schools and preschools. Need information – needed it now! Electronic information sharing is the only way to go these days.
  • NOTE:  FRN Communication plans – October will be launching the communication survey.


Early Learning Nation Building Block #3  Neighborhoods:  Families live in neighborhoods where their children can grow up safe and healthy.

First questionDoes your neighborhood feel safe?

  • Head start programs are in the active drug areas in Huntington. Last year, there was a raid, but there isn’t as much drug traffic as there used to be. Overdoses and suicides have increased, however (at least the perception of them occurring has increased). The parents in these programs have not expressed any fear so far. It’s not as safe as it used to be, but it doesn’t feel as dangerous as it used to be.
  • Neighborhoods are large and complex apartments, older neighborhood where folks have lived there for years, apartment out of town, city area near the school with mixed neighborhood for folks are newer and lived there for years.
  • Feel that the neighborhood is safe, apartment has security guard, being hypervigilant and know what is going on in the neighborhood

Second QuestionFrom your neighborhood, do you have easy access to jobs, banks, schools, and other services?

  • There are limitations now because of the pandemic. It takes a lot longer to get information, but clients can access it electronically. People have to wait in the car, and they may not have a car to wait in. Face-to-face is a problem, and home visits are remote appointments, which can be very difficult. Getting doctors’ appointments, getting children screened, and other appointments are also challenging to organize and complete. Communication and transportation are major issues because not everyone has access to buses, etc.
  • Access to service and jobs – TTA bus route 60 Barboursville on the west end of Huntington, there’s sidewalks for walking distance to daycare, you need a car to get around because the bus line takes too long when farther out of town like on a route 2

Third QuestionDo you feel a sense of connection to your neighbors? What makes you feel that way?

  • Yes, they feel a connection to neighbors, i.e. families and children in the neighborhoods with activities and a sense of conversation and camaraderie.
  • There is still a connection, even with the pandemic. Communications may not be in person, but there is still a sense of connection with neighborhoods.
  • Feel connected to the neighborhood and neighbors look out for each other, have a small circle of people they connect with

Fourth QuestionDo you and your neighbors feel hopeful about being able to fix any problems the neighborhood faces?

  • Milton – Yes, they feel hopeful
  • Not sure if the families we serve feel hopeful and would be able to fix the problems that are facing our communities, especially in the more poor areas in Huntington.
  • Yes they have a neighborhood watch, have neighborhood Facebook group, they did take on a two way stop sign where there were accidents and were able to get a four way stop in stalled, apartment security office is there to report any issues too if there’s problems

Fifth QuestionWhat would you like to see your community do to improve neighborhoods for families?

  • Try to help parents learn empowerment. Help the parents empower themselves to make small, positive changes that will trickle to the larger community. Help with goal setting and meet them where they are and move forward.
  • Youth group in Boone County picks up litter and recycles items. Trying to clean up the community spaces and encourage others to do so at their homes. They did a PSA (on YouTube) to help promote their efforts (drug prevention program).
  • There have been a lot of vans driving through Huntington neighborhoods that are scaring the kids, mothers with children. A lot of squatters are in the empty houses. People can look out for each other to combat these things and share information. “I noticed this,” etc. We have to keep our eyes open and know what is going on (our neighbors and law enforcement). We have to look out for everyone. If we all are isolated and don’t care, that will be a problem.
  • Neighborhood watch groups, Ring doorbell and sharing information/videos in person and on social media
  • For improving the neighborhood- hot button is one about safe houses that are being bought and don’t know that it’s going on until it happens due to no zoning rules


Early Learning Nation Building Block #4  Policy: Local policies create a broad framework of support for all families with young children. When we talk about policies, we mean things like child care subsidy rules, rules for sick leave or parental leave, immigration policies, health care policy, and all the other ways that government rules and programs affect families. Employers can also have some of their own policies that make it easier or harder for their employees to raise their kids.

First questionDo you feel policies are in place that make it easier to raise your children in this community?

  • Putnam County – employer has tried everything to help during the pandemic. There are goals to meet during the week, instead of hours clocked in. This helps a lot when children are home and are doing virtual schooling. The schools have been very helpful (Milton Elementary). Feels like she has seen help throughout all of the struggles.
  • Mission WV – family-friendly policies so parents have flexibility with their work schedules and lives in general.
  • There are state programs within the government like Medicaid, CHIP, safe at home,
  • Delegates have been good to contact about southside issues and good resource and respond, council reps can be contacted as well as Board of Education,
  • policy in place for raising kids question – we weren’t sure about that because that statement is not clear

Second QuestionDoes your community do anything to promote family-friendly policies in workplaces?

  • Not sure how to answer that other than the mentality of neighborhoods. Doesn’t know about businesses and how they have treated their employees but hasn’t heard anything negative. People are working from home if they can.
  • Difficulties have been magnified due to COVID-19.
  • No community promotion of family-friendly policies, re: local businesses. Some of that is occurring because they have had to pivot with the times.
  • One of the reasons I started my own company was to have flexibility. One of the positive aspects of that flexibility is to be able to take care of my two-month-old son while I am working from home. I know that as my company scales, I will emphasize more family-friendly policies. It’s one of the cornerstones of my company and personal values, so I want to lead my company with empathy and a family-oriented focus. I feel like a lot of companies don’t focus on this as much as they should, and that adds stress to working parents.
  • Family friendly policies – Family leave doesn’t happen without a problem. Not sure about any incentives for businesses, single-parent maternity leave option and ability to get the job back was something that one person experienced

Third QuestionDo you feel that government leaders and policymakers pay attention to how their decisions will affect families with young children?

  • Overall, no, but they look at the big picture. Sometimes, they have specific policies they’re looking at for young families and preschoolers. They have to please all groups, but they do have to look at this sector when making some specific and less broad policy decisions.
  • If government leaders would pay attention to how different decisions affects families, not thought through all the time at all levels of local, state, and federal, the summer stimulus EBT card, CHIP premium suspended through Covid, essential work waiver of income level for LINK childcare but that drained the resources for that service, school day code switched for the next week makes it hard for parents to plan

Fourth QuestionWhat would you like to see your community do to make things better for families who are raising young children?

  • Longer paid maternity leave and more attention toward paid paternity leave and empowering fathers in general. Many dads, especially first-time dads, don’t know how they fit in to helping to raise a young child, even if they have a natural inclination to be a dad. Also, the restructuring of FMLA in general. This is a very formative time for families, and often, it gets lost in the shuffle. If policies cannot change, then making resources available to families will help with coping mechanisms and other information.
  • LINK child care income limit adjusted, community leaders let them know services available and who to talk to, in-home family LINK child care lift the ban for folks that live in low income subsidize housing to allow them to operate a home business because they’re not able to operate any home Based businesses at all
  • Increase early education salary for staff, option for training paid for certain contract timeframe


Early Learning Community Online assessment for each of these areas will take about 30 minutes to complete.  – SEE BELOW

Time frame:  Early Learning Community Work from August to October 2020

  • Convene discussions about each of the 4 Building Blocks


  1. Commitment to Early Childhood: The community prioritizes and invests in ensuring that all young children thrive.
  2. Quality Services that Work for All: All children and families have access to the high-quality services and supports they need.
  3. Neighborhoods Where Families Can Thrive: Families live in neighborhoods where their children can grow up safe and healthy.
  4. 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.

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.

Early Learning Community information – Cabell and Randolph Counties work recognized in national case study