Building Bright Futures (BBF) Regional Early Childhood Councils are an essential part of the BBF statewide network infrastructure to improve the well-being of children and families. BBF facilitated a process across the 12 Regional Councils during April and May 2023 with over 130 partners participating.
The Regional Council priority setting process is designed to gather input and prioritize the most pressing regional priorities for Council investment in the coming year.
At each meeting, Regional Councils reviewed a summary of 2022 priorities and accomplishments. Presentations were made by the Regional Manager in partnership with the BBF Executive Director or Deputy Director and Council leadership teams. Councils identified their top two issue areas, taking into account the most pressing issues facing children and families in their region, and where they feel the council can effect change over the next year. Each person present contributed their priorities anonymously using an online meeting tool called “ideaboardz.”
This resulted in an updated Regional Council Priority map that will guide Council activities and resources over the next year. Now that the regional priorities are identified, each Regional Manager will build a Regional Action Plan to guide Council agenda topics, set Council budgets, leverage member expertise to action, strategize with stakeholders, and more.
These are the priority topics and descriptions developed over the last four years based on the types of issues typically raised at Regional Councils. In 2023, the two most common priority topics, highlighted in five regions on the map above, are “child and family mental health” and “quality and capacity of child care and early childhood services.”
- Access to basic needs: Connect children and families to programs and supports they need to meet their basic needs, e.g. food, housing, diapers, health care, transportation, etc.
- Centering equity for those who have been historically marginalized: Identify where systemic discrimination exists and promote changes to build equitable access to opportunities for historically marginalized groups (e.g. home ownership, higher education, leadership opportunities, culturally representative family childcare, and diverse staffing representation across sectors, etc.)
- Building resilience in children, families, and communities: “Resilience is the ability to thrive, adapt and cope despite tough and stressful times—or said simply, it’s the ability to bounce back.” (Vermont Department of Mental Health. Resiliency.) Work with families, programs, and communities to ensure that children reach their optimal well-being and potential. Promote education and training caregivers about resilience and the impact of trauma, promote screening and early identification, and connect children and families to support.
- Family engagement and support: Engage and partner with parents and families to improve systems and services for Vermont families and communities. Expand family partnership and leadership at the provider, agency, and community levels.
- Substance misuse and the impact on maternal and child health: Support families impacted by substance use disorder by building stronger connections between the early childhood and adult treatment systems so providers can support a child and family’s needs.
- Child and family safety: Better support children who are in Department for Children and Families (DCF) custody, or are impacted by traumatic family circumstances (due to eviction, poverty, death of a parent, or domestic violence).
- Child and family mental health: Support early childhood and family mental health at home, at school/child care, and in the community. Promote strategies that build a child’s social-emotional development; support a caregiver’s emotional regulation; respond to the mental health workforce crisis; improve access to consultation and crisis services; and prevent the use of exclusionary discipline.
- Building an accessible, equitable, and seamless system of services: Create a system where families know where to get help when they need it. Support coordination across those the early childhood system with particular attention to children with disabilities and special health care needs, BIPOC, and children impacted by substance use and houselessness.
- Quality and capacity of child care and early childhood services: Respond to system gaps to improve access for families to high-quality opportunities that meet their needs (child care, including pre-K, special education, mental health services, etc.)
- Early childhood workforce: Promote quality through training and professional advancement, support recruitment efforts, and promote a stable workforce through economic security strategies (benefits, incentives, and supplemental wages).
- Development screening and child developmental and social-emotional outcomes: Given the evolving impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on developmental and academic outcomes, ensure equitable access to developmental screenings and monitor trends in developmental and social-emotional outcomes for children.