In February, the State Advisory Council took up several issues critical to our work, including assessing this year’s How Are Vermont’s Young Children & Families report, actions that can be taken to support the state’s Children’s Integrated Services (CIS) system, and the Needs Assessment being conducted as part of the Preschool Development Grant. We also heard from our partners at Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance and Let’s Grow Kids with a Legislative Update, and also heard about how the early childhood workforce plays a crucial role in the economic development of our state.
This year’s How Are Vermont’s Young Children & Families Report has been well received by the administration and partners. Some sections that have garnered particular interest are the mental health spotlight, ready for kindergarten data, ACEs, and oral health for children. Participants at the meeting had a robust discussion around what other data might be included in the report, and what parts of the report are most helpful in their work. The feedback will be incorporated into next year’s report, which BBF plans to roll out in the fall.
The conversation then transitioned to CIS. We have heard from the field that CIS is an important way that we serve children and families, but funding challenges are causing concerns about how CIS will deliver services in the future. At the last SAC meeting we also heard from people who work within the CIS system to understand funding challenges from their perspective. The SAC can take action in support of CIS in alignment with this regional and statewide priority. The group discussed that BBF would be the right entity to identify and share data that highlight the challenges faced by the CIS system.
After receiving a mid-session legislative report from Let’s Grow Kids and the Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance, meeting attendees broke into smaller groups to discuss gaps in the system of early child services in Vermont as well as the challenges in the integration of those services. The discussion groups will help inform the Needs Assessment that is underway as one of the activities under the Preschool Development Grant, to strengthen the system of services and care for young children in Vermont.
The Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP) is also being updated as part of the activities under the PDG Grant. Much progress has been made by the ECAP committees on their individual goals and now the challenge is to write the updated plan in a way that weaves together those goals and strategies. The group is also thinking about appropriate performance measures that can track progress on the goals as well as specific data points. The work continues to unify the next iteration of the ECAP into a strong, strategic document that will help people understand and achieve the state’s goals for young children and families.
Before finishing the day, we heard again from Let’s Grow Kids, this time educating the group on the issue: Early Childhood Workforce as an Economic Issue. Emily Blistein discussed the implications of the early childhood workforce shortage and how it intersects with Vermont’s shortage of workers generally.
The next meeting of the SAC is on Monday, March 23.