News from the Network: Family Engagement and Support

Parents and young child smiling

News from the Network is an email series from Building Bright Futures that spotlights the work of Regional Councils, updates related to early childhood data, emerging priorities from VECAP Committees, and more. Written by our Policy and Program Director Anna Brouillette, this update gives a closer look at BBF’s work across the state of Vermont to improve the well-being of young children and families.

Making the System Work for Families: About the Families and Communities Committee

The Families and Communities Committee is one of seven Vermont Early Childhood Action Plan Committees. These committees support the Building Bright Futures Network with monitoring and advancing the strategic plan and improving the well-being of young children and their families. Most Families and Communities Committee members are parents or caregivers of a young child.

The Families and Communities Committee’s mission:

The Families and Communities Committee strives to be made up of majority parents and caregivers, with providers in partnership, to help create an early childhood system that mirrors the diverse needs of Vermont families. By providing parents and caregivers opportunities to bring forward thoughts and concerns, and partner in systems conversations and decision-making processes, families become leaders in designing a responsive system that works for them.

The Committee meets virtually every month and offers several evening meeting opportunities as well. If you are interested in joining, please contact Parents are compensated for their time and expertise. 

Asking for Input: The Family Needs Assessment Survey

BBF is currently asking for family input on their experiences through a survey open through October 15. This is a project of the Families and Communities Committee to conduct the survey called the Early Childhood Family Needs Assessments on a regular basis. We hope to collect information and stories about the barriers families face when accessing services, and the Committee plans to share this data with legislators and stakeholders to elevate the needs of our communities. This is supported by a 5-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to the Vermont Division of Maternal and Child Health and BBF, to support building upon and strengthening integration, family leadership work, and an equity lens within Vermont’s early childhood system. Responses to the survey are anonymous and will be analyzed and summarized to inform policy and decision-making in Vermont’s early childhood system. The survey developed by families is open now, and already has over 300 responses and counting! If you are a parent or caregiver of a child under 9 in Vermont, please make sure you’ve completed the survey!

Our Team of Rock Star Parent Ambassadors!

In addition to our group of parents, family members, and early childhood stakeholders who were instrumental in developing the survey for the Early Childhood Family Needs Assessment, the team has also recruited and trained a group of over 15 Parent Ambassadors to serve as conduits of the survey in their communities. They are supporting the Committee and the project by promoting the survey on social media, hanging fliers in popular community spaces, delivering paper copies of the survey to harder-to-reach communities, and more. This is one of many ways that the Committee and our team at Building Bright Futures are committed to increasing paid opportunities for family leadership and participation in the policy and decision-making process in the state’s early childhood childhood system.

Co-chairs of BBF's Families and Communities Committee, Jen Fortman (left) and Sarah Morrision

Recently, our co-chairs of the Families and Communities Committee, Jen Fortman (left) and Sarah Morrision (right) gathered at the Building Bright Futures office to send out welcome materials to our team of Parent Ambassadors.

Finding a Pre-K Spot for My Child: A Regional Spotlight on Parents in the BBF Network

Recently, a parent joined the Springfield Regional Council to share her experience with using her own struggle to find child care in the region as a springboard to create local change. After struggling to find care for her almost 3-year old, the Woodstock area parent organized with friends and community members with similar stories of struggling to find and/or afford care, having to scale back or leave work because of the lack of care, and even considering a temporary out-of-state move to find care. At the time, 22 children were on the town’s waitlist for the public pre-K program. 

This group of parents took their stories to their local School Board meeting and successfully pushed for a vote with the full town Board and School Board that will expand the town’s pre-K enrollment and ensure a spot for every child currently on the waitlist. The group of Woodstock area parents continues to advocate locally for high-quality child care options for children under 3 years old who are not yet eligible for the pre-K program. They also are working closely with the town’s Economic Development Committee to approach the multi-faceted problem holistically, recognizing the need for better pay for early educators, more affordable local housing options, and more. 

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