As a result of participating in different town early childhood collaborative meetings, I am fortunate to have a bird’s eye view of early childhood issues in our region -- I have learned a lot about the unique resources of towns and cities in Connecticut while at the same time have found that community members are identifying similar challenges as they work to ensure all children and families have what they need to be successful.
While many challenges are related to the economic downturn and increased community needs, stakeholders are talking about needs they see in existing community systems, including health, safety, family support and quality of early care and education as they plan their collaborative agendas for the year.
The Branford Early Childhood Collaborative recently unveiled their Community Planning work in a June meeting I attended during which results of the first stage in a two-year early childhood community planning process funded by Graustein Memorial Fund were shared with Branford residents. The results were obtained from surveys, interviews with key people in town, and focus groups with community organizations over the past year. Respondents were asked to identify the advantages that exist for families with young children living in Branford, the major unmet needs of families with young children that the community plan must meet, as well as ways the entire community can support families with young children. I was impressed with the facilitator’s enthusiasm for Branford as he relayed to the audience that community members shared a degree of community pride that he had never seen before. You can learn more about the meeting planning results here.
This summer, I also attended a West Haven Early Childhood Council meeting with a committed group of educators who discussed ways to engage families in their children’s school and community. Data around the conditions of children and families at birth in West Haven was also shared and members talked about ways to improve access to information and services in the health care arena. I also had a chance to talk about United Way of Greater New Haven’s education work and underscore our excitement in learning about ways we can work with and support town early childhood collaborative initiatives.
I am eager to see how we can work together in the coming months to help support our community one family at a time. I think it will take patience, a lot of listening and collaboration, but I am confident that we can achieve our common goal of making sure kids show up to school ready to learn.