Engaging Families in Early Childhood Programs and Policies

May 8, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 3.46.24 PMThe Start Early Funders Coalition champions affordable, accessible, high quality care and education for children in Minnesota by leveraging the group’s funding interests to advance public policy and community supports for early childhood education and programs.

Last month the coalition convened community leaders and practitioners to provide information on effectively engaging families in early childhood programs and policies.

The convening focused on two questions:

  • What exactly does “family engagement” mean?
  • How can we implement effective strategies for developing family partnerships, particularly across diverse cultures and varied early childhood programs?”

Family & Community Engagement for Healthy Child Development

Betty Emerita, consultant, Development and Training Inc., and Richard Chase, senior research manager, Wilder Foundation, examined family and community knowledge systems — the informal and formal ways that children learn at home and in their community.

The Family and Community Knowledge Systems Project:

  • Underscores the importance of how programs recognize, interact with and support these important systems in which children are embedded.
  • Aims to expand how we define and support healthy whole-child development and program quality from the perspective of family and community knowledge systems.
  • Highlights and measures ways to strengthen family and community engagement with formal systems to improve early childhood programs, policies, and practices — particularly for low-income children and children of color.

For more on their research, read the resulting publication: Promoting and Measuring Family and Community Engagement for Healthy Early Childhood Development.

Barb Fabre, director of White Earth Reservation child care, and Carolyn Smallwood, executive director, Way to Grow, reflected on their experience using the family and community engagement tool and noted that it increased positive family engagement outcomes and deepened the engagement and understanding of the children and families they served.

Family Engagement Programs and Best Practices

Christine DeGroote, early childhood education specialist, Head Start, presented the organization’s engagement framework for parents, family and community and its success measures. She highlighted the importance of crossing contexts at home, in early childhood programs, school and community to ensure success for children and families.

Mi Yang, parent leadership trainer, Cross-Cultural Leadership Action Program (C-Clap) presented curriculum that her organization used to train community leaders, relatives, parents and providers to educate and empower parents. She encouraged the audience to consider the following:

  1. All parents want their children to succeed
  2. We must believe in parent’s best intentions
  3. Change begins with knowledge

Andre Dukes, family academy director, Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), presented NAZ’s ending multigenerational poverty approach, highlighting the role of the Family Academy’s parent curriculum, which builds upon a family’s existing strengthens and then adds tools to parents’ skill sets to increase positive parenting practices.

Ellen Haefner, early childhood family educator, reviewed Faribault’s Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program structure and highlighted initiatives surrounding parent education and opportunities for children and families.

Cisa Keller, director of government and community relations, New Horizons Academy, noted implications for effective family engagement with regard to public policy, including an increase of early learning scholarships and multiple federal efforts such as, Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships, proposed CCDBG changes and more.

Rae Jean Hansen, senior program officer, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, closed by encouraging attendees to use the research and best practices of the panelists to further work for effective family education and high quality early care.

- Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, MCF public policy and government relations fellow

 


What Can You Learn from PFund’s Community-led Grantmaking?

April 29, 2014

pfund1aWith a belief that community members can best determine where funding will have the greatest positive impact, PFund Foundation (an MCF member) has long been committed to community-led grantmaking. In its last round of grantmaking and guided by a strategic direction of increased regional participation, PFund involved community more than ever. A summary of changes PFund made follows.

And, for a more detailed look at how you can incorporate PFund’s learning into your next grants round, check the spring issue of Giving Forum (online and in your mailbox now).

5 Changes:

  1. Expand the table. Historically PFund has engaged community leaders based in the Twin Cities. In its last grants round, it added leaders from Greater Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, and it plans to recruit from Iowa and South Dakota.
  2. Connect community leaders. In addition to reviewing written grant proposals, during its last grant round, community leaders held 24 site visits – in person and virtual. This connected leaders in new ways.
  3. Build shared knowledge. To enrich everyone’s understanding of LGBT communities in the Upper Midwest, PFund is convening community leaders.
  4. Foster mutual commitment. PFund is moving from recruiting volunteers annually to inviting community members to serve 3-year terms on its grant committee.
  5. Create a playbook. The foundation’s guidelines, approaches, policies and more are now documented in a resource that will be used and updated by the grants committee annually.

Did PFund do something that your organization could build on to increase your level of interaction with and commitment to the communities you serve?

– Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


A Good Food Future: The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network

January 8, 2014

healthyfoodToday on the blog we feature Pam Bishop, entrepreneur senior program officer, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. She presented at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening about one of MCF’s member networks, the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network. She tells us more about it here.

At the November 2013 MCF Philanthropy convening, representatives from the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities (HFHC) Funders Network introduced the network during an interactive breakout session. Here is some of what was covered:

Who We Are
The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network is a group of Minnesota-based funders who make informed, coordinated and strategic investments to improve key facets of our food system. Our shared commitment to the vitality and prosperity of our state’s communities and resilience of our landscapes inspire us to work together.

What We Do
This diverse group of funders:

  • Shares information about promising programs, organizations, issues and research.
  • Coordinates funding among members to ensure resources are well-distributed across organizations and initiatives focused on food systems.
  • Increases overall funding available for food systems-related work.
  • Convenes meetings for Minnesota’s funding community on relevant issues of interest around food systems and philanthropy.

Priorities
Our joint agenda for learning and investment is based on the concept of collective impact. It emphasizes three strategic priorities:

  1. Facilitate Local Entrepreneurship across the food supply chain.
  2. Improve Access to Healthy Food to enhance wellness and health equity for all Minnesotans.
  3. Strengthen and sustain Farmland Access throughout the state.

For the next three years, these priorities will inform the content of HFHC-sponsored meetings for the broader funding community. They will also influence strategies to align and increase funding.

Each priority has a working group that meets regularly to plan network-wide learning opportunities and execute a successful strategy to coordinate and increase funding.

Get Involved
If you are a funder interested in these issues, here are some ways for you to get involved with the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network:

  • Join the HFHC listserv by contacting Tara Kumar, member services manager at MCF.
  • Attend the HFHC public meeting in early 2014. Watch for details — coming soon.
  • Join one of the HFHC working groups to collaborate with other funders on strategic alignment of funding on an issue you care about. Contact Tara if interested.

Members
HFHC Funders Network has members from agencies, organizations and institutions that fund efforts to address social, environmental, economic and human health dimensions of food and agriculture in Minnesota.

For example: family, community and corporate foundations; state agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Health; academic institutions, such as the University of Minnesota; health organizations, such as UCare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota; and hunger relief groups such as United Way.

Photo cc NatalieMaynor

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