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


Nancy Latimer Convening Honors Karen Kelley-Ariwoola

June 14, 2012
"Nancy" award recipient Karen Kelley-Ariwoola

“Nancy” award recipient Karen Kelley-Ariwoola

Have you registered to attend the 6th Annual Nancy Latimer Convening for Children and Youth on June 20?

One hundred early childhood advocates will gather to hear about new research on early childhood development, and to honor Karen Kelley-Ariwoola for her leadership in this area. Kelley-Ariwoola is former MCF board chair and former vice president of community philanthropy at The Minneapolis Foundation.

Dr. Dale Walker, associate research professor and scientist at the University of Kansas, will present and lead a discussion on early brain development and language acquisition. Dr. Walker is a leading expert on this topic and the architect of the Science Museum’s nationally acclaimed exhibit, “The Wonder Years,” which attendees can visit for free after the event.

Kelley-Ariwoola will then be presented with the “Nancy” award in honor of her leadership in the field of education and early childhood development, as well as her commitment to the Twin Cities community. Kelley-Ariwoola was integral to the passage of the Omnibus Early Education Bill which established the Office of Early Learning, and she played a leadership role in the creation of the Start Early Funders Collaborative.

Created in 2007 and now hosted by the Start Early Funders Coalition, the Nancy Latimer Convening for Children & Youth shines the spotlight on outstanding contributions by individuals or groups to enhance life for young children. The event and award honors the spirit and legacy of Nancy Latimer, whose leadership, passion and commitment to children are exemplified by Award recipients. You can register for next week’s free event on MCF’s website.

A Complex Picture of Wealth and Early Childhood Development

March 30, 2012

It is a commonly held belief that higher education in mothers leads to better early childhood learning outcomes for their children, but a recent study from Insight Center for Community Economic Development called “Diverging Pathways: How Wealth Shapes Opportunity for Children”  challenges this assumption and dives into the complex relationship between race, wealth, and education.

Assets vs. Income
What makes this report particularly interesting is that wealth, the accumulation of assets (houses, cars, savings and checking accounts, etc.) minus the sum of debt (mortgages, auto loans, credit cards debt, etc.), was a larger correlating factor of early childhood development than income.  Wealth is different from income in that it allows a household to make investments that will produce long-term income, enjoy tax advantages, and build inheritance for future generations.

One theory put forth by Insight is that asset-poor households are less able to weather an economic downturn like the recent Great Recession and suffer from greater instability. Diversification of wealth assets was also important indicator of stability. Minority households were disproportionally affected by the downturn in the housing market, with the majority of their wealth wrapped in housing equity, versus white households who tend to have more diversified asset holdings. These assets are often leveraged by a family to pay for higher-quality education opportunities that are systematically denied asset-poor households.

Growing with Age
Discrepancies between white and Asian children and other minorities groups were not clearly defined at birth, but emerged before the start of formal education. The majority of children at nine months of age have similar scores on standard child development tests. By two years of age racial disparities appear, even with mothers of similar education levels, and by entry into kindergarten white and Asian children score on average significantly higher than others, regardless of the mother’s education. In asset-rich, wealthy households, children scored higher regardless of race.

Wider Disparities
Disparities in education are linked to a multitude of other factors as well, such as health. According to the Insight study, white children are more likely to be rated in excellent or very good health than any other group and consistently maintain that rating throughout their lives.

These health disparities were in turn associated with neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty which do not provide, as described by Insight: good schools, violence-free streets, mainstream financial institutions, sound housing stock, environmental safety, good jobs, transportation access, or stores with healthy foods. White households, even those who were rated lower in wealth and income, were less likely to reside in areas with high concentrations of poverty and more likely to have relatives and friends who rated high in wealth.

A Look to the Future
Over the next forty years, the United States population will continue to move away from being a white-majority society. People of color will represent the majority of working-age individuals. Currently, children of color are less likely to be successful in school or develop the math skills necessary for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers that are expected to be prominent in the U.S. economy. We face growing disparities and a loss of human capital and potential necessary for a strong, healthy society.

Twenty Minnesota grantmakers, many of them MCF members, have formed the Start Early Funders Coalition to improve early childhood efforts in Minnesota. The coalition focuses on advancing public policy and facilitating research into how to enhance the well-being of Minnesota children. As the research from Insight demonstrates, these early childhood development issues are both incredibly complex and vital to the future well-being of Minnesota and the country.

-Kaitlin Ostlie, MCF administrative assistant

Photo cc United Nations Photo

Honoring the Spirit and Legacy of Nancy Latimer

March 19, 2012
Nancy Latimer

Nancy Latimer

The Start Early Funders Coalition is honored to call for nominations for the Sixth Annual “Nancy” Award. Created in 2007, the Award shines the spotlight on outstanding contributions by individuals or groups to enhance life for young children and honors the spirit and legacy of Nancy Latimer, whose leadership, passion, and commitment to children are exemplified by Award recipients.

Nominees should exemplify unwavering dedication and outstanding contributions to the well-being of young children through program innovation, policy, advocacy, and/or mentorship.

In the spirit of Nancy Latimer, nominees should demonstrate persistence, humility, vision, courage, tenacity, servant leadership, humanity, and compassion.

Nominations should include the following information in up to two pages:

  • For individuals: A brief biographical and professional overview, noting the nominee’s significant activities and accomplishments on behalf of children in Minnesota.
  • For groups: A brief overview of the significant activities and accomplishments of the group on behalf of children in Minnesota.
  • Overviews may be bulleted lists or narratives.
  • The name and contact information of the nominator, as well as a brief statement of the connection between the nominator and nominee.
  • The names, email addresses, and phone numbers of two individuals who can provide additional information about the nominee, if needed.
  • Contact information, including title, email address, and phone number, for the nominee.

Nominations will be reviewed, and the “Nancy” Award recipient will be selected by the Start Early Funder’s Coalition Learning and Research Committee. The award will be presented at the Annual Nancy Latimer Convening for Children and Youth on June 20.

If you know a worthy individual or group, email your nomination to Kristen Rosenberger, Start Early Funders Coalition coordinator, by April 15.