Working Together to Support a Strong Child Welfare Workforce

As part of an ongoing series on Colorado’s early childhood workforce, and in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention month, the ECCP invited Lorendia Schmidt, CAPTA Administrator with the CDHS Department of Children, Youth & Families, to highlight the challenges and opportunities faced by Colorado’s child welfare workforce. Read on as Lorendia shares potential connections and learnings to support the early childhood workforce across early care and education and child welfare.

 

by Lorendia Schmidt

When I was asked to write this post about turnover in the child welfare system, I first went to the ECCP blog to read the installments by Tami Havener and Kristina Mueller for some inspiration and guidance. What I found was a reminder of how similar the challenges are between the early care and education and child welfare systems. Re-read their blogs and replace each instance of “teacher” or “educator” with “child welfare caseworker;” you’ll find that everything they say about turnover in early care and education applies to child welfare:

 

  • Children thrive with consistent and stable adults in their life;
  • Many communities lack an effective, consistent workforce in whom families can place their trust;
  • Over time, there are increasing state regulations for both caseworker qualifications and job expectations;
  • We consistently lose good caseworkers to better paying, less demanding jobs; and,
  • We need to recruit, retain, compensate, and support the child welfare workforce.

A cross-systems work group within the Colorado Department of Human Services recently released recommendations for system-level change that may prevent maltreatment in children five and under.  The group recognized the importance of cross-systems collaboration, but also acknowledged that high turnover is the biggest barrier. The following is an excerpt from their final report:

“When rates of turnover are high, individual agencies are constantly recruiting, hiring, and training new staff, while also covering vacant position workloads. These activities render professionals unable to engage in the relationship-building that supports cross-system collaboration. In addition, the cost of worker turnover is staggering. The Applied Research in Child Welfare (ARCH) at Colorado State University is in the process of analyzing 10 years of child welfare employment data across Colorado. From 2005-2015, seven of the ten largest Colorado counties had an average turnover rate of 29.7% within intake teams, with a total of 648 workers leaving intake positions over the 10 year period (ARCH, draft, 2016). With a conservative estimate of $54,000 per new hire (NCWII, 2016), this has cost Colorado over $35 million dollars in the last ten years in only seven of Colorado’s 64 counties.”

Just like in early care and education, turnover in child welfare is an urgent matter. We all work with the same families and ultimately have the same desire: for children to thrive in their homes and in their communities. How can we learn from one another? How can we share limited resources to support a high-quality, consistent work force across the various sectors of the early childhood system?

Stay tuned for another installment in the workforce series from the child welfare caseworker perspective, coming soon!

Program Evaluation: Tips for Design, Implementation, and Evaluation (Part 2 of 2)

  • April 3, 2017
  • Data

by Tim Walter, Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council

This blog entry is the second of two posts written by Tim Walter on Data and Evaluation. You can read the first post here.

The ultimate purpose of evaluation is to show, through imagery and visuals, the “good work” our agencies perform.  Big Data is only as effective as our ability to summarize and message to the public via attractive and innovative visuals.  The average person only takes a few seconds to process and draw conclusions about information – program evaluation within an agency must begin to move towards effective messaging as grant funds continue to become more competitive.

Program Evaluation is several jobs rolled into one.  It is becoming more necessary for evaluators to possess multiple skills: research, grant writing, statistics, computer database design, strategic planning, data analysis, and graphic design (among others).

My hope is to provide a few tips to jump start your evaluation efforts.  Through discussions with non-profit councils, I’ve realized that not every agency is equipped with an Evaluator or Data Manager; however, through collaboration we can begin to improve child and family evaluation in Colorado.

The three components of program evaluation consist of: (1) Design (2) Implementation (3) Evaluation.

Often the term “evaluation” is used to summarize these three components, yet they are distinct and we must be able to develop each component independently with flexibility, while remaining mindful of how all the components will ultimately interact.

Design:

The design phase gives us the opportunity to identify “what to track” in order to measure a program’s effectiveness.  Generally, we can find what we need to measure (ie: the “primary asks”) within our program’s grant.  If a grant is well written, there may be a section titled “Measurables” or “Outcomes Desired.” These are great starting points for developing program evaluation.  Additionally, we may have “secondary asks,” which generally come from stakeholder/board member or collaborative groups our agencies partner with.  I believe these are of secondary importance, because we are not legally obligated to report on our stakeholder/board member or collaborative group asks (as they are not “primary asks”).  Therefore, we must develop systems for tracking and remain accountable to our program grants or “primary asks,” which we are legally required each year to report on.  Consider creating a “hierarchy of asks,” and it will become easier to see in which category a particular ask falls (ie: grant, stakeholder, board member, or collaborative ask).  Ultimately, it may be very possible to tuck “secondary asks” into the existing “primary asks” identified within your program grants.

As part of the design also consider using a Logic Model (a visual representation of the program) because it will allow you to identify the following:

(1) “Goals” of the program

(2) “Short” and “Long” term goals

(3a) “Activities” you/staff will be required to perform

(3b) “Indicators” which tell you how the “Activities” are progressing. Generally these are total numbers (ie: “the total number of individuals served in a program” or “the total number sites that have increased site rating levels from 2016 to 2017)

(4) “Inputs,” which are all the materials/staff that make a program function.

Logic Models should be be updated yearly and should be flexible enough to allow you to tuck in any new “primary” or “secondary” asks.

Implementation:

Now that we’ve identified “what to track,” we need to consider “how to track it?”  The implementation phase should focus on establishing tools to track our program outcomes (activities and indicators) for grant funders and creating protocol for staff to follow to track activities accurately and consistently for reporting.  By using our Logic Models we can visually outline and match all of our program “activities” to “indicators.”  Activities are generally outlined in our program grants (ie: “report the total number of participants served in 2017”) and should be accompanied with an Indicator (ie: “the total number of participants served in 2017”).  This will allow us to easily identify our program number totals for reporting.  Remember to create tracking protocol for staff – often program grants outline tracking protocol (ie: “at participant enrollment of program, complete a pre-survey assessment with the caregiver”); however, it may be necessary for us to create additional protocol for data entry purposes.  Inaccurate or inconsistent data entry will negatively impact our data integrity and by taking the time to implement staff data entry protocol we can eliminate future data errors and maintenance.

Generally, Microsoft Excel or Access are sufficient to track program activities and will allow us to quickly calculate the total numbers (“indicators”).  Attempt to avoid using MS Word, as it does not easily allow us to total numbers without spending additional time on manual counting.  If our agency programs already use an existing database for tracking, we should always attempt to utilize these for pulling number totals.

Evaluation:

Lastly, if we have successfully identified our various “asks” and set up efficient systems to track, we can develop our program messaging and communication.  As grants become more competitive, we must be able to “show the good work we do” in an innovative and concise manner.  Consider using or producing maps to geographically display who/where we are serving, or infographics (ie: graphs, bar charts, pie charts and tables) to summarize and display our program’s impact.  Free and low-cost mapping and infographic options, such as ArcGIS, QGIS, Piktochart, and PowerPoint/Excel exist for agencies working from a limited budget.

At the Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council (ACECC), we owe much of our initial evaluation and data development efforts to the ECCP Mini-Grant (2016).  As we move forward towards program messaging and communication (a focus for 2017-2018), we are excited to collaborate with the ECCP and other councils to further develop evaluation efforts and innovative messaging techniques in an effort to improve child and family outcomes in Colorado.

If you would like to discuss program evaluation and data reporting, please feel free to contact: Tim Walter, Program Evaluator and Data Analyst at ACECC at [email protected] We look forward to future collaborations!

Data and Evaluation: Sifting Through the Static and the Sound (ECCP Mini-Grant Highlight, Part 1 of 2)

  • February 13, 2017
  • Data

by Tim Walter, Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council

Big Data, Data Analytics, Data Driven Analysis – do these “buzz-words” sound familiar?  We have entered the age of “Data” (…and whatever else you’d like to attach to the beginning or end of the word…), and there is no going back.  Data can be overwhelming – hard to determine what is important and what is just plain confusing.  Data is not all bad, in fact it can be what helps drive and guide program design, implementation, and evaluation efforts.

Program Evaluation for non-profit agencies and organizations is possibly more important now than ever before.  Every year non-profit agencies and organizations prepare to write and apply for new and old grants alike; however, what makes your non-profit work so special?  Can you show the good work your organization does (and whether it is producing effective results)?

You might be asking: Why is data and evaluation of my program important and what does it have to do with my work?

“Program Evaluation” and data analysis will continue to be the standard by which organizations are judged.  For many years, science-driven professions (Engineering, Accounting, Medicine) have been required to quantify and show accountability when presenting results.  Only more recently, the social sciences (Public Health and Social Work) have been asked to quantify and show accountability with the work they do.  It is now, more than ever, necessary for organizations to “Show Their Good Work” as grant funders want to see “accountability” when awarding dollars to organizations.

The ECCP Mini-Grant supporting the Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council kicked off an inter-agency re-assessment of how we tracked our program outcomes in past years, and we began to ask,  what “truly matters” for tracking, as we move into 2017-2018 and beyond.  Along the way, we have developed Logic Model templates (modeled after Results Based Accountability theory) to identify program outcome goals and database design needs.  Our ultimate goal is to create a data tracking system capable of producing images and visual reports that will show our good work.  There will be a variety of other uses for this information, but the process of designing a robust evaluation methodology was far more manageable than previously thought.

Program Evaluation may seem daunting – but my hope is to provide a few more opportunities (and tips) that will provide others easy to use ideas/templates, design tips, and an ability to bring to life the good work being done.

Read more in part 2 of this blog post, coming later this month!

Early Childhood Partners Develop Shared Data Agenda to Collectively Move Needle for Children and Families

  • February 1, 2017
  • Data

The Data Agenda was launched at the ECCP full partner meeting in January.

Data-driven decision making is a key element to ensuring collaborative efforts can be accountable to reaching shared results. The Early Childhood Colorado Partnership has worked since 2009 to continually use population-level data to inform efforts and move the needle to achieve results for children and families in Colorado. The Data Action Team, made up of partners from multiple organizations and agencies, discusses and collects data annually using a Results Based Accountability (RBA) approach, and spent the better part of 2016 updating the Data Agenda to reflect the Early Childhood Colorado Framework, updated in 2015.

The Data Agenda includes “systems” indicators at the performance level to better understand collective impact upon outcomes. Systems Performance Indicators provide shared accountability for and reflection of how the early childhood system is performing,rather than reflect whole populations (i.e. children and families in Colorado). A Data Advocacy Agenda is in development so partners can continuously work together to advocate for improved data collection.

As state and local partners identify ways to align efforts to move the needle for children and families, the Data Agenda provides an opportunity for shared accountability. The Data Action Team will work throughout 2017 to capture baseline data and share the story behind the data broadly.

Want to join this work? Email [email protected] to learn more.

Implicit Bias in Early Childhood Education: An ECCP Mini-Grant Spotlight

Pedroby Pedro Mendez, Clayton Early Learning

Two main issues that have been mainstreaming the media are race and culture; interestingly, these issues have been impacting young children for quite some time now. Even to the point that some stakeholders believe nothing is being done to resolve such critical issues.

The topics of race, culture, and bias are sensitive issues people feel unease discussing, and rightfully so. People do not want to be labeled or identified as being prejudice for something they might not be consciously aware. For educators who are charged with the growth and learning of young children this may be a fine line. Especially when dealing with something like implicit bias. Implicit biases are attitudes that function outside our conscious mind and that challenge even the most veteran of teachers. Whether we want to acknowledge or our bias or not, conscious or unconscious, it has an impact in the education children receive. It is our responsibility to better understand these attitudes so that we are better able to prepare teachers to empower all children.

The Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program (BECLP) was a gateway for my personal work around this topic. This work initially began as an investigation of achievement gaps of boys of color as part of my yearlong capstone work for BECLP. My work led me to have discussions with several stakeholders across Denver County.

The next step was to look at common themes that emerge from all my conversations. One of these themes was, bias, and the impact it had on children. This lead to a collaboration with the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership through a mini grant. This collaboration allowed us to explore implicit bias within our teaching staff and the impact it can have on children’s academic career. The Partnership was very involved through the process of our research and gave us the platform to collaborate with other organizations. It was a very enriching experience to learn and hear what other organizations were being challenged with as well as overcoming in their work. The Partnership allowed us to start collegial conversations on our campus and provided a first step in improving our cultural competency, and reflect about our inner self to better to serve families. My hope is that this work inspires others to look within and explore their inner self to better understand bias and the effect it has on program, practice implementation and the impact for children.

Read the full mini-grant report from Clayton Early Learning.

 

Moving Forward Together to Build a Strong Early Childhood Workforce

by Tami Havener, Executive Director of Family Development Center in Routt County

tami-portraitOur state’s focus on the Early Childhood Workforce and the I2I project is very exciting. From my perspective as a Director of a medium size early learning program for more than 30 years, this initiative has such promise.

I have experienced over time, increasing state regulations for both teacher qualifications and job expectations. As a nationally accredited (NAEYC) center since 1990, we have always had higher expectations for teachers. While meeting or exceeding accreditation standards has always been a choice, recently, regulatory requirements have made recruitment and retention more difficult.

preschool-cookingBeing able to find the person who is the right fit for an organization has always been tricky. Add onto that, finding someone who has all of the educational or training requirements met before they can begin in a classroom with children has exponentially increased the dilemma. This is exacerbated by working in a community where training is not readily available.

Once the right person is recruited, retaining becomes an issue especially when compensation parity with public school teachers is still an unattainable goal. I feel blessed to have some of my best teachers for 10-20 years. Still, we consistently lose good teachers to the public school system, or to less demanding jobs.
As an agency with just under 20 staff, we are constantly working to increase compensation and benefits. And while donations and grants help, these are most often not sustainable. So when we added health insurance and a retirement plan as a benefit for our staff, we had to pass that cost on to families as a tuition increase. We all know that Colorado is one of the most expensive states for child care. It is always a balancing act of compensating teachers fairly and honoring a family’s ability to pay for early childhood care and education.

snowy-winter-003It is said “when we know better, we do better.” Well, we know how critically important these early years are.  Yet we still depend upon families’ ability to pay, and teachers’ foregone wages to primarily fund our early childhood system. There needs to be other strong contributors at the table, in order for all of us to “do better” by our youngest. And we need to honor family choice with a mixed delivery system to meet various family needs.

Our state’s Workforce project efforts have a huge task in solving or even making a significant dent in this issue.  I am hopeful that we can move forward together.

Supporting a Strong Early Childhood Workforce in Colorado

by Kristina Mueller, Early Childhood Leadership Commission Director

kmuellereccpblogWe know that when children are cared for in stable, quality environments with supportive, well-trained educators, they are better able to reach their full potential and be prepared to succeed throughout their life.

Colorado’s professional development system for early childhood educators has soared over the past several years thanks to the work of the Colorado Department of Human Services – Office of Early Childhood and the Department of Education, along with all of our partners throughout Colorado.

However, many communities still lack an effective, consistent workforce in whom families can place their trust and with whom young children can thrive.

That’s why the state of Colorado is working together to develop and implement sustainable strategies to help recruit, retain, compensate, and support the early childhood professional workforce.

The Early Childhood Leadership Commission has prioritized “Elevating the Early Childhood Workforce” as one of its three main focus areas for the next several years.  Through the work of the EC Professional Development Advisory Working Group, we are using research, stakeholder input, and local and state expertise to create the State’s next generation EC Workforce and Professional Development Plan, which was originally created in 2010.

Taking this work further, Colorado is participating in the Incubation to Innovation (i2I) project with the National Academy of Medicine through an innovative and exciting public/private partnership including Early Milestones Colorado, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Colorado Department of Human Services, along with philanthropic partners Gary Community Investments and the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation. Over the next several years this group will develop sustainable and varied approaches to recruit, retain, compensate, and support a well-qualified workforce through research, planning, and pilots that will lead to the spread of practices and policies throughout the state.

More information on this work can be found on the website at http://coloradoecworkforce.org.

Once again, Colorado is leading the way by working to find sustainable, supportive methods to support our early childhood professionals and provide better environments for our children.  We look forward to working together to develop and implement this exciting work!

Supporting Family-Friendly Employers in Colorado

By David Shapiro & Giorgianna Venetis

davidepic
3acda11Employers play a critical role in the lives of their employees, after all, the average person in the United Sates spends 8.9 hours a day at work in comparison to 1.2 hours they spend caring for others.[1] Employees, in every stage of life, should feel supported in the workplace. It is for that reason that partners in Colorado are teaming up to better understand family-friendly workplace policies and practices.

EPIC (Executives Partnering to Invest in Children), Essentials for Childhood (EfC) and Health Links have formed a strategic alliance to lead Colorado’s conversation about family-friendly employers. In June 2016, this alliance launched two initiatives to understand and strengthen family-friendly employment practices:

  • The Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit highlights best practices and the components of a family-friendly workplace. We will continue to update the toolkit with relevant examples of corporate best practices as more and more employers are adding family-friendly policies.
  • The Family-Friendly Workplace Assessment assists employers to assess and evaluate their culture and benefits. Businesses of any size can benefit from utilizing the assessment. Upon completion, organizations receive a family-friendly score (FF+) and are directed to resources and coaching.

Business engagement has been a mainstay at EPIC since 2013 when the organization launched Colorado Business Reads, a corporate book drive that delivers books to children and families for summer reading while promoting the importance of language development and early literacy to employers. The success of the book drive led to EPIC’s Lunch & Learn Series and even further to EPIC leading Colorado’s discussion around family-friendly workplace culture.

Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to prevent child abuse and neglect and to assure all children reach their full potential. Essentials for Childhood (EfC) proposes strategies to promote relationships and environments that help children grow up to be healthy and productive citizens. Family-friendly employers are one of four key strategies in Colorado’s EfC Framework.

Healthy and safe employees are the key to success for any business – and for the overall economy. Health Links mission is to simplify how worksite health and safety get done. By doing so, Health Links helps build healthy, vibrant businesses and a stronger local economy. Health Links is a nonprofit initiative spearheaded by health and safety experts at the Center for Health, Work and Environment within the Colorado School of Public Health.

The early childhood sector can also benefit from incorporating family-friendly workplace policies and practices. We encourage you to take the Family-Friendly Assessment and utilize the resources and coaching that come along with it. Additionally, you can read more about what other organizations are doing on the Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit which is available on the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership website. Together we can work to reduce work-life stress and ensure that employees with young children feel supported.

[1] U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Time Use on Work Days, 2014.

Supporting Future Generations of Coloradans through Family Friendly Workplaces

By Hanna Nichols, The Civic Canopy

img_3036Parenting can be the most rewarding experience of one’s life, and it is also likely the most challenging. Having a career devoted to collaborative efforts supporting the needs of children and families, I know the powerful impact parents and caregivers have on children and the importance of working together to ensure families can thrive. But this desire and understanding became a much bigger reality when I became pregnant with my daughter Nora, born earlier this year. With 64 percent of children under the age of 6 with both parents in the workforce[i] and the United States being the only advanced country not to mandate any paid leave for new parents[ii], we can do more to ensure families are supported and children can thrive.

Even as someone armed with an array of resources and copious amounts of support through family, friends, and colleagues, navigating the world of pregnancy and raising a child is harder than I ever could have imagined. Receiving pre- and post-natal care, organizing leave from work, finding child care, and how it all plays into scheduling and finances adds a large burden to the everyday experience of caring for a newborn.

Every family deserves the ability to make the choices they need for themselves, but not all families have the opportunity of choice afforded to them. Many are overextended and struggle to make ends meet. I work in an incredibly supportive workplace that provided me with three months of leave, lactation accommodations, and a part-time position to return to so I can spend valuable time with my daughter. I have family nearby, which means I have the choice to use consistent Family, Friend, and Neighbor child care without a financial burden and have the comfort of knowing Nora gets to build strong relationships with family members who have tools and resources to ensure she receives nurturing experiences every day. The reality is that most families in Colorado are not in the same position with flexible work policies and child care options. In fact, 14 percent of Coloradans reported child care issues affected their employment in 2011-2012 [iii].

It’s exciting to see issues around family friendly workplace policies gain support nationwide, and to see early childhood partners working together to identify ways we can better support families in Colorado. To learn more about how you can get involved, take a look at the Family Friendly Workplace toolkit on the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership website, and make sure to keep an eye out for the next blog post later this month from partners with Essentials for Childhood and EPIC, highlighting how partners can use this toolkit and engage in supporting workplaces to meet the needs of families to create a more prosperous future for Colorado.

[i] U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-year estimates.

[ii] Livingston, G. Among 41 Nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave. (2016). Pew Research Center.

[iii] Child Trends analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014, reported in KIDS COUNT Data Center. Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Singing from the Same Songbook for Colorado’s Families and Children

by Stephanie Monahan, The Civic Canopy

stephaniemonahan-e1428360449187Achieving the vision of the Early Childhood Colorado Framework that all Colorado children are valued, healthy, and thriving is no small task and it can’t be done by any one individual or organization alone. In order to realize this important vision, we all must work together with and on behalf of children and families. Identifying shared priorities, ensuring all important voices are included at the table, and tracking progress over time. And Colorado is seeing real progress in so many areas but in particular around communications and messaging, with countless passionate people coming to the table to share their energy and work tirelessly to achieve this shared vision.

The power of many coming together to spark change has never been more evident for the Partnership than with our work on the Shared Message Platform. Focused on promoting child, family, and community resilience, the shared message bank includes messaging for early childhood stakeholders to use across the state in order to speak from a collective voice, engage more audiences and mobilize action to address early adversity and toxic stress to augment social norms and shift systems and change policy and investments. What makes it amazing to us is that these messages and the accompanying resources aren’t “owned” by any organization or entity, but rather, brought together by many stakeholders under the umbrella of the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership to develop a message bank that can be used freely by anyone and everyone across our state.

In addition to the message bank being available to everyone, it can be adapted to match the unique strengths and challenges of communities statewide. Rather than a script where everyone across our state is saying the same thing, it provides a “songbook,” so to speak, where we are all singing the same tune, but in tones that best meet our needs.

How are you using the message bank, and what wheels are turning in your head? We want to hear who is using it and how it’s been effective for you! Visit the Campaign Map on our website to see how others are using the Messaging Platform and share your own community’s work as well.

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