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

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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.

The Partnership is blogging!

The Early Childhood Colorado Partnership works to bring together diverse voices in Colorado’s early childhood landscape. This new blog feature will serve as a platform to dive deep into our efforts and focus areas, including highlighting partner voices. Each month will include blog posts on a specific topic, starting with the Shared Message bank in October. Keep an eye out for a post by Stephanie Monahan from The Civic Canopy on Monday, October 31st.

If you want to share your story or know someone who should share their story via our blog, email [email protected]

2015 Annual Report

The Early Childhood Colorado Partnership (ECCP) was so successful in 2015, thanks to the over 600 members working diligently every day to ensure that all Colorado children are valued, healthy and thriving. Learn more about the accomplishments of the network and how you can continue to participate and support in this annual report.

The Raising of America Mini-Grant Report

Congratulations to the Partnership’s 15 The Raising of America Mini-Grantees on hosting over 25 successful screenings across the state including almost 1,000 people! These events and conversations were clearly influential in supporting dialogue around the needs of children and families in Colorado. This report includes highlights of successes, barriers, and recommendations for the Partnership and other partners promoting the documentary series.

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