Author: Jill West

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Project HOPE’s National Conference Held in Alabama

(Pictured L-R) Lee Johnson III, Director of State and National Cross-Agency Collaboration at the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education; Bernard Houston, Administrator for Childcare Services and Workforce Development at the Alabama Department of Human Resources; Dawn Owens, Tandem Early Education Consultant and Project HOPE diarist; Darryl Rock, National Program Director, Southern Christian Leadership Foundation

 

The APC was honored to host the Project HOPE National partner meeting in Montgomery October 15-17. The meeting brought in attendees from Project HOPE programs in Minnesota, California, and New Jersey. This 3-day conference allowed this multi-state, cross-systems team to work on building program capacity to advance shared actions within the early childhood systems, and to advance positive outcomes for children and families. Led by the BUILD Initiative, HOPE stands for Harnessing Opportunity for Positive, Equitable Early Childhood Development. Chosen through a competitive grant process, the Alabama team consists of members from the Alabama Partnership for Children, and departments of Early Childhood Education, Human Resources, Mental Health, Public Health, and Rehabilitation Services/Early Intervention, and the Alabama Medicaid Agency.

“Alabama was host to the October convening of Project HOPE. We had an amazing time sharing insights from beneficiary voices from as far west as California and as far north as Minnesota. Most salient of the lessons learned was the value of cross sector collaboration for innovative approaches to serving vulnerable populations.”

–Bernard Houston, Administrator for Childcare Services and Workforce Development-Alabama Department of Human Resources

This collaborative initiative aims to develop a targeted action plan for promoting early childhood systems that are explicitly and measurably equitable — and excellent for all children. This time for planning allows systems to have the capacity to understand differential impact, including the historical and current context of services, programs, policies, funding, and regulations. This work is critical to enable a better understanding of how to distribute state and federal resources in the service of achieving outcomes for young children and their families. Strategic action-steps were highlighted during the conference to practice using roles, responsibilities, and leadership’s authority and influence to implement actions that lead to a reduction in racial, economic, and geographic inequities and disparities.

In addition to the work sessions, the group also heard from guest speaker, Rachel Egboro, from The Whole Story who led a workshop on effective ways for state teams to tell a collective story about efforts taken to target inequities in their state.

The next national meeting will be held in Minnesota in March 2020.

Dr. Valda Montgomery, Civil Rights Activist, Historian, Author, and Professor; pictured with Darryl Rock, National Program Director, Southern Christian Leadership Foundation.

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Encouraged by CCDBG Funds Increase

The average cost of child care in many places in America exceeds the average family mortgage or in-state college tuition: that is outrageous. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the threshold for what is considered ‘affordable’ child care is no more than 7% of a family’s income.l In reality, today that percentage is often closer to 30%, which can completely change the economic well-being of a family. When families struggle, entire communities struggle.

In Alabama the annual cost for high-quality child care takes up from 10.4% to 13.1% of a family’s income. For a state with over 203,000 children under the age of six, with 69% of them in low-income households, the cost can force families to settle for cheap, low-quality and risky child care options so they can support their family financially. It is unacceptable for any family to have to choose between staying home to care for their child or being gainfully employed.

There is help for families through the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) subsidy program. But currently only 30% of eligible Alabama children are receiving this vital child care assistance. That amounts to about 97,950 unserved children at risk.2 That amounts to almost the entire population of Tuscaloosa.3

We are encouraged by Congress’ progress on improving child care quality and access by steadily increasing funding to the CCDBG, which helps to narrow this “child care gap” by providing the needed subsidy for more eligible children. The CCDBG received an historic $2.4 billion increase in 2018, which supports states’ advancement efforts in meeting families’ child care needs.

Alabama saw a 76.5% increase in discretionary CCDBG funds that helped to drive its grant to $93.9 million.4 This increase meant Alabama received $40.4 million more to go toward efforts like eliminating the child care waiting lists, increasing eligibility for low-income families, and providing assistance to serve 4,000 more children. Alabama is also using those additional dollars to ensure subsidy rates support high-quality care and to increase the quality of early childhood teachers through professional development, including those in faith-based programs.

The ask to Congress for 2020 is simple: an increase of $20 million to the CCDBG. Investing in the best possible care for all children not only supports healthy child development and school readiness, but it is a necessary support for working families in Alabama.

For those of us working every day promote the healthy development and education for all of Alabama’s youngest citizens, it’s a no-brainer: when children thrive, entire communities thrive. We encourage everyone to contact their Congressional delegates now and ask them to fight for this game-changing increase in CCDBG funds.

Join us in contact Senator Shelby to thank him and ask for his continued support.

Washington D.C. Office

Mailing Address:

304 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Telephone: (202) 224-5744

Link to Send Email:  <https://www.shelby.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/emailsenatorshelby&lt>

Montgomery Office

Mailing Address:

FMJ Federal Courthouse
15 Lee Street, Suite 208
Montgomery, AL 36104

Telephone: (334) 223-7303

Fax: (334) 223-7317

Gail Piggott is the executive director for the Alabama Partnership for Children (APC), a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. For more information, visit AlabamaPartnershipforChildren.org


1 When Child Care Costs More Than a Mortgage, by Ann Bahney, CNN Business, August 29, 2019.
The Business Case for Increasing Child Care: Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Funding, collaborative publication of Alabama Arise, Alabama Partnership for Children and VOICES for Alabama’s Children, July, 2019.
3 Alabama Cities by Population, Alabama Demographics published by Cubit, from the U.S. Census Bureau, annual estimates of the resident population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018.
4 Report: Enhanced child care funding makes life better for Alabama’s children and families, by Carol Gundlach, July 2, 2019, Safety Net, Economic Opportunity.

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Alabama Partnership for Children’s Strengthening Families Coordinator Joins National Health Advisory Team

Tish MacInnis will serve on the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s (CSSP’S) Early Relational Health Advisory Team

Tish MacInnis, the Strengthening Families program coordinator for the Alabama Partnership for Children, has joined the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s (CSSP’S) Early Relational Health Advisory Team. She will be among 12-15 national experts from across the fields of child health, infant mental health, communities, early childhood systems, policy, equity, parent networks and research.

“As the Strengthening Families State Coordinator, Tish has a rich experience in supporting parents and families, helping communities provide support that builds protective factors and resilience, and in working with multiple partners to improve the lives and developmental trajectories of babies in Alabama,” said Gail Piggott, APC executive director. “She will be an asset to this new Advisory Team, and we are glad that our agency and our partners will be connected in such an important way to this new national effort.”

According to CSSP, Early Relational Health (ERH) is a dynamic concept that has emerged in the last few years from leaders in pediatrics, public health, early childhood mental health, and child health policy.  ERH is defined as the complex interpersonal interactions between young children (birth – age 3) and their parents, extended family, and caregivers, which can have positive impact on a child’s healthy development.

The purpose of ERH is to elevate the vital importance of the earliest relational experiences and interactions between infants and their caregivers that build the foundations for health, learning, and social well-being.  It is multidimensional, building on interdisciplinary research from the fields of child development, social-emotional development, infant mental health, parent-infant observations, neurodevelopment, interpersonal neurobiology, resilience, and trauma.

“This is not about judging or training parenting, but rather recognizing, supporting and strengthening the emergent development of all early caregiver childhood relationships,” states David Willis, MD-Senior Fellow at CSSP. The key elements are:

  • maternal and family wellbeing;
  • positive, attuned and nurturing caregiver-child relationships;
  • a focus on resiliency in the face of trauma;
  • an explicit effort to advance equity, family engagement and social supports; and
  • a paradigm shift in early childhood to improve child and family health, development.

Beginning in September 2019, Ms. MacInnis and the ERH Advisory Team will have the opportunity to:

  • Explore together the concept of ERH and best practice, contribute to the Frameworks Study and co-develop future ERH initiatives
  • Advise CSSP on the development of a survey of ERH interest, current ERH activities and best practices across various relevant EC networks (i.e. child health, EC systems, place-based communities)
  • Advise Frameworks and CSSP on the interpretation and opportunities that emerge from the focus group discussions of the core concepts and discussions about ERH and possible activities to advance equity
  • Advise and contribute to the development of an ERH consensus agenda and strategic action plan
  • Advise CSSP on the dissemination and spread of ERH activities
  • Advise CSSP on ERH measurement development

The Center for the Study of Social Policy is a national, non-profit policy organization that connects community action, public system reform, and policy change to create a fair and just society in which all children and families thrive. It works to translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, support strong and inclusive communities, and advocate with and for all children and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. For more information, visit CSSP.org.

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. The APC’s Strengthening Families™ initiative is a research-based, cost-effective strategy to increase family stability, enhance child development, and reduce child abuse and neglect. It is supported by a grant from the Alabama Department of Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention.

For more information, visit AlabamaPartnershipforChildren.org.

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Grade-Level Reading Requirement in the Alabama Literacy Act

In an op-ed published May 21st, A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon wrote, “The bottom line is that children who cannot read on grade level by the fourth grade are unlikely to graduate.” Dixon wrote this in support of Alabama House Bill 388 — the Alabama Literacy Act — which would require that children not be promoted to the 4th grade if they have not met the 3rd-grade-level reading proficiency standards.

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) and its partners statewide agree that all children should be prepared for success in school and beyond, and they are working hard to elevate awareness around the importance of children developing early language and literacy skills; even before they are born. APC’s “Talk With Me Baby” and “Read Right From The Start” programs effectively promote and encourage the necessary early literacy activities for all children to develop healthy language and literacy skills during the first 5 years – the most critical time for their brain development.

Read more about the APC “Talk With Me Baby” and “Read Right From The Start” programs, and help share the vital resources they provide for parents, early child care professionals, home visitors, and teachers in 0-5 classrooms. It will take every person who engages with moms-to-be, families, babies and toddlers to impact the trajectory of every child’s life – reducing the number of children who would need to be held back in the 3rd grade.

Click here to read the op-ed published by Alabama Daily News.

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Alabama Partnership for Children Awarded $26,000 for New Books by Nonprofit “First Book”

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) was awarded $26,000 for new books that will expand the APC’s mission: to work in partnership with families and organizations to ensure that all Alabama children (birth to five) get everything they need to develop to their fullest potential.

“We want every child in Alabama to have access to a variety of age appropriate books, which will help give them a strong foundation for building emerging literacy skills,” said Gail Piggott, the APC executive director.

The APC applied for the grant in collaboration with Reach Out and Read-Alabama, the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, and the office of the Governor as an effort to help bolster the Alabama Campaign for Grade Level Reading. APC will use the funds in partnership with Reach Out and Read-Alabama to put books in the hands of children and their families in under-resourced communities.

“In launching the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, my mission was to promote literacy among at-risk children. That also means providing access to quality books,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “I’m proud that this First Book project brings us closer to reaching that goal.”

Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational success in the United States.1 Research indicates that just the presence of books in the home improves educational outcomes, yet low-income communities across the U.S. are plagued by vast ‘book deserts’ – with one community having only a single book per as many as 830 children.2  Additionally, members of the First Book Network, who exclusively serve children in need, have indicated that without First Book, the children they serve would have access to very few books, if any at all.3

“With this award, our pediatric healthcare providers will continue to prescribe new, high-quality books to the children we serve,” said Polly McClure, Reach Out and Read-Alabama  Statewide Coordinator. “Providing these books at checkups encourage parents to read together daily, which is essential in literacy and language development in their child.”

First Book, the non-profit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education for children in need, awarded the funds as part of its OMG Books Awards: Offering More Great Books to Spark Innovation. This national program will give more than $4.7 million in funding to distribute 1.5 million brand new books and eBooks to children living in low-income communities in 33 U.S. states and territories.

“We know that access to books and eBooks makes a significant difference in a child’s future success,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO, and cofounder. “Children do not thrive in deeply under-resourced environments, and too many of the schools and programs have far too little. This deprivation has long-term consequences for the children, their families, their communities and our nation. This could not be more urgent. With the OMG Books Awards, First Book, the Alabama Partnership for Children and Reach Out and Read-Alabama are investing not only in the future of the kids we’re reaching, but in the overall wellbeing of our nation.”

Awardees will use the funding to select books from the First Book Marketplace (www.fbmarketplace.com), First Book’s award-winning eCommerce platform, that best meet the needs of the children they serve.  Alabama was among 9 states in the first cycle of awards. Additional awards will be granted throughout 2019.

Eligible educators, librarians, child care providers, and others serving children in need can sign up to receive resources from First Book outside of OMG Books Awards at firstbook.org/join. For more information, please visit firstbook.org.


 1 Sikora, et al. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.10.003
2Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts.” Urban Education, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916654525
3First Book Member Survey, 2016

News Release Contacts:
Gail Piggott, Alabama Partnership for Children, 334-271-0304
Polly McClure, Reach Out and Read-Alabama, 205-223-0097
Dianna Tullier, AL Department of Early Childhood Education, 334-224-3171
Nick Moore, Education Policy Advisor to Governor Kay Ivey, 334-353-0705
Melanie Boyer, First Book, 202-639-0114, mboyer@firstbook.org


 

The Alabama Partnership for Children is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. For more information, visit SmartStartAlabama.org

Reach Out and Read-Alabama is a program of the Alabama Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics. The evidence-based Reach Out and Read program builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning in infancy. Contact Polly McClure for more information: visit www.roralabama.org, or email pmcclure@roralabama.org.

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education is the state home visiting lead agency that houses the First Teacher Home Visiting Program and First Class Pre-K. The evidence-based models of service delivery used focus on improving health outcomes for families and children, as well as better preparing both parents and children for entry into the education system. For more information, visit www.children.alabama.gov.

First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. Through sustainable, market-driven models, First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by making new, high-quality books and educational resources — including sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more — affordable to its member network of more than 400,000 registered educators who exclusively serve kids in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more learning materials than any other program of its kind: 175 million books and educational resources worth more than $1.5 billion, reaching more than 5 million children annually across the U.S. and Canada.   

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator that brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources.

For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter: @firstbook.

 

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Thanks for Joining Hands During Week of the Young Child

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) held its annual “Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child” event April 9th to raise awareness of the most important time of all children’s lives — the first five years.

“We take this time each year to thank every legislator for supporting and prioritizing programs that serve our youngest children,” said APC executive director, Gail Piggott. “They understand that the first five years of a child’s life are critical to ensuring their healthy development. Investing in strong families, early childhood health, and quality early learning programs are necessary to improve outcomes in Alabama.”

Week of the Young Child spotlights the need to make early childhood education and development a state priority. It also brings awareness to the programs and partnerships in Alabama that are vital to ensuring all children, their families, teachers, and child care providers, have access to every resource they need to be successful.

Child advocates and volunteers delivered to every state legislator packets, which contained handprints made and decorated by preschoolers from around the state. It also provided important information on several programs that serve children including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, Help Me Grow Alabama, T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, and Project LAUNCH.

The APC coordinates the annual Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child event in conjunction with the national Week of the Young Child which is designed to bring attention to the needs of young children ages birth to five and the critical importance of the first five years of life.

 

On March 27th, Governor Kay Ivey signed a proclamation making April 8 – 12, 2019, the Week of the Young Child in Alabama. The proclamation states that “high-quality early childhood services represent a worthy commitment to our children’s future and an investment in improved schools and a brighter future for Alabama.”

 

Child advocates from across the state volunteer each year for this Joining Hands event to help collect handprints that children have traced and decorated. APC staff and volunteers deliver them to the Alabama Legislative offices with the hope of meeting personally with the elected officials representing their districts.

Secretary Jeana Ross, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), kicked off the day by welcoming the event’s volunteers, and thanking them for spending their day focused on making early childhood education a priority for legislators. ADECE provided the meeting space for volunteers to gather and coordinate the deliveries.

“I look forward to this event every year, and I am so grateful to the volunteers that help bring attention to the needs of Alabama’s young children,” said Sec. Ross. “Seeing the children’s handprints go up on doors all over the State House is inspiring and encouraging. We thank our legislators for making support for the programs that promote the best possible start for children – during the most critical first five years of their lives – a high priority.”

Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director for the Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA), shared with the volunteers ASRA’s work to expand Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-k program statewide, and the progress that has been made thanks to their partners and the support of the Alabama Legislature.

“I proudly stand with the Alabama Partnership for Children in shining a light on the needs of young children in our state,” said Muhlendorf. “Alabama’s early childhood community is united in our desire to provide the high-quality care and support to children and their families beginning at birth. I was very pleased to hear from many lawmakers that they are supportive of a comprehensive early childhood vision and are prioritizing new funding to help expand Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program to more families as part of this commitment.”

Stephen Woerner, the executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, also shared support and information during the event, outlining VOICES legislative priorities that, if embraced by state leaders, will have a positive impact on services to Alabama’s children and families.

“VOICES for Alabama’s Children is delighted to support Week of the Young Child and the Alabama Partnership for Children,” said Woerner. “Our youngest Alabamians need powerful advocates and special consideration. Week of the Young Child is a tremendous opportunity to engage with legislators and decision makers to ensure that these most vulnerable and important residents are accounted for and considered in all decisions.”

The Week of the Young Child™ is an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.org) to spotlight early learning, young children, their teachers, families, and communities. 

The Alabama Partnership for Children is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. For more information, visit www.SmartStartAlabama.org

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Welcome to Our New Website!

The APC staff is very excited to share with you our new website! It’s been a long-time in the making!

As APC continues to expand and add new programs and services for young children and families, the website upgrade helps provide improved access to resources and information through a more user-friendly navigation. This new site is also mobile-friendly, allowing APC’s resources to be easily accessed from any mobile device.

The navigational menu is located on every page, and it links to all areas of the site. From this menu pages are organized to meet the common search areas for our programs, resources, and contact information. For example, a visitor can quickly find; the Alabama Blueprint for Zero to Five statewide strategy, links to connect with Help Me Grow resources, links to the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, links to resources for families, new program links for Early Language and Literacy, and much more.

Please browse around and send us your feedback; especially if you experience any problems finding what you need. We will continually work to improve and enhance your experience with our presence online.

Click here to start browsing from the homepage. 

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