Farm to Early Care and Education: The Parenting Place

In June of 2016 The Parenting Place, a Child Care Resource & Referral agency in La Crosse, WI, was awarded funding through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement Farm to Early Care and Education (Farm to ECE) practices with local child care programs in La Crosse County. The Parenting Place is working collaboratively on implementation with Community GroundWorks and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. Wisconsin is one of four states working with the Kellogg Foundation as part of a larger project on behalf of Farm to ECE aimed at children ages 0-5, to increase access to fresh and local food options for children in early care and education, and to build children and families’ knowledge about healthy eating in care and at home.

“Right now, our obesity rate is so high in children and they have lost the connection ofHGNS - Garden where their food comes from,” said Farm to Early Care & Education Program Coordinator Emily Doblar, adding that the accessibility and low cost of fast food means some children don’t even frequent grocery stores often. Farm to ECE is “really just giving them a sense of community and excitement about healthy food while educating and engaging families makes a huge impact.”

This project is intended to run for 2 years, and The Parenting Place has chosen five child care sites for initial implementation of this project through a detailed application process. Emily currently works with these five sites. In the second year of the project another five sites will be chosen through a similar application process.

Emily not only works closely with the five participating child care programs but with local farmers, Master Gardeners, greenhouses and trainers like Community Groundworks to build lasting connections for these programs to access fresh, local food and provide hands-on experiences for children in care, such as field trips to local farms or having a garden onsite.

“Relationships are an important part of this work in so many aspects,” explained Emily. “We learn from our grant partners, child care sites and from the local farmers and growers that are working together to make this program a success.”

Each child care program has completed a Farm to ECE self-assessment identifying potential for growth in areas including purchasing and serving fresh and local food, family engagement, onsite gardens, and hands-on learning. From these self-assessments, programs have worked with Emily to create a Farm to ECE Action Plan, identifying steps to take and materials they need to meet their Farm to ECE goals, including ways to sustain those changes after the project with The Parenting Place is completed. The concept for both the self-assessments and the Action Plans are loosely based on similar tools used in YoungStar, Wisconsin’s Child Care Quality Rating & Improvement System. The Parenting Place provides partial funding for programs to meet their goals in a sustainable manner, such as child-sized gardening implements, tools to prepare local produce, field trips to farms or farmer’s markets, resources to host family engagement events, or gardening workshops for child care providers.

cowsThe connections Emily is building between early educators and local farming/gardening experts, has helped to overcome some of the unique challenges that ECE programs face in building Farm to ECE into their daily routines. Unlike many WI K-12 schools, child care programs are far more varied in the number of children they have at one time, making it difficult to meet minimum ordering requirements for farms and other fresh food vendors. Some child care programs have very limited budgets to work with, are in areas where it may be unsafe to leave for field trips, or have very little green space or light exposure for a garden. Each program also has their own philosophy that guides the care of the children and may affect how they approach Farm to ECE implementation. Furthermore, there is the need to consider cultural diversity across programs and families and how the Farm to ECE approach might look a little different to meet the varied needs of family and program cultures. For instance, Emily is working with a Hmong preschool teacher familiar with Farm to ECE to engage with Hmong farmers and is working with Community Groundworks to revise the Farm to ECE materials and approach to be a better fit for this purpose. Emily has been able to work with each program from where they are starting and what they need, getting local farmers and other resources in place to support program efforts.

“A lot of [the farmers] are really excited,” said Emily, noting successes like one local beef farmer who is on the board of a Farmer’s Market and would like to offer a family night with a petting zoo. Other organic growers have offered to send e-mails every few weeks to program sites to let them know when food is available at a reduced cost. Several farmers are open to having programs out for field trips, and a few have even offered to bring learning opportunities from the farm onsite for programs that are unable to travel from their building. Participating providers are also enthusiastic and have started to meet and discuss ideas and resources amongst themselves, a collaboration they plan to continue.

The end goal of this 2-year project (which concludes in May of 2018) is to impact approximately 250 children through the selected 10 child care program sites, by creating lasting changes in how these children and child care programs approach and understand healthy, local eating. Programs will be working to have sustainability plans in place so that they can continue integrating Farm to ECE into their daily routine beyond this project. Lessons learned from this project and the methodology used can then serve as a model for other ECE sites nationally, and could be used to inform future regulations, quality rating criteria or accreditation standards.

This story was originally published in the SFTA Q2 2017 newsletter. Access the full newsletter here, or sign up to receive our quarterly newsletters.

Governor’s “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” Proposal Through the Lens of Early Childhood

 

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The WI Governor recently announced that a component of his “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” proposal, which is a part of his 2017-19 budget, integrates a focus on “strengthening families.” This includes two measures in particular, which could give early childhood a positive boost: (Below taken from the Governor’s initial press releases and Wisconsin Works for Everyone announcement).

“Eliminating the Child Care Cliff

  • For some families, the childcare subsidy program contains a large benefit cliff at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). At the cliff, a family may lose far more subsidies than they gain from working more hours or taking a raise. This discourages work.
  • Reforms would eliminate the cliff by establishing a phase-out structure. Instead of losing all subsidies at once, working families would see co-payments increased by $1 for every $3 that a family earns over the 200 FPL threshold until the family’s contribution reaches full cost of care. Under our reforms, taking a raise would always pay for the purposes of childcare subsidies.”

“Invest an additional $3.9 million into the Family Foundations Home Visiting (FFHV) program. The FFHV focuses on six areas:

  • Improved maternal and child health
  • Prevention of child injuries, child abuse, neglect and maltreatment
  • Increased school readiness and achievement
  • Reduced domestic violence
  • Improved family economic self-sufficiency
  • Greater coordination and referrals for other community resources and support”

Let’s break down what these measures mean for early childhood and for families, and what they look like in action.

The first measure, an effort to eliminate the “child care cliff” addresses the issue that some families have participating in WI Shares, which provides child care subsidies to help lower-income families pay for quality child care. The “child care cliff” refers to the effect that occurs when a family goes from being initially eligible, (the family’s gross monthly income must be equal to or less than 185% Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for their corresponding group/family size), until their monthly income reaches 200% FPL, making them ineligible for subsidies. This means that if a family receiving subsidies has an increase in income—say that a parent gets a raise for instance, and their income reaches that 200% FPL, in the current system this family would no longer qualify for child care subsidies and could not receive assistance in paying for child care. This is problematic since many families still struggle to pay for child care even after they have reached that threshold. The cost they take on for child care as a result of losing those subsidies may be far greater than their increase in income.

This sets up a system that could discourage parents from seeking salary raises and promotions, and puts them in the position of having to choose between receiving child care subsidies they need now, and working towards upward mobility in their jobs, which may lead to long-term, sustainable income in the future that will eventually empower them to disengage from child care assistance and other forms of assistance. In some cases, if families lose this subsidy it could mean they can no longer afford child care, which leaves them with no care for their children and could put their job in jeopardy if they must take time off work to find a solution. The proposed change would modify this cliff to be a more gradual slope, by incrementally increasing the portion parents pay towards child care ($1 for every $3 earned over 200% FPL) while gradually decreasing the amount that subsidies cover, instead of taking all of the subsidies away at once. This gives parents the opportunity to better their work position and pay without having to worry about losing their child care subsidies until their income allows them to meet the full cost of paying for child care. Allowing this continued accessibility to quality care for families is incredibly important given the positive impact that quality early care and education programs have been shown to have for our youngest children, providing a developmentally supportive environment during a time when their brain is most rapidly developing.

The second measure, to invest an additional $3.9 million into the Family Foundations Home Visiting (FFHV) program, is equally encouraging. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website, FFHV currently serves more than 1,000 families statewide. Like quality early care and education programs, FFHV has been shown to have highly positive effects on the life-long outcomes of young children and their families. The FFHV program specifically seeks improved outcomes in at-risk families in the six focus areas identified in the Governor’s proposal, and does so through evidence-based home visiting that involves working with parents and children in their home environments. FFHV programming supports pregnant women and parents of children from birth to age five in engaging with resources that empower them with the knowledge to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready to learn. The Governor’s own Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC) included home visiting in their recommendations for investment, noting that home visiting shows several promising outcomes including:

  • Reductions in the number of low-birth weight babies
  • Reductions in child abuse and neglect rates by 50 percent
  • Improvements in school achievement
  • Increased graduation rates
  • A return of up to $5.70 for every dollar invested in home visiting, due to reduced costs of child welfare, special education, grade retention, and juvenile justice.

(Above outcomes taken from ECAC report: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/files/ecac/2015-ecac-annrpt.pdf)

This increase in funding for FFHV is a positive step for at-risk children and families who benefit from this program, but it is important to keep in mind that this state level increase comes after a significant 20% cut in federal funding to WI home visiting last year, from over $12 million to $10.4 million. This proposed state level increase would fill in this funding gap with a little over the previous federal funds, but still more funding is needed to support and expand the FFHV program beyond where it is now. Zero to Three provides resources and tools you can use in helping policymakers and professionals understand the importance of investing in home visiting: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/series/home-visiting-supporting-parents-and-child-development.

Both of these measures were included in the Governor’s 2017-19 Budget proposal, which is currently going through the legislative budget process. Keep an eye out for the finalized budget that should be effective this year at the beginning of July, in line with the state budgetary cycle.

For further detail regarding these measures and the  Wisconsin Works for Everyone proposal, watch the 2017 Budget Address: https://walker.wi.gov/wiworking

(This article was originally published in the SFTA Q1 2017 Newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletter).

Supporting Refugee & Immigrant Families in Family Support and Early Education Services

“I am writing to ask for your help, please. I want to know if you know of some books so that I can explain to my children that their dad and I are immigrants. It is difficult at their age to understand what is happening now. My daughter suffered racism from a friend at school. I felt unable to explain and find the right words for her without her being afraid for us. I hope you can help me or guide me to where I can find this information and explain to my children what is happening.”

This mother’s request is not unique, and highlights an issue that we cannot ignore. Negative sentiment towards families who are refugees or have immigrated for other reasons to the United States has always persisted. As early childhood professionals, and in our own personal lives, this is a reality that many of us have seen and dealt with firsthand. These sentiments, or at least the public expression of them, seem to have risen due to recent policy changes affecting some of the children and families we serve, who came to the U.S. from another country. With the rise of these sentiments and the news and discussions that surround them, fear and worry are also on the rise for many children and families.

This fear—of harm, of deportation, or of not knowing how recent changes will affect their families—is on a level akin to trauma, and as such it is something that as early childhood professionals we simply cannot ignore if we are to deliver effective services. Politics completely aside, it is our job as early childhood professionals to create safe, supportive environments for all children and their families that we come across in our work. It is intrinsic to what we do every day, and to the foundation of our work. With that in mind, please use the following resources to guide you in supporting children and their families who have been most affected by recent policy changes.

RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Wisconsin Department of Children & Families (DCF)

Refugee Resources: This webpage offers Wisconsin-specific and national links to resources, programs and agencies supporting refugee children and families.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)

Trauma-Informed Care- Resources: These resources will help you to build a foundation of understanding and knowledge to implement trauma-informed care in your work.

DSC_1197National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Voices of Immigrant Parents in Preschool Settings: This article from Young Child discusses insight from the “Children Crossing Borders” project, where more than 100 immigrant parents in five US cities, shared their ideas, hopes and concerns for how their children’s early educators would interact and engage with their children.

What can you do to support and advocate for children, families and educators?: This blog post looks at some of the simple, concrete actions you can take to support and advocate for the children and families that you serve.

Exploration of the Status of Services for Immigrant Families in Early Childhood Education Programs: This report examines the services available to immigrant families in early education and offers guidelines for next steps, to create more supportive, inclusive early education environments.

The Gifts of the Stranger; Learning From Others’ Differences: This article from Young Child looks at how early educators can learn from the differences in the children and families in their care, and by viewing diversity as a strength, become more effective educators.

Teaching Tolerance (A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center)

Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff: This resource offers basic information to guide your understanding of federal law as it applies to educators sharing information about children and families who are immigrants, and the restrictions surrounding immigration raids, as well as what educators and communities can so to support affected students and families.

Family Preparedness Plan (Plan De Preparacion Familiar): This resource, available in English and Spanish, can be used with immigrant and refugee families so they can feel prepared, and have a plan in place for their family, should something unexpected occur with the parents’ or other family members’ immigration status.

Child Trends

Moving Beyond Trauma: Child Migrants and Refugees in the United States: This report offers a look at some of the traumas child migrants/refugees face, and provides recommendations for policy and practice to better support these children in dealing with this trauma.

Supporting refugee and immigrant children: This blog post provides ways that those supporting children can mitigate childhood trauma that may arise from issues surrounding refugee and immigrant children and their families. As a bonus, this post has an embedded podcast for more information, Episode 1: Three Angles on the Child Refugee Crisis.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)native_2

Refugee Trauma Web Page: This page contains multiple resources, tools and guidance for supporting those who deal with trauma related to being a refugee.

Child Welfare Information Gateway

Parental Resilience Web Page: This page offers ideas for supporting children and families to build resilience in the face of trauma and other difficulties.

Helping Immigrant Families Overcome Challenges: This page has a variety of issue-specific resources for working with immigrant children and their families.

Zero to Three

Building Resilience: This resource specifically explores supporting infants and toddlers facing adversity.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Know Your Rights: Check out these resources from the ACLU that cover a variety of topics relevant to immigrant and refugee families.

Latino Support Network

Key Resource Guide for The Latino Community, Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin
(Guía de Recursos Claves para la Comunidad Latina, Madison, Condado de Dane, Wisconsin):
This guide offers resources specific to those in Madison and/or Dane County, looking for supports and information regarding immigration and related issues.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Conozca Sus Derechos Guía sobre sus derechos en relación a contacto con oficiales de inmigración o la policía: This Spanish guide provides basic information about immigrant rights when confronted by immigration or law enforcement, as well as preparedness strategies for immigrant families.

Marquette University

Stress Related to Immigration Status in Students: A Brief Guide for Schools: This brief written by Marquette University staff looks at ways immigration can affect students in the classroom, and how staff can support those students and their families.

TRAINING & EVENTS

Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA)

YoungStar Annual Training Calendar (Updated Monthly): This regularly updated list of trainings, primarily focused on early educators, offers various trainings on topics such as resiliency, cultural competency and trauma-informed care, that would be helpful in supporting immigrant and refugee children and families.

Centro Hispano

Immigration Services: Visit or call Centro Hispano in Madison, Wisconsin regarding immigration related consultation, naturalization, permanent residence, DACA (Deferred Action) and family services.

Department of Public Instruction (DPI)

Trauma-Informed Contacts (Training): This list offers several contact options in Wisconsin for setting up or participating in a trauma-informed training.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Cultural Competency for Working with Immigrant Populations (Webinar): Webinar recording and transcript available.

Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health (WI-AIMH)

2017 Wisconsin Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Conference: This annual conference offers speakers and sessions promoting social and emotional development in everyday activities for infants, young children, and their families, as well as early intervention and treatment strategies. The 2017 conference will be held June 12-14, 2017 at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI.

These are only a few of many resources out there. Every child and family we serve is deserving of our unbiased support, compassion and understanding. Let us remember that at the core of how we approach each child, is our collective aim as early childhood professionals to meet them where they are at and support them and their family in whatever way we can to make their early, formative years the best that they can be.

(This article was originally published in the SFTA Q1 2017 Newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletter).

Hear from child care providers about their YoungStar experiences!

YoungStar is Wisconsin’s Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System, that Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) works to implement across the state. Hear from a few Wisconsin providers about the difference that YoungStar made in their child care programs.

 

Parents and family support professionals can visit the parent portion of the YoungStar site for more information on how families can use YoungStar to choose quality child care for their children. See more videos on the SFTA YouTube channel.

Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services

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Do you work with children and families? Having a better understanding of how trauma affects people of all ages can make your services more effective and engaging. Check out this Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services from the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, the Administration for Community Living, the Offices of the Assistant Secretary for Health and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at HHS. Additional resources can be found on the CDC website and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

CCR&R Innovations in Provider Training

Child Care Resource & Referral agencies (and SFTA members), 4C for Children and The Parenting Place were awarded a combined $10,000 by the SFTA Professional Development (PD) Department to create and implement innovative trainings for child care providers. The funding, made possible through the Department of Children and Families, was offered to increase the amount of PD opportunities for child care providers and to support training development at the CCR&R level.

“We wanted to draw on the expertise of trainers and TCs at CCR&Rs who are working closely with providers and are hearing what their needs are,” said Abbe Braun, SFTA Professional Development Manager.

The selected agencies were two of four CCR&R agencies that applied for funding back in June of 2016. After undergoing a review process their proposals were chosen and they were awarded the funding in August. Both are now in the process of getting their trainings up and running.

4C for Children is using their funding to develop a single 3 to 4-hour training, (which will teaching-cycle-picbe available to providers in both English and Spanish by December 2016), that delves deeper into The Teaching Cycle, breaking down its components for providers to implement in their child care programs. This training, Individual Learning: Planning Experiences and Documenting Development, is a continuation of The Teaching Cycle process as identified in the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards training. The Teaching Cycle (pictured) can be used as a framework for applying the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards in early care and education settings, to better support early development.

“The training will cover practice-related content that will help providers looking to implement individually-orientated learning,” said Terryl Wheelock, Early Head Start Coordinator at 4C for Children. “A variety of hands-on activities will help the participants in making connections between provider practices and the Teaching Cycle.”

The Parenting Place will use their funding for a series of three 1-hour workshops that focus on how school-age environments can effectively support children’s social emotional development. The idea behind these shorter trainings is that they can be incorporated during a staff meeting so that programs do not need to schedule additional time for PD.

“The goal of this training is to help after-school care providers set up their programs with the developmental needs of school-age children in mind,” explained Betsy Halama, Training Coordinator at The Parenting Place. “School-age care programs are unique in many ways; this training aims to support some of school age providers’ unique needs.”

Although these trainings are geared towards after-school programs, anyone serving school-age children could benefit from attending. This series will roll out in February of 2017.

Both the 4C for Children and The Parenting Place trainings will be made available to all WI CCR&Rs through a train the trainer, so that CCR&R staff have the tools to administer these trainings to providers statewide. Success of these trainings will be measured by the number of participants and participant feedback. Stay tuned to the SFTA website for future RFP opportunities from the SFTA PD Department for our core member agencies, to support innovation in provider training.

Learn more about our core members here.

This article was originally published in the SFTA Q4 2016 newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletters and other e-publications here.

Introducing the YoungStar Micro-Grant Program & the Latest News in Micro-Grants

micro-grant-program-staff
There are some new names and faces behind the YoungStar Micro-Grant team as Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) takes on the management of YoungStar micro-grants. Micro-Grant funding is available to programs that are participating in the YoungStar program and who have requested and are receiving technical assistance. These funds can be spent on materials, resources, and professional development opportunities that directly relate to a child care program’s Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). All purchase requests for micro-grants are processed and coordinated by the Micro-Grant Department: (*Reference the YoungStar regional map).

For general information questions about orders, timelines, or changes to a purchase plan:

For questions about returns or reimbursements:

Sarah Ross Berry, Micro-Grant Financial Specialist (sarah@supportingfamiliestogether.org).

For questions about policies and administration of the YoungStar Micro-Grant Program:

Sherri Underwood, Micro-Grant Manager (sherri@supportingfamiliestogether.org).

Assigning a specific Micro-Grant staff member to each YoungStar region for providers to contact has already noticeably decreased e-mails sent to the general micro-grant e-mail, showing providers are engaging more directly with the individuals serving their regions to obtain the information they need. This is not the only update the Micro-Grant Program has seen. Changes are being made to the YoungStar micro-grant process that you may have noticed if you are a provider receiving a micro-grant:

  • Reimbursements have gone out weekly to providers since SFTA took over the Micro-Grant Program in July of 2016. This allows providers to receive their money more quickly.
  • Programs will soon also be receiving their micro-grant materials faster, thanks to extra staff support that is being added to the micro-grant purchasing process (Chanel Ly).
  • The Micro-Grant Program is continuing to work to ensure that there is equal access to micro-grant materials and resources by working to translate materials into Spanish, and ensuring that Gloria is available to provide Spanish language support and Chanel is available to provide Hmong language support, as needed.
  • A focused effort is being made by the entire Micro-Grant Program to increase communications with Technical Consultants (TCs) regarding micro-grants. This means sharing micro-grant information on regular TC calls, including TCs on micro-grant e-mails to the providers they serve, weekly e-blasts to TCs and Micro-Grant staff taking more detailed notes regarding micro-grant interactions with providers that TCs can review. This gives providers the option to talk to their TC, who they know and trust, about their micro-grant.
  • Providers can access current micro-grant handbooks through their local YoungStar office by request (See the YoungStar Regional Map).
  • The Micro-Grant Program recently added a new vendor that providers can order discounted materials from, “S&S Worldwide,” to better meet the needs of school-age programs.

It is the Micro-Grant Program’s goal to make navigating the Micro-Grant Program simpler and more straight-forward for providers, and recent changes are a step in that direction. What all of this translates to out in the field is that child care programs are getting high quality materials and supports more quickly and efficiently to further their QIPs, which builds more developmentally supportive child care environments for children and their families. The Micro-Grant Program Staff are a crucial link in ensuring providers can use their micro-grants in a timely manner to support the quality of their programs and the children they serve.

Check out SFTA’s newest website addition, the Micro-Grant Program page for more information and resources on micro-grants.

This article was originally published in the SFTA Q4 2016 newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletters and other e-publications here.