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Counties Unite for an All-Day Peer Exchange to Support the Well-being of Children

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On Thursday, July 11, 2019, national partners and a cohort of counties working on prenatal-to-three (PN-3) initiatives gathered in Clark County, Nevada, to exchange ideas and effective approaches for supporting the implementation of their local initiatives.  The counties who participated in the peer exchange include Boone County, Mo., Dauphin County, Pa., Pierce County, Wash., Ramsey County, Minn., Tarrant County, Texas, Washington County, Va. and Watauga County, N.C. who are part of a larger network called the National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT), funded through the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI), pursuing goals to improve kindergarten readiness by enhancing their early childhood programs, policies and systems.  This was the third time the cohort has met in-person since its launch and the peer exchange helped to make new connections, share local best practices, exchange ideas, discover new strategies and promote the innovative solutions necessary to sustain and build upon the work they started 18 months ago with an emphasis on exploring new approaches to build and maintain community momentum around their various activities.

Reflecting on her participation, Commissioner Janet Thompson from Boone County, Mo. shared, “As the teams came together in Clark County, it seemed we all realized how far we have come along this path, as we work toward advancing equity and improving the quality of services in our counties for the prenatal-to-three population.  Each team brought unique assets and resources to the table and was willing to share with all of the teams since we all had that common goal.  You could practically SEE illumination happening as connections between ideas and actions were made throughout the day.   I suspect that the collaboration that has begun during our Pritzker engagement will continue and will blossom.”

During the full-day meeting, key themes were focused specifically on opportunities to grow funding and financing, increase state and local coordination, tell effective stories and leverage data to drive policy and systems change. To kick off the day Denise Tanata, the Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance, outlined how Nevada is incorporating the community perspective into their planning process to establish a state policy agenda for young children from prenatal to age three. Nevada is including counties at the state policy making table to increase supports for young children at the local level.  Then, led by Ellesse Balli and Austin Heywood from the Sorenson Impact Center at the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, county-based teams worked together to develop an Ignite presentation.  This exercise helped to support counties in telling a compelling and impactful story to various audience types.  During the afternoon, Dr. Katie Paschall, a research scientist at Child Trends, highlighted how counties can use their data to drive and influence policy and systems change in their community.  Nancy Lee, PCI Fellow, in Ramsey County, Minn. shared examples and practical applications for counties - as they are using local data to inform the development of their unique universal family connection and referral model.  Then, Dr. Paschall led counties an interactive exercise to concrete action steps for counties to use their data to drive equity, messaging and a continuous quality improvement framework.  At the end of the day, the cohort engaged in facilitated and interactive group discussions sharing county-based funding and financing strategies to increase early childhood programs and services.  The participants learned more about how they can use alternative approaches, such as outcomes-based financing strategies, as presented by Maycomb Capital, and heard from Pierce County’s PCI Fellow and Help Me Grow Manager, Kate Ginn, who highlighted their work to build public will and secure state funding to support and scale its county-based Help Me Grow model.

Over the course of the next several months, each of the county teams will continue to lead and execute their local plans of action and report on shared outcomes.  Their projected impact could reach a combined total of 73,463 at-risk infants and toddlers by 2023, and together, advance the integration of local data systems, improve the coordination of early childhood programs and services, boost political will and engagement, increase quality child care, expand home visiting, increase the number of children receiving developmental screenings and referrals, increase the number of children with access to well-child visits, reduce the incidence of low birth weight and reduce incidence of abuse and neglect.

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