On October 26, 125 community leaders gathered at First Baptist Church of Alexandria to learn about building a system for early care and education in Alexandria. While the focus of the event was on the early years, the information shared was eye-opening and quite timely for all who work with children and families in our City.
The morning started with Dr. Bethany Letiecq and Dr. Colleen Vesely sharing the findings of their community based participatory research project conducted by the George Mason University team. They identified community leaders, built trusted relationships, established a community advisory board (Amigas de la Communidad), established partnerships with other nonprofits and city agencies, and conducted thorough interviews to better understand the lived experiences of Latina immigrants in the Arlandria neighborhood. While the original focus of the study was related to issues around early care an education, they soon realized the major areas of importance to that community were child and family well-being, employment, housing, hunger, deportation, family separation, bullying, and gang violence. For more detailed information about the study and findings, click here.
The next session featured members of the Early Care & Education Work Group (ECEW) who shared the work being done to support the development and alignment of, and access to, an early care and education system that prepares young children to enter kindergarten. The ECEW discussed the Common Agenda which provides a strategic framework, priority activities and a set of indicators to measure progress for the systems building work. Highlights included the Glass Doors, QuALLity, and Seamless Support projects. The work of the Common Agenda is being shared with communities across the country. This team has been written about in various articles and journals for their collective impact work and on multiple occasions, cities and counties have looked at Alexandria’s Common Agenda as a vision for what they would like to see in their own communities. Click here for more information.
The final session was focused on forging connections among health and education providers. A survey of Alexandria-based providers serving the zero to three population was conducted to better understand needs and challenges faces by both providers and families, what connections exist between providers in the city and where the service gaps may be. The panel discussed findings from the survey and the George Mason University team shared insights based on their research. The audience was asked to respond to the findings and share their recommendations on next steps. The feedback is currently being reviewed by the Seamless Support team and will be shared in early 2017.
The information shared by the George Mason University team and the ECEW provided a greater awareness of the complexities facing individuals trying to access our human services and education systems and challenged all of us to think about the way we do our work and how we can better work together to serve the needs of everyone in our community.
For more on IMPACT Early Care & Education forum, click here.