STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

Through the time, dedication and collective expertise of many community partners, the Collaborative has identified the following strategic investment opportunities.

IV

Strategy IV:

Preschool and Voluntary

Pre-Kindergarten

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V

Strategy V:

Community Engagement

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VI

Strategy VI:

Sustainability

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I

II

III

Strategy I:

Power of the Parent

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Strategy II:

Missing Link

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Strategy III:

Early Identification and

Intervention

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The six Strategies that guide KRC’s efforts were identified as the areas with the potential for the highest impact and importance of early childhood in Indian River County. KRC’s initiatives fall under those guiding strategies. 

Strategic Objectives

Through the time, dedication and collective expertise of many community partners, the Collaborative has identified the following strategic investment opportunities:

 

STRATEGY I: Power of the Parent

Our vision is for every parent, regardless of income or zip code, to have the knowledge and tools they need to raise healthy and productive people. We believe parents are a child’s first teacher, and they can raise smart babies through simple, every day interactions.

What we observed

Home visiting models focusing on targeted interventions have produced positive results. Outcomes show longer spacing of subsequent pregnancies, medical care coordination, parenting support and education, and opportunities for early identification of developmental issues. Educational outreach programs, including home visiting programs, have been emphasized as critical components to help families living in poverty achieve positive child outcomes. Ultimately, for family home visiting and support programs to be successful they must actively engage parents and must be sensitive to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the target populations they serve. In addition to promoting healthy development, home visiting programs need to connect parents with employment, strong social networks, and community resources to help them overcome these stressors. There are complicated social and political barriers that need to be tackled, while being sensitive to cultural norms. Access to services must be improved, sometimes taking services to the caregiver rather than asking them to travel to the services, as home visiting models do. Every parent could benefit from additional education, support, and home visits by parenting professionals. Those at highest risk stand to achieve the highest gains from participating in these services.

Current and Future Initiatives

There are several initiatives currently underway in Indian River County. Smart Baby Ambassadors, Parents As Teachers (PAT), PASE (Parents Advocating for Student Excellence), and parent engagement workshops and events are being incorporated into existing programs.

Priorities for future action include:

  • Develop block-by-block outreach opportunities to support and empower parents in culturally relevant ways.

  • Expand home visiting services and improve retention of current participants.

  • Develop a consistent and relevant communication plan around the importance of developmental milestones.

  • Implement and adapt Kindergarten Round Ups for children ages 0-5.

 

STRATEGY II: Missing Link

Missing Link

Our vision is for the link between newborn services and pre-K to be strong and supportive to ensure the services children currently receive as newborns carries through the toddler years, ensuring they arrive prepared for kindergarten.

There are already established systems in place for prenatal and newborn identification and intervention. However, we lose our connection with about 80 percent of these families when they leave the hospital and 90 percent by the end of the first year of life. Many do not connect to the early childhood system of services again until their child is three or four years old, for child care subsidy or VPK, and by that time many are already behind developmentally. Throughout each of our strategies, we will seek to develop ways to find and stay connected to parents and children to ensure they receive the tools and services necessary to prepare the children to enter school ready to succeed.

 

STRATEGY III: Early Identification and Intervention

Our vision is that the unique developmental abilities of every child are identified and access to appropriate resources and support for enrichment and/or intervention is provided to ensure readiness for success in kindergarten.

What we observed

We have learned early identification and intervention for any and all developmental delays is critical to a child’s success. The goal of early intervention is to prevent or mitigate risk factors.

Currently there are some ongoing opportunities to identify and intervene with children in need; however, families and agencies face significant barriers. For families, the issue is awareness and access. For agencies, the issue is limited funding, personnel, and resources with restrictive eligibility criteria. As a result, the services are fragmented, not well coordinated, and lack a comprehensive and consistent focus. This delivery system is not easily or readily accessible to families, difficult to navigate, and not well known throughout the community.

Current and Future Initiatives

Early Steps of the Treasure Coast can evaluate and provide intervention until age three when screening, evaluation, and services are provided through the SDIRC. Local home visiting programs also do screenings and can refer for additional services. The 211 Hotline has added the Help Me Grow program which can do developmental questionnaires over the phone, and Smart Babies will include milestone information in their outreach to parents.

Priorities for future action include:

  • Have to interact with health community – pediatricians and health centers.

  • Work with Early Steps to increase outreach and awareness of services.

  • Engage medical community to learn more about opportunities for screenings onsite.

  • Expand home visiting programs and parent coaching opportunities.

  • Develop broad scale outreach and awareness campaign to educate parents and
    community of developmental milestones.

 

STRATEGY IV: Preschool and Voluntary

Pre-Kindergarten

Our vision is for all children to have access to quality, affordable Preschool and VPK.

What we observed

It is estimated that approximately 95 percent of four and early five-year-olds in Indian River County are enrolled in some kind of prekindergarten. Seventy-five percent attend centers that accept Florida VPK funds, and 20 percent attend private centers that do not accept VPK funds.

 

About 40 percent of three-year-olds attend preschool. Most are attending licensed private centers (both accepting and not accepting School Readiness Program (SRP) funds). A child (0-3) whose parent earns less than 150 percent of the poverty level is eligible for SRP funding. However, these funds, which come from the Federal Government, are very limited and may only reach 15 percent (~200) of three-year-olds in Indian River County.

The cost to operate a quality center in Indian River County for three and four-year-olds is approximately $10,000 (annualized this would be $13,000) per student. In Indian River County, the average cost of private center providers as calculated by Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee (ELCIRMO) is $113 per week, which equates to $5,000 for a typical school year. With 14% of families in Indian River County living in poverty, and 30% living at a subsistence level it is clear parents need financial help to send their children to preschool. Federal SRP (~$3,300 per child) and State VPK ($2,419 per child) subsidies are not enough to pay for a quality program. Combine these low reimbursement rates with low state standards, as well as a high demand for certain age slots, and there is little incentive for providers to improve quality on their own. In other communities we visited, the Early Learning Coalitions served as the community leader and organizer for addressing issues of quality and access. That has not been the experience in Indian River County.

 

Research and longitudinal studies highlight that quality (defined by utilizing high quality teachers) provides the greatest impact. Of the numerous ways to address quality, the Collaborative feels that creating a Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), increased credentialing and professional development of teachers and childcare workers, and an expanded VPK school year will have the biggest impact.

Current and Future Initiatives

In Indian River County, the VPK classrooms at the School District of Indian River County and Childcare Resources (CCR) are considered local models for quality. CCR also provides professional development opportunities for child care providers throughout the community. In addition, Big Brothers Big Sisters has implemented a promising new program placing AmeriCorps volunteers in underperforming child care centers to provide additional support to help three- and four-year olds reach age appropriate reading milestones. The program also includes a formal parent support component. There are also summer VPK and Extension opportunities for struggling students. Priorities for future action include:

  • Convening community partners to discuss and develop components for a local Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).

  • Replicating the Learning Alliance Master Coach Model for Preschool and VPK teachers.

  • Professionalizing the preschool and VPK business in Indian River County by making a goal of all teachers having their CDA.

  • Developing a model to promote increased teacher credentialing with scholarship opportunities for the teachers and incentives for the center directors and owners.

  • Creating a plan to ensure trained preschool and VPK teachers are paid a living wage (on a sustained basis) that brings quality into the market and reduces the high turnover.

  • Extended school year available for all.

  • Developing an advocacy strategy at both the State and Local level.

 

STRATEGY V: Community Engagement

Our Vision is for people from all walks of life to understand that investments in early childhood developmental milestones (social/emotional development, physical health and well-being, cognitive skills, communication, and adaptive skills) are crucial, because a child’s education starts at pregnancy, not at 5 when they enter kindergarten. Individual and community prosperity will be enhanced when our children are able to achieve third grade reading proficiency, our Moonshot Moment Goal (http://www.moonshotmoment.org)

What we observed

It is not widely understood in Indian River County how important the milestones of early childhood development are to the prosperity and quality of life in Indian River County. Parents, as well as the general public, still struggle to make the connection the impacts of simple, every day activities (like good nutrition, talking, singing, playing) can have on a child’s long term success.

There are many models we referenced to develop effective, relevant engagement for parents from various racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. We also learned engaging the broader community, including business leaders and funders, is critical to the long term support and success of early childhood initiatives. The Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. (JCCI) serves as an excellent model for engagement at the county level.

A key learning from the parent education pilot programs is that on-going and consistent parent engagement requires targeted, culturally sensitive messaging, and neighbor-toneighbor delivery to better meet the needs of the target populations. A community advocate could be very helpful in connecting community members to programs and services that would benefit them.

Another communication strategy is the development of a community wide “I Care” communication campaign that leverages the power of the Moonshot Moment brand and existing non-profit and business communication efforts to help people tap into their own personal emotional connection to the first 2,000 days. This kind of messaging will educate the community about brain development and milestones in a sensitive, meaningful way.

Current and Future Initiatives

Smart Baby Ambassadors have begun in learning from the community and adapting their strategies to be more responsive and inclusive. They are currently working in two identified pockets of poverty: Gifford and Fellsmere. The Moonshot Moment developed the Literacy Leaders forum, which includes high-level community leaders from various sectors. The power of this collaborative has led to increased investments by individual philanthropists, local foundations, and local government.

Priorities for future action include:

  • Create an awareness campaign with a consistent message delivered in a culturally relevant way. Align our efforts with the current Moonshot Moment communications campaign.

  • Learn lessons from Smart Baby Ambassadors in Gifford and Fellsmere to expand to the other pockets poverty.

  • Identify and create champions to educate and engage the diverse target markets (business, parents, daycare providers, VPK providers, churches, etc.).

  • Create culturally relevant social media pathways such as a Facebook page based on child’s year of birth, age, or high school graduation year.

  • Establish annual Roundups, Festivals, and Celebrations for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten enrollment, as well as events for younger children. These annual events for every age can improve access to and awareness of resources for parents.

 

STRATEGY VI: Sustainability

The Collaborative envisions a system-wide transformation scaled in a measured way, first by building short-term infrastructure, followed by the development of flexible funding streams to stabilize current best practices and incubate new initiatives.

What we observed

The KRC grew from a small Coordinating Committee of about eight community leaders, into an effort that included more than 40 community, education and nonprofit representatives who dedicated themselves to finding new ways to ensure all IRC children are ready for kindergarten. While the Coordinating Committee continues to exist, all are volunteers with other full-time commitments. Because of this, the KRC leaders quickly learned it was important to hire a dedicated staff person to keep the process moving forward.

In addition, as we continued to convene key community leaders around issues impacting kindergarten readiness, we identified an important communication void Indian River County’s early learning sector in Indian River County. There is currently no dedicated infrastructure to rally people, organizations and resources to build an effective early childhood system. The result has created silos that block collaborative research, thinking and learning that will help advance the quality of services, care and support families need to help their children be successful.

Another area of observation included the reactive, rather than proactive, cycle of funding inherent in the non-profit culture. Due to the seasonal nature of our community, funding cycles overlap in a narrow timeframes and there is never a guarantee because most of the available grants are made by organized groups that raise private charitable dollars on an annual basis. Funding for multi-year programming is virtually nonexistent, which creates an additional burden for nonprofit providers to spend a large portion of their time chasing annual gifts.

Current and Future Initiatives

Through this strategic planning process, the KRC has taken the first step to building shortterm infrastructure for a better coordinated early childhood system. Thanks to dedicated funders who recognize the value of a minimal backbone organization to promote innovation and best practices. We have received funding commitments to begin building the backbone organization The initial funding which we received in July has enabled us to hire 2 part time people and the KRC plans to become a fully incorporated 501c3 dedicated to helping raise the level of resources needed for a successful early childhood system of care.

Relationship building will be a vital component in our efforts moving forward, including developing a stronger connection to the state-supported ELC to leverage resources and data.

 

A long-term goal, however, is a centralized infrastructure dedicated to early childhood. This includes developing systems that will allow organizations to share data and help inform the community about the value of current and new programs and practices; act as a convener to help facilitate better communication and coordination of services for pregnant women and families of children through age five; and explore and advocate for more permanent funding streams to allow the most effective early learning programs and services to thrive. These may include developing venture capital funding in partnership with innovative philanthropists or a dedicated Children’s Services Council, such as ones that exist throughout the State of Florida, which can provide permanent, reliable funding through an independent taxing authority.

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Collaborative

1555 Indian River Blvd, Suite B245
Vero Beach, FL 32960

Office: (772) 617-4350

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