Early childhood the focus of recent forum
The deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently joined 120 community leaders, child care providers and teachers, legislators, school superintendents, child advocates, parents, philanthropic leaders and concerned citizens at Central Connecticut State University to discuss early childhood, according to a statement.
Joan Lombardi, show with Elaine Zimmerman, spoke at a forum entitled “Healthy, Safe and Ready to Learn,” the statement said.
Three "Discovery" communities, Torrington, New Haven and New Britain, showcased their completed early childhood blueprints, the statement said.
"Discovery, an initiative of the Graustein Memorial Fund, aims to impact community change and policy reform that will create an early childhood system ensuring early learning success for all children," the statement said. "Discovery communities are creating comprehensive birth-to-eight local action plans. These plans enable communities to focus and measure their progress toward school success for every child."
The CT Early Childhood Alliance and Graustein Fund were hosts of the event.
The communities, of which nearly half of state’s children from birth to 17 live in, are among those identified by the state Department of Education as priority districts or other districts qualifying for school readiness funding, the statement said.
While New Haven faces its challenges, the Elm City presenter noted the community’s many blessings, the statement said.
Jennifer Heath, vice president for community leadership for United Way of Greater New Haven and co-chairwoman of the New Haven Early Childhood Council, spoke of the successes in the city, such as receiving grants to add 41 new spaces for infant and toddler care and education, a huge need in New Haven, but often inaccessible; the Child FIRST replication process to expand mental health services for children and a line item in the city budget they held onto in a tough budget year, the statement said.
“We were really pleased…we were able to hold that line item,” Heath said in the statement.
Heath credits the relationship that has been formed with the city and the credibility the early childhood council has gained as two of the reasons, the statement said. The early childhood council, she said, has authority over how those dollars are spent within that budget line item.
Lombardi applauded the communities for helping turn the tide for the state’s youngest citizens.
“What happens in the early years [impacts] health and learning,” Lombardi said in the statement.
Lombardi expressed the importance of creating common standards across programs, learning standards and data collection. She also noted the move toward a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for quality assurance and making sure school systems are ready for children.
Lombardi’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Elaine Zimmerman, executive director of the Commission on Children; Georgia Goldburn, of Hope for New Haven, Inc.; Marlo Greponne, director of planning and programs, Human Resources Agency of New Britain; Richard Sussman, director of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Brighter Futures Initiative and state Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, the co-chairman of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee, the statement said.
Editor's note: The information in this post was provided.