The Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County (ECPAC) is striving to change the early childhood ecosystem for the better in all of its work–including in its communication. With support from an Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) communications mini-grant to support early childhood organizations interested in increasing the quality of their communications efforts, Lisa Jansen Thompson, executive director of ECPAC, needed to address the challenges of finding people who are interested in working in early care and education and supporting families unaware of the importance of quality care.
Blending and braiding funding along with ECLC support, ECPAC set out to co-design and test messaging that led to the following final messages for the Adams County community:
Messaging to Grow the Early Childhood Workforce
Center-Based Program 2 Looking for a job you can do anywhere?
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Messaging to Support Family Decision-Making Choosing High-Quality Care and Considering Preschool
ECLC High Quality Experiences
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Engaging Families from the Start
The Early Childhood Communications Efforts in Colorado report, which was endorsed by the ECLC, highlights the importance of working with parents and caregivers to create quality, engaging messages. ECPAC engaged parents and caregivers in every step of the message creation process, which helps organizations create messages that are culturally relevant, accessible and compelling.
Thompson provided a variety of ways for parents and caregivers to respond to and offer feedback on draft messages. She worked with parents and caregivers on an advisory council to draft the original messages, offered parents and caregivers the opportunity to complete a survey or participate in a focus group, and also analyzed data from sharing the messages and images on social media platforms like Facebook. For example, through this process ECPAC learned that 62% of families in Adams County were not aware of the quality rating of their child’s preschool or childcare program.
In order to ensure that ECPAC received feedback from families that are representative of the families they serve in Adams County, Thompson asked participants to complete a brief demographic survey in order to receive the gift card incentive that was funded by the mini grant funds. Thompson also worked with the Community Language Cooperative to translate messages and provide Spanish-speaking parents and caregivers the opportunity to provide feedback.
As Thompson shared, “families were clear they want messages that are simple and to the point.” With her advisory council of parents and caregivers, she initially drafted five separate messages that were complex. In the end, and after rounds of additional feedback from other parents, she simplified the messages so that the messages captured the attention of parents and caregivers and encouraged them to learn more.
For the founder of The Little Village, Rebecca Gartner, making her on-site early learning center at The Village Institute an inclusive multilingual space is not a luxury–it is a necessity. Thanks to a mini grant from Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) to support early childhood organizations in increasing the quality of their communications efforts she was able to make progress.
The Village Institute has supported single mother refugee families in Aurora since 2019, and, as explained on their website, its priority is to “ensure refugee and immigrant women and families are at the forefront of [the] program design, decision-making, and leadership.” One way that Gartner does this in her work is by incorporating dual-language development into a multicultural curriculum.
From the time she submitted the grant application, Gartner knew that her focus needed to be on language justice. Just Communities describes language justice as creating situations in which “all languages are valued equally and speakers of different languages benefit from listening to and sharing with one another.”
Gartner used mini grant funds to work toward language justice in her early learning center. She purchased books in 27 languages for her toddler and preschool classrooms and bought multicultural toys and decorations that represent different countries, cultures, ethnicities and abilities. Children see themselves represented in their classrooms and teachers now have the tools they need to promote dual language development. “You don’t need a diverse group of children to have a diversely represented classroom. It’s so important for children to see these other races represented in their toys, to see other languages represented in their books,” Gartner said.
Language Justice Outside the Classroom
Beyond incorporating multilingual books and multicultural toys and decorations in her classrooms, Gartner also translated enrollment forms and other notifications, like school closure notifications, into 10 other languages, which is a foundational way to improve communication with parents and caregivers.
In the Early Childhood Communications Efforts in Colorado report, which was endorsed by the ECLC, all three recommended strategies (noise reduction, quality and engagement) depend on being able to communicate with families in a language that they understand. By translating her enrollment forms, Gartner is enabling future refugee families who speak languages like Arabic, Farsi and Swahili to understand that there is a place for their child in her classroom. And once the child comes into her classroom, she has books and toys that will remind them of that fact each and every day.
Below is a list of books The Little Village has filled their classroom with:
Alicia’s Happy Day (Span/Eng PB) Animal ABC: Bilingue/Bilingual (PB) Babies, Babies (Spanish/English) Backpack Baby (Span/Eng) Beach Socks (Spanish/English) BW Opposites (Span/Eng) New The Cats of Mrs. Calamari (Spanish/English) Clean Up, Up, Up (Spanish/English) Fish to Feed, A (Spanish/English) Good Night, Little Sea Otter (Brd) Humbug Witch (Spanish/English) In The Dark Cave (Spanish/English) Jacob’s Little Sister (Spanish/English) Loving Me (Spanish/English) My Big Brother (Span/Eng PB) My First Words Outside (Span/Eng) Piggy in My Pocket (Span/Eng) Rosa’s Very Big Job (Spanish/English) Show Me How To Be A Friend (Spanish/English) Show Me How To Use The Potty (Spanish/English) Show Me How to Visit the Doctor (Spanish/English) Show Me How You Feel (Spanish/English) BW Animals to Count (Amharic/English) Carry Me (Amharic/English) Hip, Hop (Amharic/English) Where’s the Baby (Amharic/English) Are You My Baby? (Arabic/English) Eating the Rainbow (Arabic/English) My Face Book (Arabic/English) My First Words at Home (Arabic/English) What’s in My Garden? (Arabic/English) When Someone is Afraid (Arabic/English) Who Lives Here? Pets (Arabic/English) Animal Colors (Bengali/English) My Face Book (Bengali/Eng) OSC 1 0 Good Night, Little Sea Otter (Burmese/English) My Face Book (Burmese/English) My First Words at Home (Burmese/English)
When Michelle Simon reopened Clubhouse Academy, a child care center in Johnstown, CO, she knew that communication with parents and caregivers in her community would be important. She wants her center to “be noticed as an integral part of the community,” and that requires consistent, professional engagement with families. Thanks to a communications mini grant from Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) to support early childhood organizations in increasing the quality of their communications efforts, she was able to make progress on that goal.
Engaging Parents and Caregivers
One component of quality communication that Simon wanted to focus on was professionalism. She knew that communicating with parents and caregivers in a variety of formats is important, and she wanted to ensure that all of her materials look professional, both for families she is currently serving and also for families that may be interested in her services.
Mini grant funds helped Simon produce both printed and digital materials. She prints hard copies of parent fliers, handbooks, and newsletters, and having high-quality toner is important for making those printed materials appeal to parents. Mini grant funds also helped pay for the costs of her website. The mix of printed and digital materials is important because some parents and caregivers may prefer to look at information on a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet, while others may not feel comfortable accessing information digitally.
By creating a variety of ways for parents and caregivers to engage with information, Simon is illustrating an important component of one of the recommended strategies from the Early Childhood Communications Efforts in Colorado report: engagement. When parents and caregivers have the opportunity to participate in two-way, responsive communication, their engagement “generate[s] more positive outcomes for children’s cognitive and social development.”
Strengthening the Early Childhood Workforce
Simon knows that early childhood care can be a challenging field. She finds that working for an organization with professional communication materials can help create a sense of pride for her employees, but she also wanted to make sure her employees have everything they need to be successful.
She used part of her grant funds to incentivize her staff to complete e-learning courses about topics like child development and quality instruction that are offered through the Colorado Shines Professional Development Information System better known and PDIS. This additional professional development improves the quality of care that her center provides, and it can also lead to a sense of fulfillment for her employees, which is crucial for strengthening the early childhood workforce.
Local and state organizations are using the Communications Guidelines for Engaging Parents & Caregivers endorsed by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) to reach and connect with the parents and caregivers in their communities. In October 2021, the ECLC and Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate) partnered together to award four communications mini grants to support early childhood organizations in increasing the quality of their communications efforts. Assuring Better Child Health & Development, or “ABCD” as it is more well-known, was among the awardees. As a statewide nonprofit focused on improving the lives of Colorado children through early identification of developmental needs, ABCD communicates with a wide variety of pediatric and community partners. But, when the organization applied for a mini grant from the ECLC, they knew there was one group with whom they needed to prioritize improving communications- Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) child care providers – to ultimately reach parents and caregivers with their messages.
Finding the Right Messenger
FFN child care is provided by someone who is a relative, friend, neighbor or other community member who does not have to meet child care licensing requirements for a variety of reasons. “When providers have appropriate messages, they can support families by engaging in shared decision making which helps to improve family’s knowledge of resources and information,” shared Joanna Powers, the AmeriCorps VISTA housed within ABCD specializing in communication and marketing VISTA. In the Early Childhood Communications Efforts in Colorado checklist, one strategy that is central to communicating effectively with parents and caregivers is quality. According to the guidelines, enhanced communication training for trusted messengers that connect with parents and caregivers, improves quality, and this is precisely what ABCD is planning to achieve with FFN providers–trusted care providers who have the opportunity to share information with parents and caregivers about child development.
A Plan for Quality Communication
Once ABCD identified increased engagement with FFN providers as a need, they began a process of developing a communications plan by talking with staff, their partners in local communities and FFN providers themselves to truly meet these trusted messengers where they are at today, as well as researching what others in Colorado are trying to do to address the same challenge.
FFN providers make up the largest group of child care providers in the country.
FFN care is more often used by families of color and low-income families.
Most FFN child care providers are women, and over half of FFN providers across the U.S. are people of color.
In 2020, nearly one-fifth (19.1%) of FFN providers surveyed reported caring for a child with special needs.
Many FFN providers do not consider themselves child care providers or self-identify as FFN. They see themselves as a grandparent, a friend, or a neighbor helping someone in their community.
Now, ABCD has a clear strategy for what improved communications looks like for the organization and how their communications efforts will be measured along the way to achieve their organizational goals and communications objectives.
Funding isn’t necessarily all that is needed to improve communications. One unique aspect of ABCD’s approach to this work was that the organization gained increased capacity to improve communications by partnering with AmeriCorps VISTA. For more than two years the organization has housed a communication and marketing VISTA, spending around 85% of time focusing on communication efforts related to ABCD. So few organizations have communications resources, let alone dedicated staff to address marketing and communications challenges. This resource is one that is worth looking into if your organization is creating communications efforts such as mass messaging campaigns, marketing campaigns, or targeted service awareness that is directed toward parents and caregivers.
Clear Communications Channels
Throughout the course of the mini grant, Powers collaborated with Illuminate to think-through the various audiences and potential new and existing communications channels that the organization could access to reach FFN through trusted community providers, as well as statewide allied coalitions, associations and organizations. The resulting plan includes communicating messages to FFN providers through:
digital communications channels, like monthly emails and social media engagement on Facebook and LinkedIn
in person at HealthySteps® meetings, FFN Network meetings and various statewide meetings.
Pushing powerful messages like “one in 8 Colorado children are affected by some type of social, emotional or behavioral challenges or developmental delays. Unless they receive needed supports, they will struggle to reach their full potential,” will be made easier with the clear list of communications channels which ABCD now has and a content calendar which is ABCD’s next step toward improving communication with FFN providers.
Defining Measurements of Impact
To increase FFN engagement and quality in communication, ABCD identified metrics to measure the degree to which the work ABCD and various communications channels are effectively achieving two key objectives. This is an area where communicators often stumble. How do we measure our impact? To evaluate the effectiveness of each communication channel, ABCD identified key performance indicators associated with how they plan to use each avenue to reach their audiences. For example, on social media the metrics of success look at the number of impressions, engagement, people reached and growth in followers, in addition to the frequency with which they planned to post. While success of their emails are measured by open and click-through rates, website traffic and other conversions will also be looked at in a holistic way, alongside tactics like making sure space is created in meetings to share key messages. Of course, ABCD will also explore ways to support the evaluation of communication efforts through surveys and research to identify gaps in effective communication and messaging resources. This work will further identify the impact of the FFN Communications Plan and give additional guidance and resources to ABCD communications to demonstrate the impact of their work to potential FFN providers. Ultimately, through the efforts of this initial phase of the communications plan, the organization anticipates improved communication with FFN providers will positively impact approximately 600 children ages 0-5 through early identification of developmental needs.
The Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC), in collaboration with members of the ECLC Communications Subcommittee, developed Communications Guidelines for Engaging Parents & Caregivers to support early childhood professionals who are creating communications efforts such as mass messaging campaigns, marketing campaigns, or targeted service awareness that is directed toward parents and caregivers. ECLC and Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate) are excited to offer a unique mini grant opportunity up to $1,500 to improve local engagement efforts using these guidelines.
Grantees will also have access to optional pro bono strategic communications support from Illuminate &/or a mentor through the Strengthening Communication Network (SCN). TheSCN is a volunteer-led network of mentors with expertise in public relations and communications specific to the issues faced by organizations working to ensure that all children and families in Colorado are valued, healthy and thriving. Illuminate and other mentors within the Strengthening Communications Network will help you tackle challenges on a variety of topics including framing messaging, developing a communications plan, planning and sharing content, social media, email marketing, media coverage, and other communications needs.
Examples of organizations considered for funding:
Early childhood councils
Family resource centers
Local institutions who are viewed by community as trusted partners
Family, friend and neighbor (FFN) care providers
Licenced Child Care Providers
Our hope is that this mini grant will offer you or your organization added capacity to increase the quality of communication, including the use of effective content, enhanced communication training for trusted messengers that connect with parents and caregivers, and a heightened focus on effective tactics. This mini grant may even provide a little bit of extra support to create a greater emphasis on the two-way, responsive engagement of parents and caregivers that will generate more positive outcomes for children’s cognitive and social development.
Grant Applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on September 17, 2021.
While Americans agree that child abuse and neglect is unacceptable and are more likely than ever to consider child development an important policy issue, it can be difficult to build the public understanding and political will we need to effectively prevent, identify, and address childhood adversity. As communicators, we still encounter persistent dilemmas in deciding what to say, how to say it, and what to leave unsaid.
Join Dr. Julie Sweetland, senior advisor at the FrameWorks Institute, for a guided tour of this timely, powerful new guidance, Monday, March 22, at 12:00-1:30 PM MT, to be among the first to hear new recommendations on reframing childhood adversity from the FrameWorks Institute.
Acompañe a Start Small Think Big! y Small Business Majority para un taller virtual gratuito donde un equipo de marketing discutirá cómo los empresarios estadounidenses pueden promocionar su negocio de guardería durante esta crisis de salud pública. La prioridad de este taller es que los proveedores de cuidado conozcan las consideraciones claves que deben tener en cuenta al contratar su fuerza laboral. También identificaremos recursos útiles para apoyar a propietarios de empresas de cuidado infantil.
Los temas de discusión incluyen:
Actualizaciones de políticas para proveedores de cuidado infantil
Estrategias de mercadeo y negocio para guarderías
Programas de beneficios portátiles sin costo, Permiso Familiar Pagado y créditos fiscales FFCRA
Consejos y recursos gratuitos para cualquier propietario de una pequeña empresa de cuidado infantil
Seguirá una ronda de preguntas de 15 minutos con el abogado/ los abogados.
Join Start Small Think Big! and Small Business Majority for a free virtual workshop where a marketing team will discuss how entrepreneurs can market their child care business during a public health crisis. We will ensure providers are aware of key considerations when hiring their workforce and identify resources to support the small business owners of a child care enterprise.
Topics of discussion include:
Policy updates for childcare providers
Marketing strategies used by childcare providers
No-cost portable benefits programs, Paid Family Leave and FFCRA tax credits
Free tips and resources for any small business owner in childcare
A 15 minute question and answer period with marketing experts will follow.
As many in the early childhood community know, the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership (ECCP) worked intentionally to advance the shared goals within the Early Childhood Colorado Framework for many years. Developing and sustaining a comprehensive early childhood system with children and families at the center was no easy task, and no one individual, organization or agency can do it alone. Together, their collective efforts facilitated numerous engagements and tools that continue to support families and organizations today. However, with numerous organizations focused on early childhood health and education, the ECCP Steering Committee decided earlier this year to discontinue the work and create space for others to grow and thrive.
As the ECCP dissolved, Illuminate Colorado, a statewide 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, has stepped in to ensure that the Colorado Shared Message Bank and the community that ECCP supported for communicators focused on promoting research-based frames and messages proven to garner broad public support for issues connected to healthy early childhood development, the prevention of adversity, mitigation of toxic stress and promotion of resilience and strengthening families continues to exist and grow into the future.
The Colorado Shared Message Bank is a critical tool in the toolbox to aid people in shifting community norms, perceptions and policy toward embracing the importance of investing in children and strengthening families and communities. It is also product of a collaborative effort of many people trained to support partners around the state as they work to integrate the Shared Message Bank and communications best practices into their communications efforts with and on behalf of children and families. These mentors review partner materials and offer advice on framing to promote social change or engage Coloradans in services that strengthen families.
As additional frameworks to support maternal health and child maltreatment prevention have been created in Colorado and the community focused on improving communications practices begins to reconvene to share what is working and learn from one another, Colorado offers a message of gratitude to the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership for providing the space and conditions for diverse partners across the comprehensive early childhood system – encompassing health, mental health, family support and early learning – to come together to identify common results, share best and innovative practices, and implement strategies to improve system effectiveness for and with child and family well-being.
Flyer (NEW!), Graphics, and Expanded Photo Gallery
Sample Email and Other Language to promote the fun and friendly photo activity called #SafeSleepSnap.
How to Handle Unsafe Sleep Images and
Before-You-Post Checklist (NEW!) and our favorite element new this year – Weekly themes!
Each week in October 2020, the national Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month campaign, encourages a focused message on one action to help reduce the risk of SIDS and promote safe sleep. Coloradans are encouraged to participate in each weekly theme to help spread the word about key safe infant sleep practices.
Always place baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Week 2 (October 11–17)
Use a firm and flat mattress in a safety-approved crib,* free of soft and loose bedding, such as bumpers, stuffed animals and blankets.
*A crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that follows the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is recommended. For information on crib safety, visit https://www.cpsc.gov or contact CPSC at 1-800-638-2772.
Week 3 (October 18–24)
Share your room with baby. Keep baby close to your bed but on a separate surface, for example, in their own crib or bassinet.