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.
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.
We often tie our efforts to the larger efforts happening in the community. Our community did a survey and found that one of the top priorities in our system is mental health. The partnership created a social emotional toolkit. The toolkit outlines what to say when speaking about social emotional development for providers, fliers about social emotional development, and handouts for parents to better support their child’s development. You can find the social emotional toolkit on the Boulder ABCD webpage: www.bouldercountyabcd.org
Organization: Colorado Department of Human Services
Location of Messaging: Statewide
In 2015, the Colorado Department of Human Services, in partnership with more than one hundred and fifty community partners throughout the state and Governor Hickenlooper, launched a multi-year Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Public Awareness Campaign to engage all Coloradans in the prevention of child abuse and promote the new Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437).
Coloradans think Child Abuse and Neglect is a big problem. Why do we need to raise awareness?
To build an evidence-based public awareness campaign, the Department conducted public opinion research in 2013 which serves as a baseline measurement for the effectiveness of the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Public Awareness Campaign. According to research, Coloradans were well aware child abuse and neglect is a problem, believing that one in four children experience abuse or neglect. More than half of Coloradans said they had personally encountered a child that they suspected was a victim of abuse or neglect and they said that they were very likely to report a litany of typical abuse and neglect situations.
However, perceptions were very different from reality. Prior to the launch of the campaign the general public – friends, neighbors, community members – were not reporting concerns. It was estimated that 75% of reports of child abuse and neglect in Colorado came from mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, 15% came from family members, and only 10% came from the general public.
The primary goal of the campaign is to encourage all Coloradans to play a role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect by reporting all concerns to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline and getting involved to help Colorado’s kids. This comprehensive effort includes shared messaging, grassroots outreach, media relations, billboards, television commercials, social media, and extensive toolkit materials to help campaign partners raise awareness. Every year, the campaign reaches over one million impressions, encouraging Coloradans to get involved and play a role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
This campaign website is intended to help you:
better understand the legal definition of child abuse and neglect in Colorado,
recognize the signs and behaviors associated with the various types of child abuse and neglect,
know what happens after you call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline,
learn how to prevent child abuse and neglect, and
help people who want to get involved connect with local organizations making a difference in Colorado communities.
Reach Out and Read Colorado is encouraging expectant moms to read aloud to their babies in utero as a pathway to improving literacy through the New Parent Empowerment Initiative. This pilot project is the first known program of its kind to introduce the concept of reading to baby during the prenatal period. Currently, Reach Out and Read Colorado programs, and others like it, target women and families with infants six months and older.
Empowering Expectant Mothers
Reach Out and Read Colorado recognizes that the prenatal period is a natural time of information gathering for expecting mothers. At first, targeting expectant mothers may seem out-of-scope with our mission of incorporating literacy into pediatric care. However, we also believe in finding innovative and thoughtful new ways to facilitate a pipeline for literacy learning. So, with the aim of creating a strong foundation for early literacy in mind, targeting patients during the prenatal period seemed to be a natural extension of the program.
During the development of our newest program, we identified a few potential drawbacks to waiting until after birth to introduce the concept of reading:
A new wave of programming was emphasizing “reading aloud starting from infancy,” yet books were not being provided to families by their health care providers until the age of six months. Will parents feel “behind the curve” if they haven’t been reading to baby?
Health check-ups in the first six months are typically packed with pressing information about the daily care of baby. Will the idea of reading to baby be diluted because of more immediate health and development concerns?
During the prenatal period, research has shown that any verbal communication with baby is important. By encouraging pregnant moms to talk, sing, and verbalize by reading street signs, menus, and more, moms can connect with baby during their everyday activities. By meeting parents where they are, rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all model, Reach Out and Read Colorado hopes to help forge connections that can be built upon once baby is born.
Targeting the Prenatal Period
Because the prenatal period is a natural time of information gathering for expectant mothers, Reach Out and Read Colorado believes that this is an ideal time to target new parents, as they are beginning to form their parental identities. The question we examined became: Would introducing reading during the prenatal period help families form new habits and traditions before the overwhelming first few months of baby’s life?
Creation of A Story About Reading
Reach Out and Read Colorado created an interactive storybook entitled A Story About Reading to start a conversation with mom and family about the importance of introducing baby to as many words as possible during the first years of life. The storybook itself serves as a tool for pregnant women to guide reading, talking and singing to their baby in utero, with the hope of developing a habit of positive interaction that will continue during the child’s early years. Using thoughtful language and illustrations, A Story About Reading aims to help expectant mothers feel confident, empowered, and well-prepared.
Using Metaphor to Explain Science
To demonstrate how a baby’s brain develops, A Story About Reading makes use of a well-known child’s toy (building blocks). The block tower base is equated to the 100 billion nerve cells a baby is born with and the story conveys how it’s up to parents to connect those nerve cells through human interaction and learning.
Actionable Tips Help Mom Immediately Connect with Baby
Early literacy interventions typically use messaging that equates a parent’s reading recommendation to time (e.g., read for 20 minutes each day) or instance (e.g., read every day). A Story About Reading centers on word count messaging as an easier, tangible measure with instant gratification. For example, while encouraging mom to read paragraphs of the story aloud to her growing baby, it follows with active encouragement through statements like “Way to go, you just read 140 words!” The storybook also focuses on speaking to baby in utero using everyday experiences, such as reading aloud street signs and menus or singing songs like I’m a Little Teapot. The text suggests singing this song once a day, every day for one year, while explaining to mom how this equates to exposing baby to 22,000 words.
Furthermore, the text aims to empower parents. Traditional early literacy messages instruct parents to read aloud to baby 20 minutes every day, but failure to accomplish this task may leave them feeling defeated. A Story About Reading refocuses mothers by using messaging that reminds them that being a mother can be hard, but “you’re enough” and “you are great.”
Active Encouragement to Reduce Stress and Create a Plan
Often, patient education neglects to take patient experiences into account when offering advice. A Story About Reading encourages its reader by identifying common, daily experiences as methods of connecting with baby. It acknowledges that being pregnant is hard work, and encourages mom to practice self-care. While some suggestions are provided, such as deep breathing or calling a friend, the storybook invites mom to participate by writing down things she can do for herself during pregnancy and beyond. It also encourages mom to create a plan about when she will talk, read, and sing to baby – during pregnancy and after baby’s birth – using daily activities as triggers (bath time, bedtime, before doctor’s appointments, etc.). And, because so much of the research was centered on women seeking ways of not feeling alone in the parenting journey, the storybook’s messaging also includes statements such as “it takes a village” and introduces ways new parents can connect with baby in group settings, such as story time at local libraries.
Expanding Distribution for Meaningful Interaction
Launched in April 2018, the New Parent Empowerment Initiative is currently being piloted by eight Front Range health care clinics and 22 Nurse-Family Partnership sites across Colorado. Sites were selected based on their commitment to the Reach Out and Read program model and their track record of results. A training module was provided to every person who will distribute the storybook.
The traditional Reach Out and Read Colorado program is prescribed by health care providers. However, the flexibility of the New Parent Empowerment Initiative allows for a wider, more diverse distribution network. This corresponds with the literature, where many women indicated a preference for receiving prenatal information in group settings. The storybook is being distributed during individual appointments and in prenatal group care settings, by social workers, midwives, care managers, and health care providers.
Created in Collaboration
The prenatal population is a new audience for Reach Out and Read Colorado, so we worked with existing services to ensure our program wasn’t duplicative. Our aim was to create a complimentary program that leveraged existing services to maximize impact and efficiency. Once this was determined, A Story About Reading went through an extensive review. Feedback was solicited from the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership’s Shared Messaging Team, the Nurse-Family Partnership Nurse Advisory Council, local health care providers, prenatal experts, community partners, and parents.
Measuring Program Success
Reach Out and Read Colorado has contracted with an external consulting company to measure and evaluate the program using a blended methodology of quantitative and qualitative research. The aim is to receive results and impact data as well as improvement suggestions from both the expectant mothers and the storybook distributors.
Quantitative methodologies will include telephone interviews, online surveys, and/or mailed surveys with families who received the storybook intervention. Qualitative methods such as professional phone interviews with health care professionals aim to provide in-depth information regarding impact and suggestions for improvement.
A full report on pilot measurement and evaluation is expected to be released December 2018.
Contact: Maureen Maycheco (email@example.com), Communications Director
Organization: Colorado Department of Human Services–Office of Early Childhood
Location of Messaging: Statewide
Children’s social-emotional development begins at birth with relationships and experiences they have right from the beginning. With secure and loving relationships and positive experiences, children develop a foundation of mental health that supports them throughout their lives. For more information about this important topic and to view helpful resources please go to earlychildhoodmentalhealthCO.org. The website contains a toolkit of materials including fact sheets, videos, posters, social media content, brochures and more to help professionals learn more about social-emotional development and early childhood mental health, offer tips on how to support healthy social-emotional development in early childhood programs and support communication and outreach to families. Materials are available in Spanish and English and can be customized for local organizations.
Organization: Estes Valley Investment in Child Success (EVICS)
Location of the Messaging: Estes Park, Colorado
The goal of this project was to increase community awareness of, and investment in, early childhood needs and services, and to build community support for a systemic approach to the provision of high-quality early childhood services.
EVICS developed a task force of community members who were trained to inundate the community with messages about the importance of strong child development and child care as the Estes Valley is experiencing issues for families trying to access quality, affordable care. The taskforce developed a PowerPoint slide deck with the support of the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership to help them in their effort to build public support. In addition, EVICS developed ads for local papers promoting their messages.
We used shared messaging in our holiday card to promote and celebrate the notion of shared prosperity. The card is intended for a range of audiences, so we used the message of shared prosperity to recognize all stakeholders and their contributions to our work in early childhood.