By Courtney Ricci, PhD
This year marks the close of The Trust’s Early Childhood Health Integration grant strategy. Since 2009, The Trust has supported Colorado’s Early Childhood Councils to better integrate health into their local early childhood systems. These community-based collaboratives work to create coordinated, local systems that meet the needs of children and families by connecting them to important resources and services.
Throughout Colorado, the councils work together under the vision of the Early Childhood Colorado Framework to ensure that “all children are valued, healthy and thriving.” They do this by pulling together key community partners across the domains of 1) early learning, 2) family support and parent education, 3) social, emotional and mental health and 4) health. While councils have historically worked to support early learning, health was a new but important area of focus for many, and one that required new perspectives and partners. The Trust’s funding, released shortly after the Framework in 2008, gave planning grants to councils throughout the state to create strategies for integrating the health domains into their work. Twenty-five councils were then awarded three-year grants to implement the plans, and eight councils across the state were funded for an additional two years to continue their innovative health integration work.
There have been too many accomplishments over the past five-plus years to list here, but most notable has been the shift in systems thinking that I have seen from these councils over time. They recognize the complex interplay between components of their local systems that must work together to meet the needs of the young child, and have pushed to break down silos that prevent this from happening. Taking this holistic view of the early childhood years means that health has truly become part of what the councils do, every day, to assure that the needs of the whole child are met.
This is challenging, often thankless work. Not only do councils work “behind the scenes” to build effective systems, but their focus on the early childhood years is the equivalent of working in a prevention field—where success means that something didn’t happen. Because a child received early intervention services that they needed, later in life, they might not drop out of school; might not end up in the juvenile justice system; or might not draw on welfare services.
Demonstrating the success of early childhood interventions ranges from challenging to nearly impossible at times, but intervening during these critical years has important long-term societal impacts. Early experiences set the stage for lifelong individual success, and if we don’t get it right early, it is harder, more expensive and less effective later.
We congratulate these councils on their many accomplishments over the past five years, and on the important work that they do every day. Here at The Trust, we are only able to do the good work that we do because of the good work that our grantees do. Although this funding is complete, the councils will continue to serve as dedicated and committed champions for young children and families in Colorado.
To learn more about the eight councils and how they are improving health in Colorado, watch these videos.
- Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council
- Denver’s Early Childhood Council
- Early Childhood Council of La Plata County
- Early Childhood Council of Larimer County
- Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County
- Rural Resort Region
- Mesa County Partnership for Children and Families
- Montelores Early Childhood Council
To view a compilation of all the videos, click here.