No matter who we are, where we live, or what we do for a living, how likely we are to thrive depends a great deal on some fairly elemental skills and traits of character. Do we have the resiliency and flexibility to adapt to new challenges? Are we capable of analyzing problems and developing creative ways to address them? How well do we work collaboratively with others and make the most of the resources available to us? Nebraskans value these qualities in our families, neighbors, co-workers and civic leaders. We understand that they are rooted in the earliest years of life. And we know that the best way to cultivate them is through stimulating, supportive early care and learning experiences.
It stands to reason that these same qualities should be reflected in the systems and services we create to help parents encourage them in their children. For nearly 10 years, the Sixpence Early Learning Fund has worked with communities statewide to develop flexible, creative and efficient public-private collaborations to meet the unique developmental needs of their youngest, most vulnerable children. I’m proud to say that the latest round of Sixpence grants lives up to our core values by introducing a new and efficient way for communities to put more infants and toddlers at risk on the path to lifelong success.
6 Grants Awarded
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of informing six community collaborations located throughout the state that the Sixpence Board of Trustees had selected them to receive a new Sixpence Child Care Partnership grant award. This is the first time Sixpence funding has been formally available to partnerships between licensed child care providers and their local school districts. The new Sixpence grants work hand-in-hand with Step Up to Quality, Nebraska’s newly launched quality rating and improvement system, connecting providers with a wide range of resources to help them better meet the developmental needs of infants and toddlers at risk. Through professional development opportunities, technical assistance and other resources, the grant awards will help child care providers work more effectively with working parents to ensure their children are being cared for in developmentally positive environments during the critical first three years of life.
The grants, totaling approximately $1.3 million, will be awarded Sixpence Child Care partnerships in Falls City, Kearney, North Platte, Chadron, Sidney and Gering. The participating providers will serve nearly 600 infants and toddlers, more than half of whom face risk factors known to threaten their chances of arriving developmentally prepared to succeed in kindergarten.
Leveraging Local Resources
For several years, my colleagues and I have had the privilege of reviewing Sixpence grant applications from partnerships across the state. We are always struck by the research, strategic thinking and ingenuity these partnerships bring to the challenge of making the best use of their local resources. The applications for the new Child Care Partnership grants were no exception. Kearney, for example, will leverage the information and expertise concentrated at the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus to help guide selection of curriculum, provide additional technical assistance and represent the perspective of higher education in the advisory body that helps steer the partnership. Falls City’s proposal involves a strong focus on partner communications and an ongoing recruitment strategy to draw in all local providers, ensuring that services are being coordinated rather than duplicated. Chadron, Gering and Sidney chose to pursue funding as a consortium serving multiple Panhandle communities, a strategy that efficiently consolidates the administrative resources required by the grant, and more effectively supports opportunities for early childhood educators to reach their higher education and other professional development goals. North Platte is pursuing a robust family engagement strategy that has the potential to benefit not only families participating in Sixpence, but the community overall.
We are tremendously excited to see how these partnerships continue to develop, follow their progress in helping parents provide quality early care and learning experiences and inspire us to stay flexible and innovative in the way we move Sixpence forward in the years ahead. The more we build these qualities into the systems and supports for quality early learning in Nebraska like Sixpence and Step Up to Quality, the more successful we’ll be in cultivating them in our youngest children.
Amy Bornemeier, Sixpence Administrator
Vice President Early Childhood Programs
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation