Thriving Children conference draws early childhood, community leaders from across the state

by | Sep 25, 2023

Thriving Children

Last week, First Five Nebraska joined the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Nebraska Departments of Education and Economic Development, Nebraska Economic Developers Association and a wide array of early childhood organizations and community groups in co-sponsoring the 2023 Thriving Children, Families and Communities Conference. The annual event, coordinated by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, attracted more than 500 attendees to Kearney’s Younes Conference Center, and featured comments from Governor Jim Pillen and Senator Deb Fisher.

First Five Nebraska led three breakout sessions during the day’s program.

Data and Policy Research Advisor Katie Bass (left) and Jen Goettemoeller Wendl

Cost-driven change: Nebraska child care cost model
FFN staff led three breakout sessions during the day. Data and Policy Research Advisor Katie Bass and consultant Jen Goettemoeller Wendl shared work on Nebraska’s child care cost model. Like most states, Nebraska uses the price parents pay to make decisions about child care subsidy reimbursement, in part because there hasn’t been a way to evaluate the true cost of care. However, with the new Nebraska cost model, developed with data gathered from early care and education professionals across the state, it’s now possible to determine what it costs to meet licensing requirements, how the cost varies by a child’s age, geographic location and program level, as well as additional costs related to increasing quality and workforce compensation. The cost model can inform setting subsidy and contracting rates, financial incentives and policy decisions.

Grassroots and Outreach Advisor Jodi-Renee Giron

Seeding change with grassroots advocacy
Jodi-Renee Giron, FFN’s Grassroots and Outreach Advisor, led a workshop on the art of advocacy and the need for credible, effective citizen advocacy in Nebraska to influence public policy. Participants looked at fundamental principles of advocacy, best and worst practices and how to create a movement for meaningful social change around early childhood and family issues. Participants left with valuable insights and tools to become effective early care and family advocates and citizen leaders.

(From left) Andrew Dunkley, Nebraska Farm Bureau; Derek Rusher, Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce; Jeremy Ekeler, Nebraska Catholic Conference; Policy Advisor Mitchell Clark

Power in numbers: Uniting stakeholders

The child care crisis universally affects communities across the state, and since the pandemic more organizations have taken notice and joined the discussion. Policy Advisor Mitchell Clark led a panel with policy representatives from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Catholic Conference and Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce who recognize that child care challenges don’t affect just providers and families. They discussed how their diverse constituencies are affected by the early care crisis and what they bring to the table on early childhood and education policy. They also explored possibilities for collaboration in the future.




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