Soar

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In order to reach new heights as an early childhood systems builder, it is essential to share your story with your community. Maximizing and sustaining funding are also key strategies to ensure your efforts Soar. This isn’t the end of the road, but rather another key step in the continuous process of building durable and equitable early childhood systems.

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Here is what you can expect to learn in this section:

Develop a communications plan to raise awareness and inform stakeholders about the importance of early childhood and related initiatives

Engage in advocacy to support improvements in policy, practices and investment

Understand finance mechanisms and integration of resources so that your community’s objectives and vision are sustained

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Maintaining ongoing communication is a critical piece in implementing and sustaining community partnerships and shared vision. Thoughtful communication can raise awareness and inform community members about the vision and mission of your work, the community need and the opportunity to secure strong outcomes for children.

Developing a strategic and comprehensive communications plan helps identify who you need to reach, what you want them to know and how you will let them know.

A communications plan can help answer key questions:

What is your communications goal?

Who are the audiences?

What are the key messages?

How should this be strategically timed to support your goal?

Who is responsible for creating and implementing a communications plan?

What methods will be used to serve your goal?

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Resource: Use this resource to plan strategic communications.

Another way to communicate clearly and consistently about your work is through a recognizable brand. A brand, like a name or logo, helps convey your purpose, values and focus and can become an easy-to-recognize message.

In Virginia, for example, we use “Ready” to describe our early childhood systems-building work. Whether it’s Ready Regions, Ready Network or a Ready Community, these efforts provide the infrastructure for a strong early childhood system supporting the readiness of young children. Are you “Ready” to join us?

Advocacy involves gathering, organizing and communicating support for an issue to create meaningful change. Being an advocate for policies and investments that strengthen opportunities for children and families is an essential component of building and sustaining an equitable and durable early childhood system.

Advocating for the issues that impact young children and families can occur at different levels:

Federal level

The federal government provides significant funding for early childhood including the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start/Early Head Start, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Early Childhood Special Education funding (IDEA Part B), and Early Intervention funding (IDEA Part C).

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Resource: Learn more about these important programs and the federal agencies who administer them here.

State level

The 140 members of the Senate of Virginia and the Virginia House of Delegates make up the Virginia General Assembly. These elected representatives have great influence on the funding levels and policies that impact young children and families. Officials from state agencies like the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Social Services also play a key role in administering early childhood programs like the Virginia Preschool Initiative and the Child Care Subsidy Program.

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Resource: Learn more about Virginia’s budget and legislative process here.

Local level

Local elected officials can include members of county boards of supervisors, city councils, and school boards. They make important funding and policy decisions for children and families in your community. Remember, school readiness happens locally!

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Resource: Learn more about local revenues and budget making here.

Community level

Building awareness and support with diverse members of your community can help inform and amplify your message. You never know where you might find your next early childhood champion.

Tips for effective advocacy

Multitask: Embed advocacy in your strategic plan, communications and partnerships

Numbers talk: Ground your conversation and messaging in data and evidence

Tell a story: Engage families in sharing their lived experiences

Seeing is believing: Invite elected officials to high-quality early childhood programs

Make it a team effort: Identify and cultivate champions who can boost your efforts and amplify your message. Consider ways to engage leaders who have the ability to influence decision makers, policies or practices.

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Resource: Ready to take action in your community? Take the first step by mapping out an advocacy plan.

Advocacy Opportunity: Virginia’s Bold Goal

The Virginia Promise Partnership brings together leading organizations and advocates to sustain focus, commitment and urgency to achieve the bold goal of ensuring all Virginia families have access to child care, regardless of income, by 2030. Are you ready to make the Promise? Learn how you can be part of this transformational effort by visiting Virginia Promise Partnership.

Understanding the most effective strategies and mechanisms to maximize and integrate financing across early childhood programs and services is critical to building and sustaining an equitable early childhood system. It is important for partnerships to grow their capacity to understand and integrate revenue streams and resources available to support school readiness.

Community leaders should understand how funding of early childhood, family, health, social and nutritional programs can be utilized to inform strategic financing plans for their system.

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Resource: This toolkit provides details about existing early childhood funding to help you move toward your community vision.

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How are your advocacy efforts informed by people directly impacted by the issues? In what ways are you enabling people with related lived experience to advocate for themselves and their communities?

Have you considered how integrated financing techniques can help address the disparate compensation between child care providers across sectors and racial and ethnic backgrounds?

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Resource: View this report to learn more about sector differences in the racial and ethnic composition of early educators.

Resource Recap

It’s often easier to see the big picture when you Soar above the ground. Take a moment to look back at the partnerships you’ve built as your community got Ready to focus on young children and Set with plans to guide your efforts. Building a strong and durable early childhood system requires continuous refinement for success.