Reflections on the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative

Editor’s Note: Fight For Children has been a part of the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative for the past four years. Skip McKoy, Fight for Children’s Director of Programmatic Initiatives, shares his reflections in this guest blog post.

Fight For Children, SkipAt the end of June, Fight For Children will transition off of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative to focus our attention on Joe’s Champs, our early childhood, school-based education program. We developed Joe’s Champs to provide principals, assistant principals, and teachers with professional development and mentorship opportunities focused specifically on students ages 3-4, a period sometimes overlooked by educators but vitally important to a child’s academic and social development. Without the extensive discussions with funders of the early childhood space—including those we met through the Collaborative—we would not be as confident in the success of Joe’s Champs as we are today.

When Fight For Children joined the Collaborative in 2010, we were primarily a grant-making organization.  The Collaborative provided us with an opportunity to engage with and learn from other local organizations interested in supporting early childhood development. As Fight For Children shifts from a grant-maker to an organization that designs and runs its own programs, the Collaborative remains a valuable resource for us, other local funders, and early childhood education leaders.

As I reflect back on our four years as a Collaborative member, I am grateful for the many opportunities and lessons learned. Here are a few that stand out to me:

  1. On the Collaborative, Fight For Children has had the opportunity to join forces with other organizations to leverage our impact on local children. For example, in 2013, as a member of the Collaborative we contributed to the support of ten early childhood education projects, in addition to the projects we support on our own.
  2. Fight For Children has a small staff that goes into the community throughout the year to research potential organizations with which to partner. Being part of the Collaborative exposed us to projects otherwise unfamiliar to us, given our limited resources.
  3. As a non-profit focused on children within DC City limits, Fight For Children staff do not readily have opportunities to learn about innovative approaches occurring elsewhere in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region. The Collaborative has facilitated our experiences with early childhood education and development projects outside of DC, which we were then able to reference during our development of Joe’s Champs.

Any of these reasons alone would be a powerful incentive for an early childhood funder to join the Collaborative. But, there is another value-add to being part of the Collaborative: the group of funders*represented at the table are all well-respected and thoughtful. They represent a cross-section of foundations and corporations dedicated to improving early childhood care and education in this region. Having different organizations bring to light the multiple sections of the proverbial early childhood education elephant provides a better sense of the big picture, allowing each of us to be more thoughtful change agents and resulting in an even greater, systemic impact.

* The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative currently includes: The Boeing Company, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, Fight for Children, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, PNC Foundation, Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation.

Message From the Board Chair: Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat Named as The Women’s Foundation President and CEO

portrait-800We are pleased to announce that the Board unanimously appointed Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat as President and CEO of The Women’s Foundation, effective immediately. She succeeds Nicky Goren, who has made a positive and lasting impact on our organization.

Jennifer has been an invaluable asset to the Foundation over the last six years, and we are thrilled that she has agreed to guide us on our mission to drive change and provide economic security to women and girls in the DC region.

Jennifer brings institutional knowledge, reputation, and personal and professional experience that will not only allow us to sustain momentum, but thrive. Prior to joining The Women’s Foundation, Jennifer served as the Director of Public Policy at the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. Before that, she spent 10 years at Women’s Policy, Inc., departing as the Director of Policy Research and Publications.

She also is an authentic choice, informed by a personal story that gives her a unique perspective on the needs of economically vulnerable women and girls. Jennifer walked the same path as many of the women we serve, growing up in a small town where her parents were laid off on the same day. She experienced first-hand the challenges of achieving economic security, but gained inspiration and strength as she saw and leveraged the opportunities provided by her mother who supported the family through various jobs.

Carolyn-Berkowitz-Jennifer-Lockwood-Shabat-blogJennifer sees great potential for The Women’s Foundation to build on its impactful work by creating a platform to amplify the voices of women and girls. She sees opportunity to leverage the organization’s leadership, and an environment in which women’s issues are top-of-mind, to bring to life common threads of issues impacting women and girls here, across the country and even around the world. She believes that by raising our collective voice, we can ignite a ripple effect of support.

Thank you for your support of The Women’s Foundation. I look forward to a bright future as we continue to invest in women and girls in our community to ensure that they have the resources they need to thrive.

Click here to read the message we shared with the media today. And click here to learn more about Jennifer.

Labor Force Participation by Mothers in the Washington Region

For Mother’s Day, we’ve taken a look at the labor force participation of mothers in the Washington region. With over 72 percent of mothers with young children participating in our region’s workforce, families are increasingly relying on the wages of women in order to achieve economic security. It’s never been more important that workplace policies reflect the realities of women’s lives. Flexible schedules, family leave policies, paid sick days and higher wages are critical to ensuring every mother in the region’s workforce has the chance to succeed.

Mother's Workforce Participation (4) (1)

Find this data interesting? Leave us your comments and questions!

 

Advocacy for Early Learning in Northern VA: A Report from the Field

Emily Griffey is a Senior Policy Analyst for Voices for Virginia’s Children, a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner.

Much like your typical preschool classroom, activity, opportunity and challenge were in the air in Fairfax the week of April 7-11th.  That week happened to be the Week of the Young Child and public hearings on the Fairfax County budget, creating a perfect opportunity to rally early education supporters to demonstrate their impact on school readiness and ask for increased local support. Adding to the opportunities and challenges this year, Fairfax is faced with numerous requests for funding from different stakeholders groups and budget uncertainty. With proposed local budget increases for early learning opportunities on the table – a $714,000 package for additional mentors and professional development for child care providers and an expansion of the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) – advocates were needed to go on the record, along with these many other groups asking for increases, so that early learning would be included in the final budget.

Voices for Virginia’s Children is fortunate to have the opportunity to weigh in on early learning opportunities for Northern VA children through a grant from the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative. While it may seem that Northern VA is one of the more affluent parts of Virginia, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax are home to 6,000 children under age 5 living in poverty (2012 ACS 1 year estimate). And Virginia’s early learning resources lag behind those provided across the metro area.

Calling the campaign #SchoolReadiness4Nova, Voices activated a network of local community leaders, early childhood program providers, and advocates to participate in a letter writing campaign, rally and public testimony to support the funding increase for early learning. (A report by Mission: Readiness, another  Grantee Partner of the Collaborative, notes that Fairfax falls short of the potential of VPI.)

Voices VA Children 2

Wednesday, April 9th became a Day of Action for Early Learning in Fairfax and kicked off with a rally at one of Fairfax’s 4-star rated early learning centers and a community-based VPI provider, Main Street Child Development Center. Details and video from the rally are available on Voices’ website and Facebook page.

Speakers urged the Board of Supervisors to include the proposed $714,000 investment for school readiness in the final county budget, and to look to the coming years with a plan for significantly expanding VPI participation.

WTOP news radio covered the rally and interviewed Carol Lieske, Director of Main Street Child Development Center and Mary Beth Testa, Voices’ local policy consultant. A clip of the interview ran throughout the afternoon commute that day, and an article was published on the WTOP website.

Advocates proceeded to the public hearing on the budget that afternoon, delivering art from children from Reston and Falls Church to the members of the Board of Supervisors.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is now in the final days of decision-making on the county budget. We think that the flurry of activity during the Week of the Young Child will help to make the case that strengthening school readiness opportunities are essential services in the Fairfax local budget.

You can take action now to show local leaders in Fairfax that early education matters; for more information on #SchoolReadinessforNoVa and how you can participate, visit Voices for Virginia’s Children.

 

Our Visit to Preschool

As an adult, I have little memory of my preschool years.  What I do “remember” is mostly built upon the stories and photos that my parents share with me: the artwork I made; the school play about Thanksgiving; the bright green cast I wore on my arm in my very first school photos (I have been a klutz most of my life…).

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And although I can’t recall the exact lessons learned during my earliest schooling, research shows these years had a tremendous impact on my life. In addition to forming the basis for literacy and numeracy, preschool is also likely where I learned how to behave in a classroom – how to raise my hand, follow instructions, and interact with my peers.  Research shows that high-quality early education builds the academic, social and emotional foundation for success in K-12, college and the workforce.

Last week, The Women’s Foundation and our Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative hosted a tour and conversation with AppleTree at their early learning public charter school site in the Shipley neighborhood of Anacostia, in Southeast DC.  We visited classrooms of three and four year olds, going about their morning activities.  In one class, students were “excavating” dinosaur bones, painting and drawing dinosaurs, or working with dinosaur vocabulary words.

A recent unit on dinosaurs and paleontology has been building up to a field trip to the Museum of Natural History.  AppleTree  uses “play to learn” principles as part of their Every Child Ready curriculum that’s deployed in all of its classrooms.  Every Child Ready is a comprehensive instructional model that drives how to teach, what to teach, and how to tell it’s being done to increase teacher effectiveness and children’s learning in early childhood classrooms.

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The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative has invested for several years in AppleTree’s professional development for early childhood teachers, helping to disseminate the Every Child Ready curriculum.  This year, the Collaborative is supporting the organization’s local communications and advocacy efforts, through which AppleTree aims to define quality early education in terms of child outcomes that result in school readiness.

On the occasion of the Week of Young Child, our visit to AppleTree last week was a great reminder of all the ways that individually and collectively our Grantee Partners are striving to provide high-quality early education for our region’s youngest residents.  Whether these children remember learning about dinosaurs – or are reminded later in life by photos and craft projects – these earliest experiences will have a lasting impact on each of their lives, and the vitality of our community as a whole.

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Established in 2008 as a multi-year, multi-million dollar collective funding effort, the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative brings together corporate funders and local and national foundations, with a mission to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education in the Washington region.  Click HERE to learn more.

Funders Work Together to Influence Local Early Childhood System

By Stacey Collins, PNC Foundation and Karen FitzGerald, The Meyer Foundation

sponsorship-fpo-2Six years ago, Washington Area Women’s Foundation launched the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, an effort to bring together local and national funders to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education in the Washington region.  We – Stacey Collins of PNC, and Karen FitzGerald of The Meyer Foundation – are pleased to serve as the Collaborative’s current co-chairs.

Many of us on the Collaborative have focused on the value of investing in early childhood for many years. However, early childhood issues have recently taken center stage in national conversations.  As a group of funders investing locally, we know that high-quality early care and education can help close the “readiness gap” for low-income children entering kindergarten.

We invest together through the Collaborative to influence systems-level change.  We seek to influence the quality and capacity of early care and education options, and to ensure that low-income families in our region have access to these options.  This year, our grants include local advocacy investments to preserve and increase public support for early care and education, and investments in the professional development of early care and education providers (to increase the quality and capacity of programs in our region, and to support the career advancement and earnings of the predominantly female workforce).

Beyond our grantmaking, how does working as a collaborative influence our individual approaches as funders and investors?

From my perspective, at PNC…

The collective voice is greater than our individual voices, even on the same topic. From feedback and advocacy to funding, the impact is greater when we work together.

As a collaborative effort, by design, we keep early childhood at the center of the conversation. We focus our investments around programs that create the biggest impact. It is not just about making more dollars available for quality childcare in the region, although that is important. It’s also about getting to know what influences, how trends and policies shift the way early childhood education (ECE) happens, and which organizations are on the cutting edge of driving those changes. Often, that means defining quality and really understanding what the programs we fund are doing to change the trajectory of ECE in the region.

I personally have learned so much from being a part of the Collaborative. It’s a group of smart and passionate advocates. Our discussions about program effectiveness, and how to assess that when no universal quality standard pre-K assessment tool exists, are a great way to learn from others. It’s an opportunity to delve into the “why” behind each other’s focus areas.

From my perspective, at The Meyer Foundation…

Pooling resources and focusing on the entire ECE system – rather than on individual child development centers – helps Meyer have a bigger impact in ECE than we would have through our individual grantmaking.  We fund some ECE work in our education program area, but we don’t focus on it.

The Collaborative gives us the chance to learn more about ECE from funders who know more about the issue than we do. We especially value the opportunity to work alongside corporate and family foundations, who share our commitment to the issue and whose different perspectives make for rich discussions and grant deliberations.

The Collaborative has elevated for us the issue of ECE quality so that it is now an important priority of our grantmaking in this area.

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Click here to learn more about the Collaborative.

The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative currently includes: The Boeing Company, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, Fight for Children, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, PNC Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 28, 2014

Q: In 2014, who became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve?

A: Janet Yellen. On October 9, 2013, Janett Yellen was officially nominated to replace Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve and made history as she took office on February 3, 2014 as the first female Chair of the Federal Reserve. Prior to her appointment as Chair, Yellen served as the Vice-chair of the Federal Reserve from 2010.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 27, 2014

Q: Who was the first American woman in space?

A: Dr. Sally Ride, who joined NASA in 1978 after answering a newspaper ad seeking applicants for the space program. At 32, Ride became the first American woman in space and the youngest person to go into space at that time. She was preceded in space by two Soviet women. In 2013, Sally Ride was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Recently, the current NASA Administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., (USMC-Ret.), wrote a blog post for The Women’s Foundation remarking on the accomplishments and contribution of Sally Ride and the other female astronauts that came after her and how they inspire women and girls to dream big.

Report Shows Need for Financial Counseling for Domestic Violence Survivors

DV-Counts-CoverThe latest Domestic Violence Counts report is out and the 2013 census of domestic violence shelters and services shows the devastating impact that economic insecurity can have on victims of abuse and their children.

Each year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) takes a look at the people served and the services provided during one 24-hour period at participating programs across the country. On September 17, 2013, just over 1,600 programs participated in the census. They served over 66,000 people. The stories behind the numbers range from uplifting to devastating.

“One of our program participants received a job offer on Census Day,” a Missouri advocate reported. “This employment opportunity will provide her with an income to be able to exit the shelter and obtain and retain her own housing for her family.”

But an advocate in Alabama shared: “Despite extreme stalking and a high threat of danger, a survivor was denied community legal services because there was no physical abuse. The survivor makes minimum wage and is unable to afford a divorce attorney.”

For women who experience domestic violence, economic security and personal safety are closely linked. Sara Shoener from the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice recently explained to the National Domestic Violence Hotline that domestic violence increases the risk for financial insecurity, and that poverty can increase the risk of vulnerability to abuse. “Domestic violence survivors often rank material factors such as income, housing, transportation, and childcare as their biggest considerations when assessing their safety plans,” she added.

Support services that help women establish economic security can help them leave abusive situations and stay safe. In addition to the basic necessities that Shoener listed above, a significant number of women also need help navigating the social services system. They may also need help building their financial literacy skills. In order to maintain control, an abuser might ruin a victim’s credit, fail to pay or hide bills, steal a victim’s possessions or misrepresent the state of their finances. It may take time and guidance for a survivor to get her financial house in order.

The Domestic Violence Counts report found that 29 percent of programs provided services related to building financial skills on the day that the census was taken. Eighty-three percent of programs provide this service throughout the year. And 22 percent of the programs surveyed provided job training and employment assistance on Census Day.

In spite of the clear need for more counseling and support around financial issues – and the dangers associated with economic instability – funding cuts and reduced resources across the country have meant that dozens of programs have had to reduce or eliminate their financial literacy services and job training and employment assistance programs.

These cuts may seem necessary now, but the long-term expense on our entire community is far too great. At the release of the Domestic Violence Counts report, it was revealed that eight million work hours are lost each year as a result of domestic violence in the United States. Victims of abuse may miss work because of injury, legal proceedings or sudden changes to their living situations.

“If we don’t pay for domestic violence aid now, we pay for it down the line through healthcare, lost productivity and the impact on children exposed to violence,” said Kim Gandy, president of NNEDV.

The services and models for assistance are already in place – now we need to restore and increase funding to these programs so that more survivors can have the safety and security that everyone deserves. On September 17, 2013, nearly 400 people in DC, Maryland and Virginia who reached out to a shelter or service provider for help were turned away because the providers did not have the room or resources to serve them. No woman whose personal safety is at risk, and who reaches out for help should ever be turned away. And no mother should have to stay with an abuser because she has nowhere to take her children.

Three Things You Can Do to Help

Women’s history Month Q&A – March 26, 2014

Q: Who was the first African American woman to be appointed Secretary of State, and the first woman to be appointed National Security Advisor?

A: Condoleezza Rice, who served as the 66th United States Secretary of State. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American secretary of state (after Colin Powell), and the second female secretary of state (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position.