We Can Support Mental Health Now

June 2020

The things we experience daily can have major effects on our behavior and mental health. Consider how you feel when someone cuts you off in traffic or is rude to you for no reason; these experiences can have a direct impact on your emotions at that moment, but if these experiences and emotions compound, they can have lasting effects on your mental health. While most adults are better equipped to recognize and make changes to alleviate some of that stress, children are much less capable of recognizing how these experiences can affect them and then make changes.

Adverse experiences are not only concerned with how interactions affect our emotions but also include food insecurity, poverty, homelessness, abuse, and neglect. Research from The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard has shown that the toxic stress experienced early in a child’s life can have a cumulative effect on an adult’s physical and mental health and that the emotional well-being of young children is tied directly to the functioning of their caregivers and the environment. In short, the more negative experiences during childhood, the more likely developmental delays, and other problems may have a negative impact in adulthood.

The Center for Disease Prevention and Control reports that, on average, 15% of children, two to eight years old, in the United States have a parent-reported mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. As educators, we are on the front line of working with these children and their families. We witness children in these situations on a daily basis and have the duty to ensure that we are doing everything we can to intervene and help mitigate these negative effects.

One way that the state of Colorado is hoping to support these vulnerable members of our society is through the creation of legislation that would provide support not only for young children who experience mental health impairment but also for early childhood and mental health professionals to develop the necessary skills to support these young children and their families. Currently, part four of Colorado House Bill 1053 outlines plans to increase the number of qualified mental health consultants to support young children and their families. In addition, this bill will also provide early childhood educators serving this community with the support they need to create the high-quality learning environments these young children deserve.

This blog post is a call to action to support programs and initiatives, like HB20-1053, that improve the lives of families by strengthening financial support programs and family-friendly work policies, and by providing greater access to early intervention programs. We need to create statewide initiatives that foster safe and supportive learning environments for all children and their families by providing access to high-quality early childhood programs for everyone. We also need to work together to build caring relationships by strengthening social and emotional education programs and creating caring communities to support children and families in need.

Guest Blogger
Meagan Stroud
Master Early Childhood Candidate
Superior, Colorado

COVID-19’s Early Impacts

March 2020

Ten days ago none of us were expecting the impact that the coronavirus COVID-19 would have on our local child care community.  The rate of change has been intense and bewildering.  A decision we might think is a good one in the morning, changes by the afternoon as new information rises.

I have noticed one area of my work that is transforming in a different way.  Collaborations with Boulder County Public Health and Boulder County Housing and Human Services are, well, sort of blossoming.  There is much to do on behalf of our local early childhood community – parents in mission critical fields such as hospital staff, police and fire, and mental health agencies need reliable high quality child care so they can continue serving us.  At the same time, child care providers need assistance mitigating risk and interpreting guidance for making unprecedented business decisions about closures. Human services alliances across Boulder County are really connecting to make the best decisions to serve and support our community, more so right now than ever.  And these two teams at BCPH and BCDHHS feel like real friends of the council at this time.

The situation is sobering for child care.  The COVID-19 crisis is brutally laying bare certain gaps in the early childhood system.  Namely, the struggle we are having connecting licensed child care providers that remain open with families that need them.  Secondly, fears regarding the retention of a local child care workforce are real.  For connection, there are two places parents and providers can email: childcarereferrals@unitedwaydenver.org and go to covidchildcarecolorado.com.  For retention of the early childhood workforce, community partners are figuring out employment and income supports in the short term.  In the longer term, we may be looking at new landscape with fewer licensed child care options. Regardless, the approximate 14,000 young children 0 – 5 years old will still be here in Boulder County and their parents will still be securing some mix of child care in all types of arrangements.  As COVID-19 evolves and passes (this too shall pass) we’ll have a clearer view of early care and education sector’s role in the well-being and development of our community.  Stay tuned with the council, we’ll be working on these issues with our friends.  We welcome you to join us. www.eccbouldercounty.org

Danielle Butler
Executive Director

Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Count

March 13, 2020

Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Count

But, young children under 5 years old are the age group most likely to be missed by the census.

Making sure every young child counts in the census is one of the most important things we can do right now for our young children and their families in Boulder County. And right now, it is even more important to support family’s efforts to fill out the Census online or by phone rather than have Census workers go to residences. Please print this poster and put where families can see.

When babies aren’t counted in the census, it hurts our communities and reduces funding for important programs that help our young children and their families. Colorado’s 2020 Census data will be used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like child care assistance, Head Start, foster care and WIC. In one year alone, Colorado received $2 billion in federal funding for children’s programs based on our census population counts. If young children aren’t counted in 2020, our communities won’t receive their fair share of this funding for the next decade.

Families can respond to the 2020 Census right now. You can help by sharing the following:

As of this writing and according to the real time response rate map, Boulder County has a 29% self-response rate and the US and the state of Colorado have a response rates of 24%.

Let’s keep going!  The 2020 Census is now!

Rick Winter
ECCBC Systems Program Associate

Spring 2018 Early Childhood Mini-Conference and Week of the Young Child Kick Off

May 2018

On Saturday, April 14 the St. Vrain Community Hub in Longmont was filled with early childhood educators from across Boulder County for a full day of professional development activities. A collaborative effort of Boulder County CCAP, the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County, City of Longmont Children, Youth and Families, and the Boulder County ABCD Partnership, the conference was attended by 81 people representing child care centers, preschool programs, family child care homes and Head Start programs across Boulder County. Ten workshops, offered by Boulder county presenters who generously donated their time and talents, included titles such as Respecting Children’s Unique Qualities Through Strong Family Partnerships presented by Qualistar Colorado, Transitions Big and Small: Helping Children Navigate Change in Positive, Healthy and Developmentally Appropriate Ways presented by the Boulder County Parent’s As Teachers Program, Developmental Concerns and Helpful Tools presented by the Boulder County ABCD Partnership, Strategies to Support Early Language and Literacy Learning: The Importance of Relationship, Stories and Culture in the Early Care and Education Setting presented by Susan Moore Professor Emeritus CU Boulder, and Good Leadership Makes Good Cents presented by BCPH Child Health Promotions.

Part of the team: (left to right) Robin Pennington, Nicole Malone, Caitlin Zimmer, Emily Robbins from the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County

Part of the team: (left to right) Robin Pennington, Nicole Malone, Caitlin Zimmer, Emily Robbins from the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County

The day was also intended to celebrate the beginning of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Week of the Young Child April 16 – 20 so there were many reminders throughout the day of how teachers and caregivers might celebrate the Week of the Young Child in their classrooms with children and families the following week. We also made sure to honor our early childhood professionals with a healthy lunch buffet from Mad Greens and conference bags filled with resources and goodies both provided compliments of the Boulder County ABCD Partnership. Participants received magic fairy doors to decorate at home compliments of the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County and prizes donated by local merchants and businesses including Bella Terra Flowers, Boulder ABCD Partnership, Boulder County Child Care Assistance Program, Boulder County Family Child Care Association, Boulder Valley Gifted & Talented, Catherine Zakoian Consulting, City of Longmont Children Youth & Families Bright EYES (Early Education Stewards), Early Childhood Council of Boulder County, Eat at Community: Colorado Comfort Food & Libations, Grandrabbit’s Toy Shoppe, King Soopers, Lakeshore Learning, Once Upon A Child, Sweet Cow Ice Cream and Warrior Play Ground were given away throughout the day.

A community Resource Fair was available before, during and after lunch where participants were invited to meet people from 14 agencies and programs that serve the early childhood community. People were able to browse the tables and pick up information as well as give away items and treats. Participating agencies included Boulder County ABCD Partnership, Boulder County CCAP, the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County, BCPH Child Health Promotions, Mental Health Partners – Kid Connects, Qualistar Colorado, YMCA Children’s Alley, and Front Range Community College.

Overall a good day was had by participants, presenters, and organizers alike! We hope to repeat the event again in 2019 and to make it even more informative and fun!

Annette Crawford
Program Specialist I
CCAP Provider Services
Boulder County Housing & Human Services Department
Community Support Division

A Little Good News

April 2018

I know just how fed-up we all are with the logjam that is the US Congress.  Yet amid all of the partisan bickering, we have something to celebrate! Congress has approved an increase of more than $3 BILLION for child care and early learning, including:

  • $610 million increase for Head Start – with $115 million of those dollars dedicated to Early Head Start expansion or Early Head Start partnerships
  • $35 million increase for CCAMPIS, funding child care for mothers who are college students
  • $20 million increase for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, supporting after school programs
  • $11.4 million increase for Part C of IDEA
  • $12.8 million increase for Part B, Section 619 of IDEA
  • $250 million flat funding structure for Preschool Development Grants

I know that I am probably ‘grasping at straws’ but anything helps these days.

The Colorado Legislature will be wrapping up its 2018 session in mid-May.  I am praying that they pass House Bill 1004, which reauthorizes the Child Care Tax Credit.  Here are the pertinent facts:

  • This is a vital tax credit that helps keep alive an industry that the state does not adequately fund and support.
  • There is no fiscal impact of HB 1004 to the 2018-19 budget being written so moving the bill forward does not require an appropriation this year. While any tax credit means the state won’t be collecting revenue in future years, this is one of the most important cost effective incentives that providers have to ensure they can offer the child care that parents rely on so they can work.
  • We’ve had this tax credit for 20 years and providers are relying on the availability of this mechanism to raise the revenue to make their budget, build new capacity to address child care availability and affordability and reduce child care deserts.
  • Failure to reauthorize the CCTC is a $50 million cost (since that is the size of total donations incentivized by the 50% credit) that will be passed on to an industry that just can’t bear it and parents who can’t possibly pay more for child care.
  • And if we fail to reauthorize the tax credit and the state now collects the revenue it is really doubtful it will go out to child care in another form given the lack of prioritization of early care and education in way that supports the small business and non-profit providers.

I will keep my fingers crossed-as I hope you will as well.

Bobbie Watson
Executive Director
The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child (Part 2)

Posted February 2018

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child wants us to remember the following 8 things about early childhood development.  I discussed the first 4 in my Jan blog.  Here are the other 4:

1. Severe neglect appears to be at least as great a threat to health and development as physical abuse—possibly even greater.

When compared with children who have been victimized by overt physical maltreatment, young children who experienced prolonged periods of neglect exhibit more serious cognitive impairments, attention problems, language deficits, academic difficulties, withdrawn behavior, and problems with peer interaction as they get older. This suggests that sustained disruption of serve and return interactions in early relationships may be more damaging to the developing architecture of the brain than physical trauma, yet it often receives less attention.

2. Young children who have been exposed to adversity or violence do not invariably develop stress-related disorders or grow up to be violent adults.

Although children who have these experiences clearly are at greater risk for adverse impacts on brain development and later problems with aggression, they are not doomed to poor outcomes. Indeed, they can be helped substantially if reliable and nurturing relationships with supportive caregivers are established as soon as possible and appropriate treatments are provided as needed.

3. Simply removing a child from a dangerous environment will not automatically reverse the negative impacts of that experience.

There is no doubt that children in harm’s way should be removed from dangerous situations immediately. Similarly, children experiencing severe neglect should be provided with responsive caregiving as soon as possible. That said, children who have been traumatized need to be in environments that restore their sense of safety, control, and predictability, and they typically require therapeutic, supportive care to facilitate their recovery.

4. Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism.

The capacity to adapt and thrive despite adversity develops through the interaction of supportive relationships, biological systems, and gene expression. Despite the widespread yet erroneous belief that people need only draw upon some heroic strength of character, science now tells us that it is the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills that are the essential building blocks for strengthening the capacity to do well in the face of significant adversity.

Bobbie Watson
Executive Director
The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child (Part 1)

Posted January 2018

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child wants us to remember the following 8 things about early childhood development.  In this blog, I will discuss 4 of them:

1. Even infants and young children are affected adversely when significant stresses threaten their family and caregiving environments.

Adverse fetal and early childhood experiences can lead to physical and chemical disruptions in the brain that can last a lifetime. The biological changes associated with these experiences can affect multiple organ systems and increase the risk not only for impairments in future learning capacity and behavior, but also for poor physical and mental health outcomes.

2. Development is a highly interactive process, and life outcomes are not determined solely by genes.

The environment in which one develops before and soon after birth provides powerful experiences that chemically modify certain genes in ways that then define how much and when they are expressed. Thus, while genetic factors exert potent influences on human development, environmental factors have the ability to alter family inheritance. For example, children are born with the capacity to learn to control impulses, focus attention, and retain information in memory, but their experiences as early as the first year of life lay a foundation for how well these and other executive function skills develop.

3. While attachments to their parents are primary, young children can also benefit significantly from relationships with other responsive caregivers both within and outside the family.

Close relationships with other nurturing and reliably available adults do not interfere with the strength of a young child’s primary relationship with his or her parents. In fact, multiple caregivers can promote young children’s social and emotional development. That said, frequent disruptions in care and high staff turnover and poor-quality interactions in early childhood program settings can undermine children’s ability to establish secure expectations about whether and how their needs will be met.

4. A great deal of brain architectureis shaped during the first three years after birth, but the window of opportunity for its development does not close on a child’s third birthday.

Far from it! Basic aspects of brain function, such as the ability to see and hear effectively, do depend critically on very early experiences as do some aspects of emotional development. And, while the regions of the brain dedicated to higher-order functions—which involve most social, emotional, and cognitive capacities, including multiple aspects of executive functioning—are also affected powerfully by early influences, they continue to develop well into adolescence and early adulthood. So, although the basic principle that “earlier is better than later” generally applies, the window of opportunity for most domains of development remains open far beyond age 3, and we remain capable of learning ways to “work around” earlier impacts well into the adult years.

Bobbie Watson
Executive Director
The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County

Worthy Cause IV

Posted October 2017

The County Commissioners have put a ballot measure on this fall called Worthy Cause IV-an extension of a 0.05% countywide sales and use tax which was first passed by Boulder County voters in 2000.  These funds are used to provide non-profit safety net providers with funds for ‘bricks and mortar’-that is to either buy new buildings and/or expand/renovate existing buildings.  I know that many of you are aware of programs who have benefited from these funds including:   the OUR Center, The Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center, the Homeless Shelter, The Wild Plum Center in Longmont, Clinic Campesina,  The Boulder Safehouse, EFAA and many others.  There continues to be increasing demands on all of our safety net providers.  You may recall the Neighbors Helping Neighbors campaign in 2014 which passed with broad approval.  Those funds go to support safety net program costs like:  salaries, program materials, etc.  But our non-profit partners also need have up-to-date facilities in which to provide their programs.  That is why I am urging you to support Worthy Cause IV.  The ECCBC Board has endorsed this ballot measure.  This extension would go until Dec 31, 2033 and revenues would be used in the following manner:

  • Affordable Housing: $2 million for permanently affordable housing throughout Boulder County
  • Senior and Aging Services: $600,000 for senior and aging services for agencies including but not limited to Meals on Wheels
  • Health and Mental Health Care: $900,000 for new and expanded health and mental health services throughout Boulder County

 

I urge you to continue to support your neighbors in Boulder County.  VOTE

Bobbie Watson

Executive Director

The Early Childhood Council of Boulder County

Don’t Flip Out, Just FLIP IT!

Posted July 2017

As early childhood educators, we learn a variety of strategies for handling challenging behaviors in the classroom, from our own experiences, schooling, trainings, or our colleagues. These strategies run the gamut in how we interact with a behavior—whether we ignore it to avoid giving it attention or have the child spend some time in the director’s office. That means they also vary wildly in effectiveness—some may provide successful control management while others may even support a child’s development. As we all know, some tactics work better than others and some methods work for different children. This is just one of the many ways early childhood educators have to be flexible, adaptable, and quick-thinkers.

In the midst of an inevitable chaotic moment, when a child is throwing, kicking, spitting, or demonstrating any number of other “challenging behaviors,” we need a tool that is easy to remember and easy to implement. FLIP IT was born from exactly these moments. The author, Rachel Wagner, was a preschool teacher in desperate need of a tool for handling challenges when all else was failing and she and her co-teachers felt like they were drowning.

FLIP IT is an evidence-based four-step strategy for addressing challenging behaviors, but it carries so much more than that. By talking a child through his or her Feelings, then setting loving Limits, posing an Inquiry to solve the problem, and offering Prompts to encourage creative solutions, we include the child not only in navigating their own obstacles, but in gaining a deeper appreciation of their emotions. FLIP IT doesn’t simply put a band-aid on the symptom; rather it focuses on attempting to understand the root of the child’s behavior and the factors that can influence these roots.

According to Wagner, the root of all behavior is emotion, whether positive or negative. When a child is experiencing positive feelings their behaviors mirror this with happiness, attentiveness, and a readiness to learn. But when a child is demonstrating challenging behaviors, this is a clue to teachers that their roots are experiencing negativity, or what we are calling their STRUGGLES.

By being in tune to a child’s emotions we not only guide their behavior, but more importantly we are supporting their mental health (maybe link here to blog post on Adverse Childhood Experiences). Teaching skills for social emotional development in the early years has monumental implications, helping children build their self-regulation, empathy, and coping skills. As we can all attest, life will continue to pose challenges, so we have the responsibility and the privilege to prepare our children to be problem-solvers in their own lives.

To read more about FLIP IT, visit the Devereux Center for Resilient Children.

Are you a childcare provider in Boulder County and interested in a FLIP IT training for you or your staff? Check our website for the next FLIP IT training.

Caitlin Moles
Quality Improvement Coach
Devereux-Recognized FLIP IT Trainer

Who Can Afford Childcare

Posted June 2017

If you are reading this, you are probably very aware of the high cost of childcare!  Those families of middle income (making anywhere from $70K to $120K annually) are being squeezed the most.

Families on the ends of the income spectrum can either: 1) afford to pay for childcare if they are in a higher income bracket or 2) access several childcare subsidy programs (i.e. CCAP, CPP and/or Head Start) if they are very low income (i.e. using the 2014 federal poverty level number for a family of four at $24,250/yr).  If you are middle income-it is another story altogether.

The US Department of Health and Human Services says that child care should cost around 7% of a family’s income at most.  Given that the cost of full time care of a toddler in Boulder County (link to the most recent Indicators Report) is $14,265 per year, to meet the 7% DHHS target, a family would need to have an annual income of $205,215.  The median income of families in Boulder County with children is $103,037.  To look at this in another way, for a family with the median income of $103,037, at current childcare rates for full time toddler care, this family would pay 14% of their income for childcare.  And heaven help them should they have a second child!

Professor James Heckman (Nobel laureate economist at the University of Chicago) has recently released a study entitled: “The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.” This research shows that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment—a rate substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds. Significant gains are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors, and employment.

An interesting sidelight in this study shows that boys in high quality childcare settings benefited more than the girls.  This finding meshes with other research findings that boys are more sensitive to disadvantaged circumstances than are girls but are also more responsive to interventions.

It will be interesting to watch where the Trump administration goes with Ivanka Trump’s support of affordable childcare-long a goal of the Democratic Party.

Bobbie Watson