Vermont Birth to Five formed in July 2015 to combine two initiatives of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children – Vermont Birth to Three and the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative. This new entity will ensure greater coordination of efforts toward achieving the Permanent Fund’s mission, which is to assure that every Vermont child has access to high quality, affordable early care and education.
Vermont Birth to Three was established in 2011 to address gaps and augment existing services to directly support registered home-based childcare providers, with a specific focus on infant and toddler care. Quality improvement initiatives include professional development, mentoring, and creating sustainable business practices.
Over a period of three years, VB3 initiatives expanded to include center-based programs and children, ages birth to five. Most recently, VB3 launched a center-based mentoring initiative to support programs to successfully create partnerships with schools to offer public prekindergarten education under Act 166.
Investing in early relationships, the heart of quality infant and toddler care.
More than 6,000 babies are born every year in Vermont. As each of our new citizens starts the journey to becoming our future workers, community members and leaders, the vast majority are spending at least some of their day away from home while their parents are working. We all have a stake in the quality of the care of our very youngest children.
“A growing body of scientific evidence shows that early influences—whether positive or negative—are critical to the development of children’s brains and their lifelong health”
— Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
How are Vermont’s babies and toddlers doing while their parents are out working?
There are nearly 20,000 infants and toddlers in the green mountain state and the vast majority—over 70%— spend some part of each day away from home while their parents work. This percentage is higher than the national average and higher than any other New England state.
The Vermont context
The rural, mountainous topography and extreme climate of Vermont have carved out distinct communities in which people are closely connected. In many of these communities, home-based childcare providers are the best, if not the only, option for working families. Vermont Birth to Five is “going where the babies are”. Our approach is to build on the “bright spots” that already exist within Vermont towns, including established relationships and trust among providers and families. It is our conviction that we can make a lasting difference by investing in our children’s critical early years.
Vermont Birth to Five is using a combination of peer mentoring, supporting existing Starting Points provider networks, and grants to strengthen the home-based provider industry. We are also supporting the STARS quality rating system, professional development opportunities for providers, and community outreach and education about the importance of the birth-to-three window in brain development. Vermont Birth to Five is a collaborative effort by a group of funders with a long standing commitment to children, working in close partnership with state agencies, policy makers, and early childhood professionals around the state. We are making sure that we know what success looks like, with agreed-upon outcomes and measurements of progress, all maintained in an online database.
Vermont Birth to Five will not by itself create a system of high-quality early childcare. Instead, the project will contribute to a tipping point where a culture of quality early care is the norm and the home-based provider is highly respected. Working with our partners, we will build momentum and help that culture become embedded in every Vermont community.
VB3 worked closely with the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative (VCPC), which, over ten years, supported the establishment of partnerships between private childcare providers and public schools to offer public prekindergarten education in more than 100 communities. Through technical assistance and community grants, VCPC broke down historic divisions between private programs and public schools. With the passage of Act 166, which ensures universal access to ten hours of prekindergarten education for all of Vermont’s children, VCPC will focus its efforts on successful implementation of the law by September 2016.
The former Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative provides technical assistance and start up grants to help establish public school/child care partnerships that ensure high quality Pre-K for the children of parents who need both high quality childcare and a Pre-K experience for their children. These new Pre-K “slots” will become permanently publicly supported.
Universal, high quality Pre-K for all 3 and 4 year olds
Early care and education must be an integrated system, with the programs and projects serving young children working collaboratively. The project is designed to link the child care system with the public education system, to break down historic divisions between community programs serving young children and early care and education services by public schools. A seamless, integrated system of early care and education has a shared understanding of a continuum that begins at birth, merging across child care, Head Start and public schools.
The project is designed as a component of a larger vision by focusing on a limited but important opportunity…… public education dollars supporting the development and sustainability of up to 10 hours per week of high quality Pre-K for 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in high quality, community based child care settings. VB5 helps ensure the opportunity for high quality preschool through Vermont’s Pre-K law (Act 62). Achieving universal access for all 3 and 4 year olds allows for a coordinated focus on other essential components of the early care and education system: children from birth to age 3, year-round, full-day child care, children who are at risk because of family circumstances, poverty, disabilities, etc., and those living in vulnerable communities with limited resources.
For more information, visit http://vermontbirthtofive.org.