Early childhood experiences affect health, achievement, and well-being throughout life.
Whole child health is an integrated state of physical, cognitive, social and emotional health and well-being in which children are developmentally on track in each of these areas. To expand our investments in children’s health and respond to urgent needs in the community, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation developed a strategy called Healthy Futures: Improving the Health and Well-being of Children 0-8. Introduced in 2017 and extending over the next decade, the strategy includes three interconnected elements (Cultivating Effective Practices, Building Community Capacity, and Elevating Voices), and is designed to support the many community initiatives and organizations working to improve the landscape of opportunities for children and families.
Introduced in 2017 and extending over the next decade, the strategy includes three interconnected elements (Cultivating Effective Practices, Building Community Capacity, and Elevating Voices), and is designed to support the many community initiatives and organizations working to improve the landscape of opportunities for children and families.
Cultivating Effective Practices focuses on identifying, integrating, and scaling effective programs and practices across early care and education, school, and community settings, so that more children have the services and supports they need to thrive and more families are engaged as partners in promoting whole child health.
Building Community Capacity focuses on enhancing the capacity of providers and organizations, families, and systems to support whole child health through training and coaching, service provision, parent partnership and leadership development, and collaboration within and across sectors.
Elevating Voices for Change is focused on supporting community efforts, advocacy and policy changes directed toward increasing children’s and families’ access to health resources, high-quality services, and healthy environments for development. Efforts will be informed by grassroots perspectives, engage families and communities as partners, and address racial and other social inequities in the foundations of children’s health.
The Greater Rochester Health Foundation shares the view of parents and families as “agents of change in their children’s lives, communities and early childhood systems.”
Child-serving organizations and settings—from schools to health systems to community organizations—are increasingly recognizing the critical importance of strong parent and family engagement, while parents are looking to have their voices heard and shape program and policy decisions affecting their children and families. Together we must strive to develop partnerships characterized by mutual respect, cultural inclusion, and shared decision making.
As part of our Healthy Futures Strategy and in collaboration with partners including the National Parent Leadership Institute (NPLI) and Healthi Kids, the Health Foundation is committed to advancing meaningful parent and family partnership in our community. We are seeking to build capacity for partnership across our own foundation, organizations we fund, and community coalitions, while expanding opportunities for parents to build skills needed to foster healthy child development, help design and deliver programs and services, and serve as leaders and advocates for systems and policy change. We are approaching this work through several avenues:
In 2018 we awarded grants to four organizations working in partnership with parents and families to support whole child health. All four grantees are participating in collaborative learning and technical assistance provided by NPLI along with local parent leaders from the Greater Rochester Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). Staff and parents will work together to develop partnership and leadership skills, further embed parent partnership in organizational practices and policies, and share learnings and best practices across organizations and with the community.
We have come to recognize our responsibility to expand parent partnership in our Healthy Futures grantmaking—to practice what we preach. Building on prior collaboration with NPLI and PLTI in which we implemented an equitable process for including local parent leaders as reviewers of grant applications, we are partnering on the development of an advisory process that further infuses parent voice into our Healthy Futures Strategy.
Parents have unique expertise and lived experiences that are essential to improving outcomes for kids and families, and they are often powerful change agents in systems and communities. Building parents’ leadership skills helps to create a ripple effect in generating advocacy and action, in turn leading public officials to become more responsive to their communities and helping to address inequities. Greater Rochester Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) is receiving funding to support the launch of a seventh cohort of its nationally recognized parent leadership curriculum, as well as alumni engagement and evaluation activities. We are also committed to supporting greater representation and voice of parents and other community members at decision making tables, including individuals historically excluded from participation on the basis of income or race/ethnicity.
As we continue our work related to parent and family partnership, we are looking to learn and share with other funders and organizations, presenting with partners at regional and national conferences including the New York Funders Alliance and Grantmakers in Health. We collaborated with our partners, National Parent Leadership Institute and Coordinated Care Services, Inc., to develop Engaging the Power of Families and Community, a detailed “roadmap” for funders looking to authentically engage and partner with community across areas from strategy planning to grant decision making. Anita Black, Program Officer at the Health Foundation, currently serves as co-chair of the Funder’s Group on Parent Organizing, Family Engagement, and Leadership Development, a national network of funders dedicated to working in partnership with parent groups to support the expertise and leadership of parents from low-income communities and communities of color to influence policies and programs impacting families.
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