Public Release: 

BMC selects 10 communities to strengthen trauma-informed early childhood systems

Boston Medical Center

Boston--August 1, 2018--Boston Medical Center's (BMC) Vital Village Network is working with communities across the country to expand their model of community building to promote child health and opportunity. Through a $2.2M grant supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Vital Village has selected ten local communities to form the Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing (NOW) Learning Community to address barriers and develop innovative community partnerships aimed at improving the early childhood experience.

The Vital Village Network at BMC fosters critical partnerships between BMC, community-based organizations, providers, and local residents to maximize child, family, and community wellbeing in Boston neighborhoods.

Launched in 2016, NOW builds on Vital Village's network approach to build the capacity of other local communities and coalitions across the country working to: promote child wellbeing; align systems of care and education in early childhood; and improve neighborhood opportunity structures that promote optimal wellbeing and reduce inequities in child health and education - all through a trauma informed lens. The NOW initiative is a part of the RWJF-funded HOPE (Harnessing Opportunity for Positive, Equitable Early Childhood Development) Consortium that includes Nemours Children's Health System and the BUILD Initiative.

The Vital Village model invests in leadership development for community residents, increases civic engagement, and rapidly scales and spreads innovations to improve community wellbeing. This has led to community-led innovations, such as: a local breastfeeding coalition to support mothers who want to breastfeed; drop-in support groups; and a volunteer-led social justice mediation program to train members in the community about conflict resolution techniques that they can use at work and at home.

Over the next 18 months, the NOW Learning Community will support the selected communities to build a robust set of knowledge, skills, and tools to scale and sustain equitable transformation of early childhood, education, and health systems in their neighborhood, city, or county. Each recipient will receive in-depth, and tailored technical assistance in key capacity-building areas - such as utilizing equity tools and frameworks; mobilizing community leaders; using data and storytelling tools; and communicating with diverse stakeholders - in order to build a strong and healthy foundation for all children and families. The learning community will also be supported through the NOW Online Forum, which will promote learning and networking across the country among recipients. The communities will be able to share toolkits, stories, and model innovations with the other sites.

"It is clear that adverse social environments and experiences in early childhood are key drivers of inequities in health and development and have a durable impact on wellbeing and life chances," said Renee Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, founder of Vital Village and a pediatrician at BMC. "Communities across the country are responding by identifying how systemic inequities, institutional racism, and historical and community trauma harm health, but also cultivating community-based solutions and developing sustainable neighborhood opportunity structures to promote child wellbeing, which is transformative."

Key partners include: the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families; Children's Health Watch; The Brazelton Touchpoints Center; and Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE). Six community coalitions were invited to serve as Mentors-in-Residence, including The California Consortium for Equity in Early Care and Education (California); The Consortium for Resilient Young Children (Ohio and Kentucky); Opportunity Knocks for Middletown's Young Children Community Collaborative (Connecticut); Smart Beginnings Southside Families-Greater Emporia (Virginia); Somerville Community Cabinet - SomerBaby (Massachusetts); and West Philadelphia Action for Early Learning & Partners: Drexel University, Health Federation and Public Citizens for Children and Youth (Pennsylvania). The Vital Village Network is one of three partner organizations in the HOPE Consortium, which includes the BUILD Initiative and the Nemours Children's Health System, who are engaging with state-level early childhood leaders, to support the development of tools and strategies to promote communication, partnership and alignment between city, county, and community coalitions and state leaders.

"NOW allows us to create a meta-network for shared learning and to refine measures to better capture the community capacities that promote success," said Boynton-Jarrett. "Through our combined efforts we can identify effective strategies that build the capacity of local communities to support the strongest, most successful start for children and contribute to culture of health that reduces inequities."

Finalists were selected through a rigorous, multi-part review process and from a robust pool of 139 applicants from across the country. Participants in the NOW Learning Community include:

United Way of Metro Chicago's Austin Neighborhood Network
Austin Coming Together
Chicago, Illinois

Berkeley Early Education and Care Collective
Berkeley County First Steps
Berkeley County, South Carolina

Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment
Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment
Navajo Nation

Essex County Council for Young Children
Programs for Parents, Inc
Newark, New Jersey

Family Engagement Network
First Things First
Pima County, Arizona

Generations Forward Children's Collaborative
The Opportunity Council and the Whatcom County Health Department
Whatcom County, Washington

Moving Ahead, Adelante!
Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition and Jefferson County Public Health
Jefferson County, Colorado

The New York Immigration Coalition
The New York Immigration Coalition
New York City, New York

Voices and Choices for Children Coalition
Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota
Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota

Young Child Wellness Council
Child Development Resources, The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

About Vital Village Community Engagement Network

The Vital Village Network is committed to maximizing child, family, and community wellbeing. Since 2010, Vital Village has fostered partnerships between residents and organizations aimed at improving the capacity of three Boston communities to promote child wellbeing and prevent early life adversities. The Network uses a trauma-informed lens to support systems alignment and collaboration across community-based early childhood health and education efforts. Our focus areas include promoting family strengths and social connections during the preconception and prenatal period, peer-to-peer advocacy aimed at addressing social and material hardships, and innovations in early childhood education. For more information about Vital Village, visit http://www.vitalvillage.org/.

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