This is the Way

Feb 5, 2021

This is the Way

It has been a trying year, but as Master Yoda would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Your team at the Kansas Children’s Cabinet & Trust Fund took this to heart over the past year and are continuing our “doing” in 2021.

Reflections from the Director…
Melissa Rooker, Children’s Cabinet Executive Director

Although the pandemic dealt Kansans serious challenges in 2020, I am optimistic about what the future holds for our children and families. That may strike some as strange given we are still in the midst of a public health emergency unlike anything we have ever experienced. However, we are well positioned to emerge from crisis stronger for the lessons learned and the groundwork laid in 2019 through our Preschool Development Grant Birth-5 needs assessment and strategic plan.

That federal grant gave four state agencies an opportunity for powerful collaboration. The Children’s Cabinet teamed up with the Kansas Department of Education, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to hear from over 6,000 Kansans, informing our statewide early childhood care and education Needs Assessment. The information gathered became the basis of our five-year All In For Kansas Kids Strategic Plan.

As we were sheltering at home in April, we received the happy news that Kansas had been chosen to receive a three-year renewal of our federal Preschool Development Birth-5 grant, bringing in nearly $27 million for implementation of our strategic plan between now and 2023.

In 2020, Kansas early childhood partners drew together (on Zoom) to offer crisis support for families and emergency relief to providers across the state. Our regular portfolio of work continued, albeit at a slower pace. When we looked at our community of service providers and the families they served, we saw flexibility, resilience, and adaptability.

With the help of federal COVID-19 relief dollars, we were able to continue our 2020 programming on behalf of Kansas children and families.

While unbelievably difficult, the COVID crisis has served as proof of concept for our work. We were able to leverage a strong foundation built on careful planning, research, and collaboration. We were able to pivot quickly to provide rescue and relief to our early childhood care and education system. And we are now setting our sights on a recovery that strengthens our system even more to better serve Kansas families.

A few highlights from 2020...

Community Action Lab mini-grants

April’s “Community Action Lab” mini-grants gave childcare providers quick access to funding for cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, and other materials necessary to safely implement public health guidelines.

Bi-weekly Webinars

We used our biweekly webinars as online-listening sessions to gather the latest boots-on-the-ground input from parents and providers and to initiate steps in response.

Our Tomorrows StoryBank

We reopened the Our Tomorrows online story bank to gather stories of lived-experience from thousands of Kansans to aid decision-making in real time.

Hero Relief program

The Hero Relief Program provided enhanced support for families receiving child care subsidy and for licensed providers operating through the pandemic.

Emergency grants

Emergency grants were made available to child care workers and other essential professions for unexpected out-of-pocket expenses caused by a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Child Care workers are essential

Child care workers were given essential worker status to enable them to access the state COVID testing program and be eligible for vaccines as part of the state’s Phase 2 COVID-19 vaccine protocol.

Remote learning supports

Kansas schools served millions of school lunches throughout shutdown thanks to the federal school lunch program. Teachers stayed connected to students using guidance adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education to “Navigate Change.” And Remote Learning Grants provided safe, supervised sites for students in remote or hybrid learning mode, allowing parents to continue working.

Home visiting programs

The Technology for Families grant allowed early childhood home visiting programs to equip families with the technology devices and data plans needed to switch to virtual home-visits.

Spotlight

TWITTER

Russell County families - don't miss your chance for FREE books! Dolly Parton’s #ImaginationLibrary inspires a love of reading by gifting books to children. Sign up today https://t.co/5Y5wzH0ZFI
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Young children’s development is impacted by climate change. How can the early childhood and climate movements respond? Recently @capita_social and @AIEnvironment launched an #EarlyYearsClimateAction Task Force. @K12ClimateAct https://t.co/UtNTk2SaxQ
The #AllinForKansasKids⭐ Bi-Weekly Webinars are taking a break for the month of June. We look forward to connecting with you again July 13! https://t.co/A9zBpfONnD https://t.co/5RXmwCZ6or KCCTF photo
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