Creating Self-Sufficiency to Break the Cycle of Poverty

EFAA Helps Families Prepare Children in Crisis for Success in School and Life

Guest blog by Susi Gritton, Parent Involvement Coordinator at Boulder County Head Start

Did you know that the period from birth to 5 years is the most critical period in children’s development? Early experiences affect the “architecture of the brain” and lay the foundation for children’s successes later in life.

Research tells us that interventions and support in these critical years can improve outcomes, narrow achievement gaps and convey long-term benefits for children in school and in life.

Did you know that for every dollar a community spends in prevention, $17 is saved in later costs for such things as remediation in schools, treatment, health care costs and incarceration costs?

Supporting parents as a child’s first and most important teacher is a goal shared by quality educational programs and EFAA’s Children’s Program. EFAA’s work emphasizes moving families toward self-sufficiency. Part of this work is helping families understand the importance of quality educational experiences, the importance of reading with children, and having access to health, mental health and dental resources in the community.

Children exposed to toxic stress (homelessness, extreme poverty, mental health issues, household violence, abuse and neglect) need positive supports to change the trajectory of their development. In partnership with our community partners, EFAA hopes to provide that support for children in our programs.

An excellent example of our new programming involves EFAA partnering with Boulder Housing Partners to pilot a program called Bringing School Home which pairs quality affordable housing with supports for the family to help their children be successful in long-term educational goals. EFAA staff will be involved in the initial casework that stabilizing the family situation and helps the family identify goals and resources so that children are more prepared to be successful at school.

Another exciting partnership in the development stage that focuses on children is the Oak Pilot Project (a subgroup of the Dream Big Collaborative) — a collaboration between EFAA, Boulder Housing Partners and the I Have A Dream program, which will follow a group of students at the Red Oak housing site from preschool to high school graduation providing support for these students in all aspects of their development. Again, EFAA will provide our expertise and proven track record in working to stabilize families so that children are valued, healthy and thriving.

Internally, our Children’s Case Manager will work with families in the Short-term Housing Program to identify goals for their children and work in partnership with other community agencies to provide the resources and support to help each child be ready for school. This work will be expanded to include families in Transitional Housing when possible.

EFAA’s 5-year Strategic Plan includes a commitment to providing a more robust Children’s Program for families working with EFAA. Bobbie Watson from the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County has worked with key staff and the EFAA Board to identify outcomes, strategies and indicators that provide life-long benefits for children. As an early childhood professional myself, I applaud EFAA for its recognition of the importance of working with families to provide the support and resources necessary to help children be successful in school and life.

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