Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Here at Strategies for Children, we’re paying close attention to locally-led efforts to expand preschool and support children’s early learning. As local momentum grows for supporting young children and families, we are keeping track of best practices, success stories, and research. Our colleague David Jacobson at the P-3 Learning Hub blog shares a recent example of community action from Washington State.

Jacobson, a senior project director at the Education Development Center, has written about how strong community partnerships in Washington State echo and support the P-3 (prenatal through third grade) partnerships that can help children thrive.

In Washington, a state-wide Family Policy Council was created “to address a spike in youth violence. The Council in turn funded local community networks to develop integrated approaches to violence prevention,” Jacobson writes.

“Over time the Family Policy Council began sharing research with the community networks regarding the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on young children. ACEs refer to 10 types of abuse, neglect, and family exposure to toxic stress.”

“Washington’s community networks followed the lead of the Family Policy Council and focused their work on addressing ACEs,” through community outreach campaigns and programs in schools and social service agencies. “Communities chose to work on a variety of issues, including prenatal smoking and drinking, truancy, youth drinking, domestic violence, foster care, mentoring, and improving playgrounds and parks.”

One result: strong community efforts helped reduce the numbers of adverse childhood effects.

As Jacobson explains, Washington’s efforts were also the subject of a New York Times article by author David Bornstein, who notes:

“In Wahkiakum County, in the southwestern corner of Washington State, for example, the community network decided to focus on youth drinking and driving after the tragic death of a child. Residents came together, decided they would no longer tolerate the behavior and developed a strategy with the police. The rate dropped.”

“In Whatcom County, just south of the Canadian border, residents banded together and connected with child service agencies to make sure that when children were removed from their parents’ care, a foster home was available in the same neighborhood; this allowed the youngsters to remain close to family, friends and siblings, something vitally important for their well-being.”

How successful are these efforts?

On the P-3 Learning Hub blog, Jacobson says, “Evaluations of Washington’s community networks found that the best functioning ones reduced ACEs in young adults.”

Jacobson also points to a study from Mathematica Policy Research which found that: “Despite modest investments and limited staff, several rural communities in Washington State were able to weave together proven programs and innovative approaches, effectively decreasing the social, emotional, and physical problems linked to trauma.”

Infographic Source: Mathematica Policy Research
Infographic Source: Mathematica Policy Research

Washington’s efforts, Jacobson adds, share traits with the P-3 partnerships that build sound educational bridges from pre-K to the third grade. Jacobson has been developing a “theory of action” to illustrate these dynamics and inform community partnerships in early childhood. He explains:

A priority “of the P-3 Partnership Theory of Action is the development of positive social ties among families with young children.” Similarly, “The Washington ACE-focused networks demonstrate the role of connecting community members and building trust in a particularly robust way, moving beyond connecting families to community organizing and facilitating leadership by local residents.”

Infographic Source:
Infographic: P-3 Community Partnership Theory of Action, by David Jacobson.

“P-3 Community Partnerships can draw on Washington’s experience in supporting their members in developing positive social ties. Further, it is easy to imagine P-3 Partnerships allying with broader community partnerships in which the kind of community organizing seen in Washington is a priority.”

Jacobson concludes, “the positive results achieved by Washington’s community networks reinforce the underlying premise of the P-3 movement: community partnerships that improve coordination across organizations and design effective programming can bring about large benefits for children and families.”