Middletown vision statement is “strengthened by a supportive community, families have the resources, knowledge and skills to experience a healthy pregnancy and nurture the best in their children from birth through age eight.” To that end, we continue to implement our community plan that identifies strategies in each of three areas: early care and education, health, and family support.
Middlesex Community College is preparing for a March 2013 site visit from the National Association of Young Children (NAEYC). Consultants from Charter Oak State College have been assisting with the process and the local advisory board is overseeing the progress. We have formed a Pre K-K Alignment committee that has further improved and streamlined the transition process between preschool and kindergarten and is implementing plans to provide professional development in early literacy and self-regulation to all infant, toddler, preschool and kindergarten teachers and home visitors in the city. This year, the committee is developing plans to use neighborhood schools as a resource for parents of infants/toddlers/preschoolers and to coordinate community resources/services. We were awarded a $50,000 Early Literacy grant and have plans to do work in three areas – school success, summer learning loss, and chronic absenteeism. We have grown our School Readiness program so that it provides preschool opportunities for 262 children and now have 11 programs in our city that are N.A.E.Y.C. accredited.
Formed in 2003, Opportunity Knocks for Middletown’s Young Children is an early childhood health collaborative made up of early childhood educators; health care professionals (i.e., pediatricians, dentists, home visitors, dieticians, behavioral health providers); parents; and local funders. Opportunity Knocks (OK) focuses on improving three health areas of young children: behavioral health, nutrition/physical activity, and oral health. The collaborative uses a capacity-building, multidisciplinary model of training, consultation, and referral, striving to ensure that every Middletown child enters kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed. Ongoing training of professional staff is a vital component of this model.
OK has built an early childhood behavioral health system that includes three tiers – promotion, prevention, and early identification/intervention – to provide opportunities in the classroom for children to learn and practice pro-social and self-regulation skills and to help both early childhood educators and families manage challenging, persistent behaviors and address their root causes. We have increased the number of home visiting programs available for families by adding a Child FIRST and an Early Head Start program at Middlesex Hospital. We have increased the number of staff trained to conduct the Circle of Security parent-child attachment program and have plans to increase that number even further. In addition, we have provided training to psychiatrists at Middlesex Hospital to work with children as young as three years of age.
To prevent childhood obesity, OK’s public health consultant/dietitian offers training and support to early childhood educators, home visiting staff, and parents on nutrition and fitness issues. An Infant Feeding Work Group is working with the Connecticut Coalition for Breastfeeding to encourage local employers to support breastfeeding mothers when they return to work and provide them with mini-grants to make needed accommodations to do so. The collaborative is hosting a two-session workshop on Motivational Interviewing (MI) with Families of Young Children to Prevent Obesity. Participants include dietitians, early childhood home visitors, nurses, behavioral health providers, and physicians.
To improve access to oral health care, OK developed a mobile dental program and increased the number of local dentists who see children before age 3 and who see children on HUSKY. As part of our Home By One campaign, the Oral Health Work Group is recruiting dentists who treat children on medicare and those under the age of three.
We continue to seize opportunities to help meet the basic needs of families with young children. Seven years of work on childhood hunger has substantially expanded the capacity of our community to ensure that children are fed with programs such as Summer Lunch, Weekend Back Pack, Salvage Patch Kids, In-Classroom Breakfasts, Farmer Market Tokens, Mobile Food Pantry, SNAP Outreach, and After-School Meals. In the last four years the Middlesex Coalition for Children, in cooperation with Middlesex United Way, has launched two important programs: a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to ensure that families receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and child tax credits for which they qualify; and a diaper collection and distribution program which has taken the form of an expansion of the service area of The Diaper Bank to Middlesex County and provides diapers to over 200 families each month.
Jessica Stewart, School Readiness Coordinator, Middletown Public Schools
860-346-7354 | firstname.lastname@example.org