Parents and caregivers are a young child’s first and most important teacher. It is imperative that parents and caregivers (including Family, Friend and Neighbor caregivers) understand how to support young children’s optimal development and consistently use that knowledge in this role. Unfortunately, despite a myriad of efforts across the state, many Colorado parents and caregivers indicate they don’t know where to turn for information and support. In addition, they often feel judged, inadequate, and alone when they are most stressed about their relationships with children in their care.
With direction and subject-matter expertise from its Steering Committee and Advisory Partners, the Early Childhood Communication Collaborative conducted a statewide survey of communications efforts that are aimed at reaching parents and caregivers with information or resources regarding early childhood, prenatal through age eight. Currently, every county in the state reports a variety of communication efforts, with even the most remote, least populous areas reporting a minimum of 30 efforts.
In addition, focus groups of parents and caregivers were conducted in both English and Spanish to evaluate the parent and caregiver understanding of the importance of early childhood development, explore anxiety points, gauge the barriers to accessing information and services, and test, locally, findings from national research.
While parents and caregivers express a strong desire to learn, even basic information is not cutting through the clutter; there is no consensus about what “early childhood development” means or how and when development occurs. A report of these findings entitled Early Childhood Communication Efforts in Colorado offers eleven recommendations organized around three major areas for improvement:
- Reduce communication “noise” resulting from inconsistencies or duplicate efforts that are unevenly targeted to families and caregivers in regions with different communication needs.
- Increase the quality of communication, including the use of effective content, enhanced communication training for trusted messengers who connect with parents and caregivers, and a heightened focus on effective tactics.
- Provide greater emphasis on the two-way, responsive engagement of parents and caregivers that will generate more positive outcomes for children’s cognitive and social development.
The Early Childhood Leadership Commission will work in partnership with others to prioritize implementations of the recommendations set forth in the report in the coming year.