Tag - Early Childhood

1
Milestones Matter
2
Help Me Grow – How to Find and Connect Families to Help
3
How Childhood Trauma Affects Lifelong Health
4
The Developing Brain
5
Childhood Sets the Stage for Everything
6
Resilience
7
Ready for Kindergarten!
8
Early Childhood Development
9
Defining Toxic Stress from a Community Perspective
10
The Importance of Early Childhood

Milestones Matter

By: Wendy S. Hubbard, RN, MCHC

Children grow so fast and as parents, we want to make sure they are developing well.

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move (crawling, walking, etc.).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Milestone Tracker, a free mobile app for children from birth to 5. The app provides information, photos, and videos on each milestone your child should reach in how he or she plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves. The app helps you track your child’s development and will help you to act early if you have a question or concern.

Click on the age of your child to see the milestones they should meet:

CDC’s Milestone Tracker app offers:

  • Interactive milestone checklists for children ages 2 months through 5 years, illustrated with photos and videos.
  • Tips and activities to help children learn and grow.
  • Information on when to act early and talk with a doctor about developmental delays.
  • A personalized milestone summary that can be easily shared with care providers.
  • Reminders for appointments and developmental screenings.
  • The ability to enter personalized information about your child(ren).
  • Milestone checklists for a child’s age.

Healthcare providers can also use the app to help with developmental surveillance as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and early care and education providers, home visitors, and others can use it to better understand children’s skills and abilities and to engage families in monitoring developmental progress.

To learn more about developmental milestones and access helpful resources, visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html.

 

The use of this app is not a substitute for the use of validated, standardized developmental screening tools as recommended by the AAP. This app was developed by the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program with contribution from Dr. Rosa Arriaga and students from the Computing for Good program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA.

CDC does not collect or share any personal information that can be used to identify you or your child.

Help Me Grow – How to Find and Connect Families to Help

By: Steve Ames

In my work as Building Bright Futures Regional Coordinator for the Lamoille Valley, I’ve been working to spread the word about Help Me Grow. Help Me Grow is the information and referral center for young families and kids that has recently been ramping up in Vermont.

A key component of Help Me grow is the call center. It’s part of the 211 System, and Child Development Specialists Elizabeth Gilman and Megan Fitzgerald are on the other end of the line (or text at 211*6).

The call center works closely with other agencies throughout the state. Though most calls come from families directly, sometimes they come from medical providers, or child care providers or family and friends. Calls run the gamut from “I missed my WIC appointment, do you know how late they’re open?” to wanting to have an in-depth discussion about a child’s development, or a request for potential help in the community for food or housing. There is significant value with the Help Me Grow system in that the calls can be anonymous, which lowers a caller’s fear, encourages them to really describe what they need, and allows trust to be built over time.

“The calls can be anonymous, which lowers a caller’s fear, encourages them to really describe what they need, and allows trust to be built over time.”

The Help Me Grow call center Child Development folks describe working with a mom with two children, one of whom receives special education services. The mom is a recent domestic violence survivor who had moved in with her family. The caller did not want to share information about herself or her kids on the first call, which was a request for help around food. She didn’t want to have to share her story repeatedly with service providers because she was concerned about being pitied or seen as not a good parent. The initial call with Help Me Grow was directed by the specialist to all the positive things the caller was doing as a parent –  how involved she was in her child’s Individualized Education Plan, the positive relationships she had with her parents, identifying some basic needs in her area, and how she might access resources. The specialist spoke specifically about Reach Up and how it might build on the strengths and resiliency she already had to transition her back to work. On that first call, she was not interested in seeking state assistance. However, after several calls and follow-ups, she went to a local food shelf and had a very positive experience, and some time later went to the Economic Services office to sign up for help.

Often families don’t have built-in supports that the caller described above did. Elizabeth, one of the two Child Development specialists at Help Me Grow, has reached out to families referred from medical providers when the families are hesitant or don’t respond to calls from Children’s Integrated Services. Elizabeth often works with the medical provider and Children’s Integrated Services (CIS) to ensure that the referred family is getting connected. Often it can take several months for families to feel comfortable and safe enough to try accessing support services like CIS.

Help Me Grow is working on a more intentional partnership with CIS. Recently, a family was referred to Help Me Grow by a physician. The family has two young children, ages 2 and 4, and their doctor had developmental concerns about both. Elizabeth called the parent and they completed CIS referral together over the phone. Elizabeth got permission to share information with the medical provider, CIS, and school district from the caller. Then she worked together to pursue Early Intervention for the younger child and school-based services for the older child. Help Me Grow was able to make the referral to the school district directly so CIS staff could focus on the Early Intervention work for the younger child. Then Help Me Grow followed up with the physician to let them know that the connection had been made and that the kids had begun to get the supports their physician knew they needed.

Text the letters HMGVT (in the body of the message) to the (short) phone number 898211.

When providers refer families to Help Me Grow, they have to let the family know and get their permission for follow up. Help Me Grow never cold calls a family. The Help Me Grow referral form requires providers who complete it to confirm that they’ve talked to the referred family. The Help Me Grow referral form also lets a provider indicate if they’ve already made a referral directly to CIS as well, so that Help Me Grow can instead focus on connecting the family to wrap-around supports like playgroups, activities or basic needs, while they are going through the CIS referral process. There are some families who, even if referred to CIS, are hesitant to engage with anyone from the government, so having another option for engaging those families is critical. Help Me Grow is this option.

Understanding the depth of follow up through the call center is critical for community partners to understand. Help Me Grow is working to fill gaps and build connections over time with more difficult-to-reach families and eventually connect them to services. Those who resist getting help with their young children in need are difficult to find, and, when they don’t receive the help they need, problems often increase over time.

To make Help Me Grow even easier to connect with, the Child Development Specialists are available via text for families – folks can text the letters HMGVT (that’s what you send in the body of the message) to the shortcode (imagine this as a phone number) 898211.

Here is Help Me Grow’s super informative website. On it you can find the Referral form and lots of developmental information for young families as well as for providers of services:

http://helpmegrowvt.org

Here are two great smartphone apps, for both iPhones and for Android devices that are terrific ways to get more information about your child’s development:

http://www.joinvroom.org

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones-app.html


As the Regional Coordinator for Building Bright Futures, Steve staffs The Lamoille Valley Building Bright Futures Regional Council, a volunteer committee focused on the well being of young children and their families. There is one such Council in each of twelve regions of the State. Steve also works with the Playroom in Morrisville. He writes about early childhood, families, community, play, and equity.

How Childhood Trauma Affects Lifelong Health

By: Jessica Bickford

Trauma… it’s the really horrific things that we go through as people… things that deeply impact us. For some, trauma is a single point in time while others experience ongoing trauma and instability.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary includes these concepts when defining the word trauma:

Injury caused by an extrinsic (outside ourselves) agent

Results in severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury

In many cases when we experience trauma as adults we have gained the tools and relationships to carry us through. When we experience trauma as children we do not necessarily have those resources or the brain development that gives us the resilience needed. The more trauma or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that a child experiences, the greater the likelihood these experiences will have negative health impacts throughout their lifespan that can include obesity, heart disease, and substance use disorders.

The good news is that there is new science emerging that gives us hope that our negative childhood experiences do not have to be our destiny.  The NEAR* sciences, as they are called, present a picture of hope. Come join Tricia Long** and Daniela Caserta*** at the upcoming “How Childhood Trauma Affects Lifelong Health” Workshops to find out more on how we can come together as a community and build this hope and change our health outcomes!

Join us for one of these evenings:

November 7th, Hazen Auditorium – 6:00-8:00

November 14th, Green Mountain Technology and Career Center – 6:00-8:00

You can pre-register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-childhood-trauma-affects-lifelong-health-tickets-38547319069. Pre-registration is not required, so grab a friend or neighbor and come out to one of these informative evenings!  All are welcome!

 

* NEAR Science = Neuroscience, Epigenetics, ACEs, & Resilience

** Tricia Long is a clinical mental health counselor, and Director for Resilience Beyond Incarceration at the Lamoille Restorative Center, a program that supports children and families dealing with parental incarceration.

*** Daniela Caserta has been overseeing a variety of programs at the Lamoille Family Center and is transitioning to be the Director of Programs for the Washington County Family Center.

 


Jessica Bickford has worked as Coordinator of Healthy Lamoille Valley for a little over two years, where she has enjoyed writing for their blog. Writing for Copley’s community blog is a natural extension of this experience! Healthy Lamoille Valley focuses on making healthy choices easy choices, realizing that when we have access to healthy options we are less likely to choose behaviors that are harmful. Prevention is really a lifestyle of wise choices that enable us to live life to the fullest.

The Developing Brain

By: Rebecca Copans

Lucy, 3 years old, heading to her first day of preschool.

As a parent, you want nothing more than for your child to be happy and healthy, to make friends, and to be accepted and integrated with their peers. When one of those pieces doesn’t fall into place as you would hope, you start asking questions.  You talk to your friends and neighbors, you ask for help from your primary care provider, and you call Lamoille County Mental Health Services.

From when she was a toddler, my daughter Lucy struggled with communicating her needs in a socially acceptable way.  As an infant, we taught her baby sign language and she was incredibly proficient in verbal language at an early age. Also from a young age, however, she was paralyzed by social pressures and extreme shyness. When she was three and entered preschool, it didn’t go well. A brand new teacher fresh out of college combined with some energetic kids is a recipe for chaos. Sprinkle in social, emotional and behavioral challenges, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

It all came to a head when we were invited to a birthday party in March, seven months into the program and I saw firsthand what she had been trying to tell me week after week. She would come home and say, “No one played with me today.” Or, “I don’t have any friends at school.”  Impossible, I thought. This is preschool, where they learn to be friends and care about each other equally—right? Wrong. It was like watching a car wreck. I was rooted to the spot, transfixed as parents chatted around me, oblivious to the scene that our children were playing out with each other. There were leaders and followers, cliques and bullying, and passive-aggressive exclusion that was closer to how seventh-grade girls infamously treat each other. This was a 4-year old’s birthday party. I was shocked. I have never felt so acutely that I failed as a parent. I didn’t listen to this tiny little person tell me over and over that she needed help figuring out how to navigate an incredibly stressful situation. It was like a language that everyone else could speak but her.

We asked for advice, I cried a whole lot, and ultimately we changed schools. Within three weeks of being enrolled in her new school, her teachers surged to action. We created a plan and began pulling in an incredible array of wrap-around services.They suggested screenings and behavioral interventions and within months and with some incredible people in her corner, things began slowly to improve, tiny step by tiny step.

From under a porch chair “fort”, 5 year old Lucy weaves a story for her brother Hazen.

Lucy, who suffers from a heady mix of debilitating shyness, ADHD and learning disabilities, was taught to scaffold mental prompts that allow most children seemingly automatically to wait for a turn at the paper towel dispenser (rather than pushing past to avoid having to think of something to say—and then say it—to the child blocking her way), to wait quietly in line to go outside for recess, to ask a teacher for help navigating a problem, or, the Everest: to ask “can I play?” Working with the behavioral interventionist, we created a playbook so that her family and her teachers were all working from the same place and using the same language.

Those early interventions helped to rewire her brain. She was given the tools to ask with her words rather than by hurling her body through space, and was able to integrate gracefully into playing with her peers by having a coach whispering prompts in her ear. As those prompts become ingrained, and with her incredible early educators mimicking the behavior interventionist’s language, the social fabric of her life became more normalized. By the time she entered Kindergarten, that coach standing by her shoulder was no longer needed, and in fact, her problem-solving skills became tools that her Kindergarten peers learned from Lucy.

When Lucy was a toddler, we thought that her actions were simply normal—we had nothing to compare it to. We thought parenting was simply the hardest job on the planet and didn’t realize how much help was available in the community. I didn’t know that our designated mental health agency or our local parent-child center offered resources for someone with Lucy’s developmental challenges, and for us, as parents raising her. I had the misconception that those agencies were reserved only for low-income Vermonters. We had no idea where to turn and grew increasingly panicked.

Studies from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University have shown that in the first years of life, a developing brain forms one million connections every second. By the age of by the age of five, 90% of the brain is developed. If we had waited until Lucy reached Kindergarten before putting behavior interventions in place, the work in bending her trajectory would have become much more difficult.

Lucy is far from alone on her path. A 2015 VT Digger story noted,

“Vermont has the highest rate of identifying students with emotional disturbance in the country. As a percentage of all students who received special education services in the 2012-13 school year in Vermont, about 16 percent were identified with an emotional disturbance, according to federal data. That is more than twice the national average of 6.3 percent.”

Some experts have argued that Vermont is simply doing a better job than other states at early identification and intervention.

During the 2016-2017 School Year, the School-Based Clinician Program at Lamoille County Mental Health supported over 120 children like Lucy from preschool-age to high school seniors. These dedicated individuals provided individual, group, and team support for students in their learning environments. School-Based Clinicians teach and practice mindfulness techniques with children, organize running and fitness groups, support skill development in the areas of self-advocacy, self-regulation, identifying and verbalizing emotional states, peer conflict resolution, verbal and non-verbal communication, and development of reciprocal play skills. They also facilitate training sessions for an increase in trauma-informed approaches in schools. These services are now available in 12 schools with a potential to serve over 200 children in the Lamoille Valley.

The Redwood Program at LCMHS contracts with school districts to offer wrap-around, full-year behavioral interventions for children. The children engaged in the program during the school year then attend a six-week summer camp that has precipitously lowered the crisis rate for kids returning to school in the fall. The Redwood Summer Camp is free for students enrolled in the Redwood Program and prevents a lot of kids from needing more expensive therapies. It maintains structure for the children during the summer and builds and strengthens the relationships between the kids and the incredible cohort of behavioral interventionists.

At 7 years old, Lucy is thriving with school-based supports.

The Access Program at LCMHS offers Community Skills Work (CSW), allowing children to connect with this service when in crisis. At its peak this year, the CSW Program served approximately 60 children at one time. In addition to weekly visits with children, the program also supports activities such as Wellness Camp, Children’s Emotional Wellness Day and the Resource Parent Curriculum Plus (RPC+) Children’s Group—an incredible program that supports placement stability for children in foster care. The CSW Program is connected with several local organizations, offering access to activities such as swimming, ice skating, gyms, game rooms, and State Parks.

During that first year of preschool, I was sure that Lucy would never be able to succeed socially in school.  Now as a second grader, she has wonderful friends, she is successful in dance and gymnastics, she is able to have playdates that don’t reliably devolve into tears, and on any given day a stranger in the grocery store wouldn’t know the challenges she faces—all things that would have seemed impossible four years ago. Without those early interventions, this trajectory would be heading in a very different direction. When parents are at a loss as to how to help their child, they need to know that they aren’t alone and that help can be found right here in Lamoille. Parenting is hard in the best of situations and if you are struggling, some days it just feels impossible. Support is just right down the street. If you or someone you know could use some help with a child who is struggling, don’t wait until it’s a crisis to ask for help.

If you or a child you know needs help, call Lamoille County Mental Health at (802) 888-5026 or visit www.lamoille.org.


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.

Childhood Sets the Stage for Everything

By: Scott Johnson

Adverse Childhood Experiences_Live Well Lamoille

Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence, victimization, lifelong health and opportunity. As such, early experiences are an important public health issue. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Published in 1998, a Kaiser Permanente study of 17,000 people showed a link between the stressful experiences a person has before the age of 18 and a person’s physical, emotional and social health.

The study identified ten adverse childhood experiences: 

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Sexual abuse
  3. Emotional abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Mother treated violently
  7. Household substance abuse
  8. Household mental illness
  9. Parental separation or divorce
  10. Incarcerated household member

Recent studies of adult Vermonters revealed that 57% have one or more ACEs and 22% have 3 or more ACEs. ACEs have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, and early death. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes.

What can be done about preventing ACEs?

The wide‐ranging health and social consequences underscore the importance of preventing ACEs before they happen. Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments can have a positive impact on a broad range of health problems and on the development of skills that will help children reach their full potential and be resilient.

The Lamoille Family Center is one of fifteen Parent Child Centers (PCCs) in Vermont that use the Strengthening Families Framework and have a two‐generation approach to both mitigate and help prevent ACEs. The Centers for Disease Control recommends strategies for preventing ACEs, which resonate with the 8 core services that PCCs offer or that we refer to for support, including:

  • home visiting to pregnant women and newborns
  • parent training programs
  • social supports for parents
  • parent support programs for teens and teen pregnancy prevention programs
  • high quality child care
  • income support for lower income families
  • intimate partner violence prevention
  • mental health and substance abuse treatment.

It takes all of us to build flourishing communities that support the healthy and resilient development of our children.  Join us in the next few weeks at one of the following showings of the James Redford film Resilience, a one hour documentary that delves into the science of ACEs.

Choose from any of these three dates/locations. Reserve your free ticket today!


Scott Johnson is Executive Director of the Lamoille Family Center and has worked in Lamoille Valley in human services and education for nearly his entire career. The Family Center has served our community by encouraging, educating and celebrating children, youth and families for forty years.

Scott writes about early care and education, adolescent development and strengthening families that improve conditions of well-being.

Resilience

By: Jessica Bickford

Many community partners are coming together to host three screenings of the film, “Resilience.” This film looks at Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they can impact our lives into adulthood. Beyond ACEs, the film explores ways to come together as a community to support and create opportunities for resilience, or the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful (again) after something bad happens.

 

Resilience Trailer – KPJR Films from KPJR FILMS LLC on Vimeo.

Choose from any of three dates/locations. Reserve your free ticket today!

Here’s a longer overview of the film:

“The child may not remember, but the body remembers.”

The original research was controversial, but the findings revealed the most important public health findings of a generation. RESILIENCE is a one-hour documentary that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent Toxic Stress. Now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behavior.

However, as experts and practitioners profiled in RESILIENCE are proving, what’s predictable is preventable. These physicians, educators, social workers and communities are daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse and neglect. And they’re using cutting edge science to help the next generation break the cycles of adversity and disease.

A must see for everyone in our communities!



Jessica Bickford has worked as Coordinator of Healthy Lamoille Valley for a little over two years, where she has enjoyed writing for their blog. Writing for Copley’s community blog is a natural extension of this experience! Healthy Lamoille Valley focuses on making healthy choices easy choices, realizing that when we have access to healthy options we are less likely to choose behaviors that are harmful. Prevention is really a lifestyle of wise choices that enable us to live life to the fullest.

Ready for Kindergarten!

By: Scott Johnson

Kindergarten

“The research is clear that children who have high-quality early learning and development opportunities experience greater success in school, relationships and life. This not only benefits the children; it’s economically beneficial for our society as a whole.” – Let’s Grow Kids

Children need high quality environments that are rich in love, learning and literacy – whether that experience is at home with a parent, with kin or a neighbor, or at one of our many great child care providers in Lamoille Valley.

Since 2000, Vermont has gathered information on the readiness of children entering kindergarten by surveying kindergarten teachers about their students’ knowledge and skills within the first six to ten weeks of school. The effort to measure school readiness is a collaborative project of the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE), the Department for Children and Families, and the Department of Health. (Various surveys for assessing schools’ readiness have been conducted since this effort began.) After extensive expert review, the new Ready for Kindergarten! Survey (R4K!S) has been adopted.

There are many interpretations of what constitutes “school readiness.” Vermont’s concept of children’s readiness is multidimensional and includes:

  • social and emotional development
  • communication
  • physical health
  • cognitive development and knowledge
  • approaches to learning (e.g., enthusiasm for learning, persistence, curiosity).

Vermont’s concept also reflects the belief that “school readiness” is interactional: children need to be ready for schools, and schools need to be ready to accommodate the diverse needs of each and every child.

What’s New

The 2015-16 Ready for Kindergarten! Survey (R4K!S) marks the deployment of a new survey instrument, changes in scoring methods, and criteria used for identification of students as “ready.” The survey also includes new and revised questions, including six in the physical development and health domain.

The R4K!S is not a direct assessment of children; rather it relies on the teacher’s accumulated observational knowledge of the child developed during the first few weeks of kindergarten.”

If you’re interested, click here to read the report.

Helping Your Child Be Ready

Parents and caregivers play a critical role in their child’s development. It’s important to offer children opportunities to learn, grow, and be capable every day. Creating environments that are literacy rich, full of adult-to-child interactions, are socially interactive with peers, and that attend to healthy habits are important ingredients to kindergarten readiness.

Here are some of my favorite resources to help:

I Can Teach My Child – “33 Ways To Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten.”

Let’s Grow Kids: A great resource to learn more about the importance of the early years.

The Lamoille Family Center is committed to working with our partners to encourage, educate and celebrate families so we realize the promise of every child. For more information about the Lamoille Family Center call 888-5229 or visit our website at http://www.lamoillefamilycenter.org.


Scott Johnson is Executive Director of the Lamoille Family Center and has worked in Lamoille Valley in human services and education for nearly his entire career. The Family Center has served our community by encouraging, educating and celebrating children, youth and families for forty years.

Scott writes about early care and education, adolescent development and strengthening families that improve conditions of well-being.

Early Childhood Development

By: Steve Ames

early childhood

A young child, by age 4, has an extraordinary number of connections in his or her brain. Hundreds of trillions. In a baby, these connections are created as fast as 1,000 per second. These first four or five years are THE most important time in any person’s life. During this period their lighting-fast brain development either builds pathways for success, or not, depending on their experience.

Quality experiences for babies and toddlers mean stable and positive interactions with adults in their lives. Playing, talking, singing, reading – right from the very beginning.

Over the last couple of years working in early childhood, I have become more and more impressed with the importance of quality early experiences and how they contribute to healthy brain development for children. At the same time, it’s the extraordinary work by parents, child care providers and preK educators throughout the area that is helping to raise the most wonderful kids I’ve met yet!

In the Lamoille Valley more than 68% of kids have both parents in the workforce, so we really depend on child care providers – early educators – to help our kids to grow and flourish to their best potential. I’m lucky to work together with many of these folks to be sure that support is there for kids and their families, and many others who advocate for this critical part of childhood.

An especially wonderful resource for us has been the Lamoille Family Center, which runs playgroups, a child care center, and parent education classes, and provides support to children who can grow better with a little bit of help and coaching.


As the Regional Coordinator for Building Bright Futures, Steve staffs The Lamoille Valley Building Bright Futures Regional Council, a volunteer committee focused on the well being of young children and their families. There is one such Council in each of twelve regions of the State. Steve also works with the Playroom in Morrisville. He writes about early childhood, families, community, play, and equity.

Defining Toxic Stress from a Community Perspective

By: Scott Johnson

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.07.36 AM

The Lamoille Family Center and Building Bright Futures Council are partners with eight other communities across the country in the Early Childhood-Learning and Innovation Network of Communities (EC-LINC). EC-LINC is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington D.C. and the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County. The mission is to support families and improve results for young children in communities across the country with a focus on accelerating the development of effective, integrated, local early childhood systems.

EC-LINC partners have long histories of building effective early childhood systems and share their perspectives and experiences to guide our work and solve common challenges together. EC-LINC works to:

  • Create a “community of communities” that fuels learning and innovation to tackle the toughest shared challenges and demonstrate results.
  • Build and disseminate knowledge about the range of community-based efforts across the country.
  • Develop opportunities for local leaders and state and federal policymakers to work together to accelerate strategies that improve results for children and families.

Over the past year, one of our collective efforts was a Learning Lab on community responses to toxic stress, resulting in this Policy Brief.

“Building on the widely used definition of toxic stress from the Harvard Center for the Developing Child, the [EC-LINC] Learning Lab has worked to define what toxic stress is, why it is of concern and how communities can respond.”

The next question for our community to answer is what we will do in Lamoille to ensure all of our children are healthy, nurtured, supported and free of abuse. Please feel free to share your ideas here, or contact Steve Ames or myself.

Scott Johnson: sjohnson@lamoillefamilycenter.org or 888-5229 Ext. 124

Steve Ames: SAmes@BuildingBrightFutures.org or 279-7558.

For more information about the EC-LINC, visit http://www.cssp.org/reform/early-childhood/early-childhood-linc.


Scott Johnson is Executive Director of the Lamoille Family Center and has worked in Lamoille Valley in human services and education for nearly his entire career. The Family Center has served our community by encouraging, educating and celebrating children, youth and families for forty years.

Scott writes about early care and education, adolescent development and strengthening families that improve conditions of well-being.

The Importance of Early Childhood

By: Steve Ames

While running River Arts in 2007 – and in the middle of the renovation of the Lamoille Grange – now the River Arts Center – I had a chance to visit the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor. The jail has a maximum-security section and a section for inmates with mental health issues. It was a profound day – I wish we all had a chance to do that. Then a couple weeks later, I heard Howard Dean talk about working early childhood educationwith pregnant and mothering teens in Harlem. It was like a light bulb moment for me as I realized that early childhood is the time to make progress in so many issues in our communities. It was after these experiences that I began to move River Arts programming more towards young kids, and with Kati Furs, started Open Gym and My First Camp…

Since then it has only become more clear how critical the first few years of our lives are in determining our health and well being for the rest of our lives. In fact, in the first three years of our lives, 80% of our brain development takes place. 700 synapses are created every second in a two year old! WOW. And the most significant way to foster great brain development in babies is for them to have stable positive relationships with the adults in their lives.

So I’m delighted these days to be working with Building Bright Futures and working with early childhood issues in the Lamoille Valley area and across the State – even a little at the national level. And, I’m looking forward to sharing our work with our community on this blog.


As the Regional Coordinator for Building Bright Futures, Steve staffs The Lamoille Valley Building Bright Futures Regional Council, a volunteer committee focused on the well being of young children and their families. There is one such Council in each of twelve regions of the State. Steve also works with the Playroom in Morrisville. He writes about early childhood, families, community, play, and equity.