We asked First 5s to reflect on how the Strong Start Index will change the way they do their work. Our first response is from First 5 Sonoma County.
Honing home visiting
Like other First 5s, our funding is decreasing due to the decline in state tobacco tax revenue; we are concerned about sustainability, especially when it comes to Sonoma County’s critical home visiting program, Nurse Family Partnership. The data from the Strong Start Index will help us paint a picture of why home visiting is so important, and how critical the first 1,000 days of life are to a child’s development and well-being. It will also help us understand gaps in home visiting services from a place-based perspective—as well as affirm that we are reaching areas of the county where these services are needed the most.
Planning for the future
The Strong Start Index comes at an opportune time for us; our strategic planning process will begin again in the spring as our current plan comes to a close in 2020. We need to bring information to the table that helps our First 5 Commission understand the needs of Sonoma County’s children, as well as the assets of families and community. The Strong Start Index provides current and reliable data focused on the health and well-being of our very youngest children, a valuable tool for prioritizing investments.
Connecting the dots between local organizations
The data will also help the community-based providers we work with see connections and interdependencies across organizations. Providers are on the ground focused on serving families, but time and resource limitations can be isolating and may cause services to be provided in silos. The Strong Start Index’s integrated set of data points helps us to see the bigger picture—children’s health, early learning, family resilience—the areas that First 5 funds and supports. If we can recognize how our work connects and is mutually reinforcing across agencies and sectors, we can engage in deeper discussion about existing needs, where to target services, and what approaches are effective. Ultimately this creates a much greater opportunity for collective impact.
Cultivating donors and funders
Having this kind of data also has great potential to support some of our partners with sustainability efforts—particularly cultivating donors and seeking grant funding. In order to connect with and appeal to major donors, providers need to tell a compelling story. The Strong Start Index helps tells that story in an accessible way.
Angie Dillon-Shore is Executive Director of First 5 Sonoma County, which supports quality early learning, developmental screening, and home visiting for approximately 35,000 kids under age six and their families.
Share your Strong Start story! Email Jess at [email protected] to contribute.