Notes from a Fellow: Empowering Teen Moms

Notes from a Fellow: This is the third post from Jostin Grimes, a summer fellow with ICS through the Southern Education Leadership Initiative. Throughout the summer, Jostin will share reflections on his experience at ICS, thoughts on the field, and updates on projects. You can follow the posts here.

Greetings once again! It is crazy to think that I am already blogging for my third post for the summer and completing the fourth week of this wonderful fellowship. Not only have I discovered new topics that are associated with early childhood education but I have also found  strategies that nonprofits are using to challenge the current edu policy status quo. Being a part of the i(cs) team has given me the innate ability to analyze education articles and discussions through a critical lense. As the weeks progress I am beginning to craft my independent research that I will be presenting at the end of the fellowship. Conducting independent research will give me the necessary platform to critique and reshape current policies and think-tank organizations that focus solely on child success and empowerment.  

While working on my first policy brief which covered the current landscape of early childhood education, I stumbled across a topic that is somewhat of a taboo topic in America: teenage pregnancy. More specifically, the various services available to those who are with child. Often, young women who are pregnant are ostracized from their families and are forced to find alternative methods to provide for themselves and their newborns. The majority of the young women who are pregnant identify with the low SES category and have to utilize governmental subsidies such as Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) and Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF, commonly referred to as welfare). Secondly, teen pregnancy forces these young women to place a hold on their current educational endeavors, future plans, and in some instances put a cease to their social life. Maintaining a healthy pregnancy requires the mother to spend a significant amount of money on food and medicine for herself and for her child, and to make a financial plan for child care once the baby arrives. The emotional and financial gap that is associated with being a first time mother can be stressful, but with adequate amount from healthcare officials and child care advocates this can be reduced.

This gap in education can lead towards a strain on a mother’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development, as well as employment opportunities. In turn, this strain can affect a mom’s relationship with her child, as well as her child’s future educational attainment.This absence of services and increase in teen pregnancy rates sparked the interests of Dr. David Olds, University of Colorado, who developed the Nurse-Family Partnership to address this problem.  This non-profit organization is a home-visitation service that assists first-time, teenage mothers (15-19 yrs old) in assisting them during the nurturing stage (0-2yrs). For teenage mothers who make 185% at or below the federal poverty level,trained and certified nurses assure a healthy delivery, maintain good health and child development,and provides the mother with a vision and goals for the future.  In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley is working diligently with private funders and organizers to expand NFP’s reach to more than 3,000 new mothers and children in the state beginning in 2016 through Pay for Success financing. South Carolina seeks to reduce preterm births and improve number of first time mothers that are served.

Learning about early intervention programs such as NFP has ignited a drive to question the current policies, services, and funding allocated to teenage mothers.How are teen mothers expected to raise a well-developed child when there are limited resources to assist with child care and development? Why is there a lack of family child care centers in densely populated urban areas? What are schools doing to educate teen mothers on ways to find proper resources for childcare? The reality is that teen pregnancy is prevalent with the majority of teens dropping out of high school due to pregnancy and early parenthood. Due to these circumstances high schools are experiencing exponential increases in dropout rates for teenage mother. Instead of belittling teen mothers, reformers, governmental officials, and school administrators should partner with health and early child care organizations to implement support systems and resources to provide to these mothers and families.

As a student of sociology, I was interested in observing how the self-efficacy theory (Albert Bandura, 1977) played a role in the structural composition of an early intervention service such as NFP. Bandura, a renowned psychologist and sociologist, provides us with a context in the relationship between behavior and achievement/outcome. For example, a mother will contact the Nurse-Family Partnership if they strongly believe that this will improve child development and school readiness. The work from committed nurses and social services through the Nurse-Family Partnership is another example of early intervention programs offered to families. 

Bandura quote

The fight towards equality for silenced and oppressed voices is on the rise – in order for this action to be successful there has to be a strong willingness to challenge and critique systematic components that target marginalized individuals.

“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” -Audre Lord

 

Paving the way for expansion of work with young children

The final sessions of the Third Annual Conference of the Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors focused on provisions that could be made in federal law and in developing Pay for Success projects to enable better services for young children.

Two experts on PFS-related activity in Washington gave the audience an in-depth update on federal legislation and programs that can support PFS programs.

The first place PFS emerged in federal policy was through the Workforce Innovation Fund through the U.S. Department of Labor. About $26.3 million was divided among different entities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice are jointly using PFS to expand permanent housing for people transitioning out of incarceration, said Nicole Truhe, the director of government affairs for America Forward, a coalition of public and private supporters of social innovation.

Afterwards, the Social Innovation Fund was given around $14 million to support PFS projects across the country, and has used a significant portion of that to support projects to improve outcomes for young children, said Bryan Boroughs, the general counsel and director of legislative affairs for ICS.  ICS is a grantee of the Social Innovation Fund, as are several of America Forward’s member organizations.

A longer-term goal, Truhe said, is to show PFS’ value so that it can be included in formula funding streams within a variety of federal agencies. PFS first became an entitlement-related investment in the federal budget through the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. State governments can use 15 percent of funds under the law for various needs—now including PFS projects. Those funds could pay for program evaluations, technical assistance, and technology and data systems, Truhe said, though the implementing regulations will need to be enacted first.

High-quality early childhood programs are critical to a strong workforce in the short-term because they can provide excellent family supports for working parents.  In the long-term, quality early care and education prepares young children for school so that they can succeed in the workforce in the future, said Boroughs.

The new main federal education law, currently known as the Every Student Succeeds Act—which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act—includes for the first time a federal definition of PFS, Truhe said.  It also includes descriptions of feasibility studies and evaluations and flexibility within billions of Title I funds that can allow for some PFS program support. Funding under Title IV of the law for safe and healthy schools may be used to develop school-community partnerships for behavioral health or other needs that affect children beyond the school walls, she said. Legislative advocates are working with federal officials as they hammer out regulations under the new law, she said.

Bryan Boroughs (Institute for Child Success) and Nicole Truhe (America Forward) talks legislative updates, including the federal Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA).

Bryan Boroughs (Institute for Child Success) and Nicole Truhe (America Forward) talks legislative updates, including the federal Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA).

Unfortunately, PFS is not included in ESSA for early childhood programs, Boroughs said. But other pools of federal funds are developing. The most hopeful sign is that the House passed a bill on June 21 that would provide at least $100 million toward PFS programs, with half that amount specifically for programs that impact children. The details on the proposed Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA) can be found here.

A panel featuring ICS’s own Megan Carolan looked at using PFS to serve the youngest children and those in special education.

Janice M. Gruendel of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child’s Frontiers of Innovation Initiative, discussed the latest research in early childhood learning showing the impacts of toxic stress on brain development. PFS programs shouldn’t focus on one slice of early childhood services, but should build a range of services that serve needy parents even before a child’s birth through developmental screening later in childhood. “Support the whole family in whatever way you can,” she said.

Jennifer Tschantz of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs told a breakout session audience of improving federal data on outcomes for children with disabilities that may be useful in evaluating PFS programs. The PFS strategy could lead to more early screening of children so they can get the services they need, and expand inclusion in preschool classes for students with disabilities.

Colorado State Sen. Mike Johnston, a leading advocate for PFS and early childhood in the state, told a moving story about his children’s love for a book about Helen Keller. He’s the father of twin 8 year olds and a 4-year-old daughter.

His youngest child responded to hearing a line in the book about Keller being “deaf, blind and dumb,” by saying: “Daddy, Helen Keller wasn’t dumb.” Indeed she wasn’t, but she had lost the ability to speak, he said. “We are working to support kids all across the country that … have lost their voice,” the senator continued. “Give them their voice back.”

“What can we do to find the resources to the kids who need them?” he implored.

Following Sen. Johnston, ReadyNation co-founder of Robert Dugger closed the conference by calling on advocates to help “millions of kids have their voice.”

“We have accomplished a lot, but clearly … We’ve got a whole lot more to accomplish,” he said.

-Alan Richard

Alan Richard is a veteran national education writer, formerly of Education Week, the Southern Regional Education Board and others. He contributes to the Hechinger Report and is the board chairman of the nonprofit Rural School and Community Trust. Follow him on Twitter: @educationalan.

Day 2 of the PFS conference: What to know about taking on a project 

Navjeet Bal (Social Finance), Christian Soura (S.C. Department of Health and Human Services), Roxane White (Nurse-Family Partnership) and Emily Gustafsson-Wright (Brookings Institution).

Navjeet Bal (Social Finance), Christian Soura (S.C. Department of Health and Human Services), Roxane White (Nurse-Family Partnership) and Emily Gustafsson-Wright (Brookings Institution).

The second day of the Third Annual Conference of the Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors in Denver featured an array of experts on exploring feasibility, evaluation and other aspects of using Pay for Success to start or expand early childhood services.

Setting up these programs can be a large undertaking, involving multiple state agencies, dealing with the federal government around Medicaid reimbursement, political shifts, and governance, said Christian Soura, the director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. He described his state’s $30 million program to institute Nurse Family Partnership home visiting and related programs across the state. The best reason to try PFS, he said, is to build a financing bridge toward possible future programs in a state.

Before starting a project, make sure your community or state and your area of emphasis are right for this strategy, Soura said in the day’s opening plenary. “Don’t do PFS just to do PFS,” he said. “PFS makes sense for us because we hit the right conditions. … We’re working toward a more durable and sustainable funding model to sustain these kinds of services.”

Roxane White, the founder and CEO of the national nonprofit Nurse-Family Partnership, said it’s critical to know what a project can accomplish and cannot. “We’re for PFS, but more than that,” she said, the goal is to get needed services to families who need them.

The Brookings Institution’s Emily Gustafsson-Wright detailed how PFS, social-impact bonds and similar strategies are being used in early childhood services around the globe. There’s an education program for girls in India, an agriculture effort in Peru, expanding early childhood programs in South Africa, and programs to address low infant birth weight in Cameroon.

Some of the challenges Gustafsson-Wright described in other countries were familiar to U.S. conference attendees: financing, capacity, gaps in knowledge, lack of political will, the need for expanding access while stressing high quality, and more.

What’s holding PFS back? The undertaking can be complex and may involve many layers of government, financing and program decisions, experts here said.

“We need to get faster,” said Navjeet Bal of Social Finance. Knowing lines of authority and building strong relationships with political and budgetary leaders in the state are critical and can save headaches and time, she added.

What does the research say?

In one conference session, leading researchers in early childhood education described their work related to PFS—which could add to a relatively paltry evidence base that currently exists on how to make the most difference in young children’s preparedness for school and life.

Katharine Stevens of the American Enterprise Institute, discussed her recent in-depth report surveying the available research on pre-K program effectiveness nationally (available here: https://www.aei.org/publication/does-pre-k-work-the-research-on-ten-early-childhood-programs-and-what-it-tells-us/). Despite her criticism of public re-K programs that she fears aren’t always effective and aren’t based on extensive research, she supports PFS as a strategy to develop and expand early ed programs that really work. “We don’t want to waste the opportunity to move things in a better direction,” she said.

At lunch, a discussion among national funders on using PFS to start and expand programs in an era of few major state budget increases for early childhood programs. “What we’re trying to do is influence the disruption in intergenerational poverty in this country, particularly among young people,” said Woody McCutchen of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, one of the panelists.

Another session highlighted several PFS projects that are under way, and their early results.

Greg Williamson of Washington State’s Department of Early Learning said their PFS effort to expand home visiting programs may result in an overhaul of how all of state government uses data and evidence to manage many different programs better. “This could change the way we do state government,” he said. “By having better data, clearer outcomes, understanding of what we’re paying for, the philanthropic community in our part of world got interested. … They say it needs to be (done) across state government.”

Kellie Noe, of Cradle to Career Sonoma County in California and a local school board member, described in detail her county’s feasibility study to explore a major expansion of high-quality preschool. A report showed two years ago grave disparities between affluent residents in the county and low-income families whose children are prevalent in the local public schools. Only 36 percent of students show adequate readiness for kindergarten, she said, and as low as 4 percent of children in some schools read proficiently by 3rd grade.

The project may focus on serving cohorts of about 900 pre-K students in five communities in Sonoma County, she said. The system could fund preschool for families whose income is at 300 percent of the national poverty rate—because it’s expensive to live in the area, just north of San Francisco.

Billy Powers of the Sorenson Impact Center, who worked in the Westminster, Colo., schools, outside Denver, described in depth the feasibility study he’s leading to expand high-quality pre-K in the school district. The district has about 10,000 students in grades preK-12, he said, and about 70 percent of students come from low-income families. School districts in Colorado face strict limits under state law on how much they can raise local taxes, leaving many school systems unable to afford pre-K classes or other needed programs.

The Westminster schools looked to PFS as a possible strategy to expanding early childhood services. The feasibility study looks promising, Powers said:

He suggested several key questions for anyone embarking on a feasibility study:

  • What’s the need in your community?
  • What’s your proposed solution?
  • Who will implement the solutions?
  • What will success look like?
  • Who will verify the success and how?

Look for more blog updates to come, focusing on legislative developments in the PFS field and from sessions on the final day of the conference.

-Alan Richard

Progress happening nationwide as national Pay for Success conference opens

Advocates for young children gathered from across the nation starting June 22 in Denver for the nation’s largest conference on using Pay for Success (PFS) to expand early childhood programs.

The Third Annual Conference of the Early Childhood Social Impact Advisors launched its opening day with speeches from some of the nation’s top leaders in the PFS field. Rob Dugger, the chairman of ReadyNation’s advisory board, welcomed an audience of about 300 to Denver, by far the largest PFS conference yet.

Joe Waters, ICS’ own executive vice president and a leading advocate for PFS, opened the conference by calling the strategy a promising tool to catalyze support for programs to help young children. It’s already expanding resources for early childhood education, children’s health services, parenting programs, solutions for the homeless, and much more, Waters said. (ICS planned the conference with its partners, and is one of several technical assistance providers under a PFS federal grant. We have offices in Greenville, S.C., and New York City.)

Speakers noted that the previous night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark PFS bill that would provide more than $100 million in support for such programs, with $50 million designated for early childhood. (See our ICS blog post on the bill: https://blog.instituteforchildsuccess.org/2016/06/22/u-s-house-passes-landmark-pay-for-success-legislation/).

PFS—a strategy that allows philanthropies and private entities to invest in projects that will make a social impact for vulnerable populations—is the centerpiece of President Obama’s social innovation agenda, said Dave Wilkinson, the director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, in the opening conference plenary.

Why does PFS makes sense? It allows government to try innovations without introducing work across a grand scale that might not work, Wilkinson said. Massive public housing such as Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green Homes high-rise complex ended up being a misguided strategy, he said.

“We know if we don’t try anything new, we wont improve,” he said. “The responsible choice is to try promising concepts on a small scale and roll them out gradually if they work.” Even if a PFS project fails or needs adjustment, it “contributes to evidence base” and requires rigorous evaluation, Wilkinson added.

“We need to be funding more of what works and less of what doesn’t,” he continued. “It shifts government to an outcomes mindset. … We think PFS can help drive a broader transformative affect in government.”

Challenges ahead?

The next session focused on some of the challenges advocates in using Pay for Success to expand early childhood programs across the country. Sam Aigner-Treworgy, the director of early childhood policy for City of Chicago, moderated the discussion.

Libby Doggett, head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning, said her agency will continue to support the use of PFS to develop high-quality preschool programs. She called for even more creative use of PFS, to expand access and quality of early education and for programs such as dual-language classes that help young children learn other languages.

Marcia Egbert of The George Gund Foundation in Cleveland described how her foundation has spent the past 18 months funding a child-welfare program that combines elements of early learning with efforts to help homeless families. PFS “offered that rare opportunity to do the very best kinds of interventions for the very most in need,” she said. It “helped us tailor a suite of innovations” around a local issue that needed to be addressed. “We believe passionately in the power of this mechanism.”

PFS allowed a large investment of capital up front “in a way that historically had only been used for bricks and mortar… instead for human capital” and serving young children, Egbert said. “We’re just not doing the work in early childhood fast enough,” she said.

In Chicago, the renowned Child-Parent Centers preschool (the subject of much important research in the early education field), is able to serve an additional 2,000-plus families using PFS, Aigner-Treworgy said. She noted that one challenge she’s encountered is in how to measure the success of the program.

The Chicago preschool includes the rate of its students who later qualify for special education services as one of its evaluation criteria. The goal was to help young children with learning challenges, speech and hearing issues, or other disabilities to get personal attention and referrals to the assistance they needed. Fewer children might need special education after those interventions. But some special education advocates feared children might suffer under such criteria if results were skewed to seem more favorable. They didn’t want children who needed special services to go without them. (Here’s a recent ICS blog post on that issue: https://blog.instituteforchildsuccess.org/2016/05/23/chicago-in-context-considering-pay-for-success-to-improve-special-education/).

But Aigner-Treworgy said her city is working through those issues and going out of its way to ensure equitable treatment for children. The whole idea is to help them, not withhold needed services.

Will PFS’ impact continue to grow?

The next panel focused on more of the technical aspects of financing PFS programs. Megan Golden, a senior fellow at ICS and national expert on PFS, was the moderator. She asked the panelists how PFS for their thoughts on how it will change approaches to social problems in the coming years.

Jeremy Keele, the executive director of the Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah (one of ICS’ many partners in the conference, including Ready Nation and others) said it’s already beginning to change how government uses data. The promise of integrating data from different sectors—criminal justice, public health, behavioral health, education and others—can help fine-tune solutions, he said. “This concept is not exclusive to PFS” but “forces that data and analytics conversation the way nothing else does. It will help governments “to make better-informed decisions … with respect to how to solve problems for at-risk populations.”

A related effect could be “performance-based contracting” and “using the data that we collect today much more effectively to improve social policy,” said Jake Segal of Social Finance.

Rick Edwards of Third Sector Capital Partners agreed that PFS is changing how contracts call for evaluations of programs, and that taking that approach may be revolutionary. “Measuring (government) programs is going to become a norm,” he said. “That’s going to cause governments to change the way they work.”

Later in the evening, Jeff Schoenberg, an adviser to the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, another partner in the conference, touted PFS’ potential to add massive investments in early childhood programs across the nation. Schoenberg asked: If Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman’s contention that high-quality early childhood education has the greatest return on investment for families and society of any public program, then why not expand it in every community?

Already, PFS has led Utah lawmakers to make their first-ever investments in pre-K programs, Schoenberg said.

Attendees then looked ahead to June 23 sessions that focused more on local-based efforts to use PFS for early childhood programs in communities across the country. Sessions also will focus on advances in evaluating PFS programs, how PFS programs link with services for special education students, and more.

 

-Alan Richard

Alan Richard is a veteran national education writer, formerly of Education Week, the Southern Regional Education Board and others. He contributes to the Hechinger Report and is the board chairman of the nonprofit Rural School and Community Trust. Follow him on Twitter: @educationalan.

U.S. House Passes Landmark Pay for Success Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives passed on June 21 a landmark bill to provide at least $100 million toward Pay for Success (PFS) programs—with half that amount designated for programs to help children.

The House of representatives approved H.R. 5170, the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA), which will allow the federal government to contribute funding for states’ Pay for Success projects. The bill is a major policy priority for the Institute for Child Success, and it provides a $100 million fund to pilot the federal support of state and local PFS projects, reserving $50 million for the projects serving children.

Without this legislation, the federal government is restricted in how it can support PFS, despite benefitting from projects across the country that reduce burdens on programs such as TANF and Medicaid. The House bill would help to improve outcomes for children and families across the country in a fiscally responsible and evidence-based way.

17173289090_9ec0c5d9ed_z

Photo credit: Flickr user Thomas Hawk. Used under Creative Commons license.

Pay for Success is an innovative funding model that drives government resources toward social programs that prove effective at providing results to the people who need them most. The model gives highly effective service providers, including nonprofit organizations and charities, access to flexible, reliable, and upfront resources to tackle critical social problems by tapping private funding for up-front costs of the programs. It allows philanthropies and impact investors—rather than state or local governments—to  provide the initial capital to scale-up effective programs. Not-for-profit entities deliver those scaled-up programs. Governments then pay investors back for the outcomes achieved, but only if the program succeeds. (Learn more here).

ICS is thrilled the House has passed this legislation, and that the Senate held an encouraging hearing on a similar bill in May, with Finance Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah promising to work further on the legislation this year. ICS thanks the lead sponsors—Reps.  Young of Indiana and Delaney of Maryland, Chairman Hatch of Utah, and Sen. Bennett of Colorado—for their tireless leadership and for advancing this legislation in an outcomes-focused and bipartisan fashion.

SIPPRA and more developments in Pay for Success are the focus of the Third Annual Conference for the Early Childhood Social Impact Performance Advisors, planned by ICS and our partners. Check our Facebook and Twitter feeds for live updates, and this blog for daily posts from the conference.

 

Notes from a Fellow: Community Building

Notes from a Fellow: This is the second post from Jostin Grimes, a summer fellow with ICS through the Southern Education Leadership Initiative. Throughout the summer, Jostin will share reflections on his experience at ICS, thoughts on the field, and updates on projects. You can follow the posts here.

To say that my first week at i(cs) was insightful, overwhelming, and inspiring would be an understatement. I was introduced to the function of a think-tank and i(cs)’s personal contribution towards child success in the 21st century. At the beginning of week two, I joined Keller Anne Ruble at a conference in Spartanburg, SC regarding the “Way to Wellville”; an initiative to advance health and economic vitality for communities nationwide. Spartanburg is one of just five U.S. communities selected for this initiative. Spartanburg’s initiative is driven by the Mary Black Foundation, an independent grant-making organization that strives to improve health and wellness for the citizens of Spartanburg County, and an important partner in i(cs)’s work.   wellville logo

Initially I felt out of place, because I had no experience in community or health organizing, but Keller Anne insisted that I have an active voice in the discussions. As the conference progressed we were split into three groups: Early childhood, Health equity, and Neighborhood transformation. Each group went on site visits throughout Spartanburg that catered towards the group’s focus. While in these groups we engaged in site visits around Spartanburg that catered solely towards the group’s concentration. I was assigned to the Early Childhood group along with representatives from the chosen communities and two of Wellville’s executive officers—founder Esther Dyson and COO Marvin Avilez.

My previous visits to charter schools and specialized academies left me feeling as if I had entered into a prison environment. There was a uniform style of discipline,  students were confined to their desk, and teachers lectured for 50 minutes without incorporating  creativity into the lesson. So, I was prepared for another “scripted” school visit. However, before going on the site visits, I made sure to have an unbiased mindset while immersed in this amazing experience. 

First, we visited Meeting Street Academy, a school striving to strengthen student achievement for underrepresented students grades 3K-5. Meeting Street has operated since its founding in Spartanburg as a private school; however, it is transitioning  into a Spartanburg District 7 school under a public-private partnership, the first of its kind in Spartanburg County. A select group of three year old’s from one of the largest impoverished neighborhoods in Spartanburg County will serve as the inaugural public school class at MSA in an approach to increase early childhood development and success. As this model is new to Spartanburg and to the state of South Carolina, it will be interesting to watch the progression of private funders contribution towards ECE.

Spartanburg District 7 Superintendent Russell Booker and the administrative team at MSA gave us a brief overview of the school’s district transition, history, standards, and student expectations. Principal Raine Hackler, took great pride in making sure that the students, parents, and faculty at MSA were provided with an abundance of resources to soar to greater heights. [Fun Fact: Principal Hackler was the first principal of Main Street Academy, a mirrored chartered school in College Park, GA.] During this visit I envisioned how uniform discipline, S.T.E.A.M. curriculum, and strong parent-teacher relationship can result in a liberating educational experience for scholars nationwide.

Following Meeting Street, we met with Barbara Manoski, program manager, for Spartanburg Quality Counts, an early childhood Quality Rating and Improvement System under the offices of Spartanburg County First Steps. I admired Mrs. Manoski candid responses concerning the state of child care programs in South Carolina, but I was curious as to how faith based institutions interacted with governmental policies as it relates to early childhood education. Spartanburg Quality Counts gave me the opportunity to learn about various approaches to child care ratings and evaluations, and particular qualifications required to run an efficient and productive child care program. 

Initially I was expecting the conference to be consumed with esteemed, monotone experts in academia, but I was relieved to see the participants actively committed to holistic community improvement. Often times we overlook the crucial planning that goes into creating a well balanced community and the various components that go into making sure everyone feels comfortable. The platform that the city of Spartanburg is setting allows for other developing communities to have a model to work towards. Not only are the citizens of Spartanburg challenging the status quo but they are socially conscious, and pushing towards a more progressive agenda to exceed community standards.  

“To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.”- bell hooks