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Kansas Communities Win Funds To Fuel Local Change

Dec 19, 2019 | ,

Lawrence, Kan. — Three north-central Kansas projects receive grants to support children and families.

Kansans from across the state are awarded $43,800 to help strengthen early childhood efforts in their local communities. A total of 45 Community Action Lab grants will be handed out, which organizations will use to address the question: “What can you create today to help ensure each child in your community has the best possible start in life?”

The organizations in the north-central region of Kansas that received funding include:

  • Parents as Teachers Family and Community Events, Abilene
  • Salina Family YMCA Youth Safety Initiative, Salina
  • USD 306 Community Needs Assessment, Gypsum

The organizations with statewide projects that received funding include:

  • Kansas Deaf-Blind Project Resource Packets to Medical Providers for Families
  • Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition Breastfeeding in ECE Curriculum, Family Nurture Tents at Local Events

Community Action Labs are one component of the Kansas Early Childhood Systems Building effort, which is fueling the work to gather input, build a strategic plan, and set the future direction for early childhood in Kansas. This statewide collaborative effort is led by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the Kansas State Department of Education.

So far, more than 6,000 Kansans have engaged in this important work through a variety of activities, including the Our Tomorrows project, which oversees the Community Action Labs. Our Tomorrows is a massive story collection effort, gathering the personal narratives of Kansans in their own words to help decision-makers at all levels better meet community needs. Through the ZERO ZEROES campaign and the efforts of countless partners across the state, a story was collected from every one of Kansas’s 105 counties, ensuring that all Kansas voices would be heard.

The 2,200 anonymous stories were then presented at six regional Community Sensemaking Workshops. Using a tool known as SenseMaker®, community members reviewed the stories for patterns and themes, looking for small changes they might propose to create more positive outcomes for the children and families who live in their community. These small actions are known as “Actionables,” and with a little investment and support via Community Action Labs, they can contribute to big changes.

“Community Action Labs are a safe space to try ideas they have been wanting to explore, but they just needed an opportunity and some funding,” says Keil Eggers, research project coordinator for the University of Kansas Center of Public Partnerships and Research, which leads the Our Tomorrows work.  “The idea behind Action Labs is simple: Actionauts try a portfolio of ideas or Actionables generated from real stories and experiences. They see what works, and then try to do more of it.”

“By listening to stories being collected on an ongoing basis with Our Tomorrows, we hope that communities are empowered to be innovative in response to the needs of families,” says Melissa Rooker, executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust fund. “Community Action Labs are giving communities the permission to be bold and create a better future where Kansas is the best place to raise a child.”

About the Early Childhood Systems Building Effort

Kansas received a federal planning grant to begin a journey of unprecedented collaboration and growth for our state’s early childhood system. This one-year planning grant authorized by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act supports the development of a comprehensive needs assessment and strategic plan for early childhood programs and services in Kansas. Funding also supports activities to maximize parental choice and voice, and knowledge of early care and education options, the sharing of best practices among providers, and overall improvements in quality.

Partnering organizations include the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas State Department of Education, and early childhood partners.

Grant Funding

Funds for this project are provided through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five 90TP0016-01-00 ($4,482,305) was awarded to the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are leading this work with KSDE. This information or content and conclusions should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HHS, ACF, or the U.S. Government. Any food or refreshments are not paid for by federal funds.

The Kansas State Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America and other designated youth groups. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: KSDE General Counsel, Office of General Counsel, KSDE, Landon State Office Building, 900 SW Jackson, Suite 102, Topeka, KS 66612, (785) 296-3204.

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