Early childhood plan will be based on local needs, official saysScott Rothschild
After dozens of public meetings on early childhood issues, a leading official says a statewide strategy to improve the availability of services for young Kansans and their families will have to rise from the ground up.
“Every community is a little different in the way they approach things,” said Melissa Rooker, executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund. “There are a key set of challenges to address, but the solution will not be a top-down solution,” Rooker said.
The Children’s Cabinet, along with the Kansas State Department of Education, Kansas Department for Children and Families and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have conducted community engagement sessions across Kansas for the past two months. They also have been collecting input online.
The goal is to come up with a comprehensive early childhood plan that will make services more accessible in Kansas.
“There is a strong desire to build a better community for our children,” Rooker said.
During the meetings, many have noted the lack of affordable child care. It’s a problem that the business community is increasingly recognizing and partnering with community organizations to try to solve, Rooker said. “Solving the child care issue is critical to economic development,” she said.
At a meeting this week in Topeka, packed with about 100 people, attendees were asked to reflect on what is working in their community and what gaps exist. While there are many early childhood services, those services need to be expanded to a wider group of people, attendees said. Some suggested free birth control, providing help for parents who have to go back to work after having a baby and more businesses offering child care. When someone mentioned expansion of Medicaid, there was spontaneous applause.
State officials are nearly two thirds of the way through their engagement meetings; having held more than two dozen meetings across Kansas. The remaining meetings are scheduled for Monday, July 1 in Coffeyville; Tuesday, July 2 in Baxter Springs; Tuesday, July 9 in Manhattan; Monday, July 15 in Hutchinson; Saturday, July 20 in Lawrence and Wednesday, July 24 in El Dorado. Here is a link for further information.