To ensure that all of Virginia’s children start school healthy and ready to learn, VECF embraces a systems building model that fosters collaborative efforts to build a comprehensive, locally driven system of high quality early childhood care, education and health and human services that is accessible to all families and children. Uniquely positioned as the bridge between local and state level early childhood activities in Virginia, VECF aims to address the multi-faceted issue of school readiness in a cohesive, sustainable, and systemic way.
Smart Beginnings Network
VECF knows that school readiness happens locally - children develop within a family, within a community. That’s why since 2007 VECF has been investing in systems building at the local level, through public-private enterprises known as Smart Beginnings. VECF provides resources and technical assistance to Smart Beginnings partners across the state as they work across sectors – social services, education, child care, health – to create optimal environments for children’s healthy growth and development. This complicated systems building work requires the ability to impact change through leadership, strategic focus, long-term sustainability, and innovation. With strong local leadership across the Commonwealth, the Smart Beginnings network is the cornerstone of the state’s early childhood efforts, combining innovative, entrepreneurial perspective with ground-level expertise.
Mixed-Delivery Preschool Grant Program
To increase access and better understand the barriers to high quality preschool, VECF is funding local pilots to field-test innovative solutions to the delivery of the public preschool services. By promoting flexibility and “out of the box” thinking, these pilots represent the opportunity to promote more public-private partnerships and increased collaboration between business, education, and community leaders. Funding for the mixed-delivery pilots was included in the FY17-18 biennial budget, thanks to the leadership of Governor McAuliffe and the Virginia General Assembly. Legislation creating the Mixed-Delivery Preschool Fund and Grant Program (House Bill 47, Patron: Greason) outlines specific priorities for the program.
The single most important investment Virginia can make toward promoting school readiness and a strong workforce is in strengthening the competencies of those who care for and teach young children. VECF is committed to providing leadership to ensure this important workforce has access to competency-building coursework and credentials.
Our work in this area takes several forms. We have convened stakeholders for discussions about upskilling, and we participate in several state and national initiatives around the early learning workforce. Learn more about VECF's work to support Virginia's early education workforce.
Data & Policy
Using data to inform policy and programmatic decisions is key to a thriving early childhood system. Yet the early childhood space is a difficult data environment because there are so many different sources of information across different sectors. VECF is helping Virginia make big strides in the ways it collects, connects, and utilizes data to inform policy. Learn more about VECF’s work to support data capacity at both the state and local level through the development of an Early Childhood Integrated Data System (ECIDS) and capacity-building grants to communities.
One way we are doing this is through our Innovative Partnership Grants, given to local Smart Beginnings partners who are finding creative ways to use data to advance school readiness in their communities. To see examples of these grants in action, go to our Local Impact: Bright Spots page. We also compile a series of best-practice resources to help guide the Commonwealth’s early childhood stakeholders, which can be seen on our Resources and Tools page.