This past April, Valley County was selected to be part of Nebraska Children and Families Foundation Communities for Kids, a state-wide initiative which supports young children, families and those providing their care. The Communities for Kids initiative is a multi-year planning and implementation initiative that was created in response to community requests for assistance with shortages of early childhood care and education programs. These shortages impact children’s optimal development and also pose a challenge for communities hoping to attract and retain the viable workforce they need to thrive.
Through the initiative process, Communities for Kids assists in facilitating conversations among each community’s public and private organizations. Communities for Kids also provides expertise, tools, and resources to the community to support current providers and ignite the creation and implementation of solutions to childcare shortages. To learn more, visit www.CommunitiesforKids.org.
“Communities for Kids is excited to work closely with Valley County community partners using a collective impact approach to address their quality early care and educational needs. With this approach, community partners will lead the way by determining their own needs and strengths while Communities for Kids provides support and technical assistance along the way.” said Shonna Werth, Associate Vice President of Early Childhood Programs at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.
This exciting initiative began within the Valley County Community Foundation Fund (VCCFF). Early in 2020, the VCCFF Advisory Committee identified early childhood care and child development as a primary focus to support and enhance quality of life throughout the county-wide community. Shortly thereafter, VCCFF was approached to apply for a spot in the Communities for Kids network. To fulfill the application process, VCCFF surveyed local childcare providers to gather their needs and community wisdom and identified key stakeholders to serve as core team members. The dynamic core team has renamed itself the Loup Valley Childhood Initiative (LVCI), as the team believes a regional focus is necessary to address current growth areas in early childhood care.
LVCI consists of core team members who are champions of child care focusing on quality and capacity building to support our local providers and enhance economic development and community attraction. Members include:.
- Jessica Piskorski, Attorney at Stowell, Geweke & Piskorski law firm & Secretary of Valley County Community Foundation Fund
- Kristina Foth, Interim Executive Director, Valley County Economic Development & Ord Area Chamber of Commerce
- Melani Flynn, Attorney at Stowell, Geweke & Piskorski law firm & Chairperson of Valley County Community Foundation Fund
- Shannon Adams Webber, Family Consultant for Ord Sixpence and Early Head Start
- Colin Lansman, Elementary School Counselor, Ord Public Schools
- Michelle Dredge, Area Manager/Education Coordinator for Early Head Start and Sixpence
- Dr. Heather Nebesniak, Superintendent, Ord Public Schools
- Jeanette Koelling, Retired Kindergarten Teacher & Chairman of VCHS Child Development Committee
- Christina Pollard, Chief Quality Officer, Valley County Health System
- Chrisinda Scheideler, Agricultural Educator, Arcadia Public Schools
- Dr. Crystal Ramm, Regional Director, Central Community College Ord Learning Center
Core team members collaborate at bi-weekly meetings and will provide leadership for engaging the community in identifying solutions for challenges within the local early childcare system. Activities the core team will complete include engaging local childcare providers to identify needs, mobilizing the community to move towards solutions, surveying the community, analyzing gathered data, and steering community specific solutions. The core team looks forward to continuing the conversation around our regional community’s strengths and growth areas in early childhood care and development.
Your engagement is welcomed – please feel free to contact acting-coordinator, Melani Flynn, with ideas and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.