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Leading Early Childhood Organizations Introduce New Collaboration Framework to Support Babies and Toddlers

Hand in Hand designed to support positive, equitable outcomes for all young children and families

Throughout the country, families are striving to give their children a good start in life, sharing in the common desire for their babies to be healthy, happy, and secure. But they also face considerable obstacles in raising their children, including health concerns, safety issues, and racial and economic inequities. To address these issues, four national early childhood models – Family Connects International, HealthySteps, Help Me Grow, and Nurse-Family Partnership – with leadership from ZERO TO THREE, today announced the launch of Hand in Hand, a silo-busting, trust-building framework for community collaboration.

The Hand in Hand framework is a collaborative approach to supporting positive, equitable outcomes for all young children and their families. It envisions a nation where all babies are born into communities of opportunity that provide them with what they need, where they need it, when they need it.

“Creating a community-responsive system of support and care for young children and their families requires deep trust and takes time,” stated ZERO TO THREE Executive Director Matthew Melmed. “It is long past time for us all to pursue a bold, shared vision for our families and those who support them. It is our hope that organizations will use this practical guide to think about and deliver services in a more comprehensive way. Everyone has something of value to contribute. If we do the hard work to work together, we will see families thriving.“

Informed by interviews and focus groups with communities across the country, the Hand in Hand framework is designed for every organization and person who supports families with young children. It is inspired by decades of evidence on the powerful impact of early childhood on human development and recognizes collaboration as an essential tool for doing the most good for the most families, especially those with the greatest needs.

The framework is organized around three interacting elements of early childhood collaboration, all of which are always in play:

  • Foundation: The values, processes, leadership, and resources that nurture collaboration in a community over time
  • Relationships: The social fabric that engages and sustains people in their shared efforts
  • Actions: The tangible steps people take together to support young children and families

The Hand in Hand framework was developed by the Model Convening Project, a partnership of four complementary, evidence-based models. The Model Convening Project is a multi-year initiative with leadership and facilitation from ZERO TO THREE and funding from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative.

  • Family Connects, a program of Family Connects International, is a population-based health program that enhances the local network of care by providing nurse home visits to all parents of newborns during the first month of life. During the visit, the nurse provides information, conducts health assessments, and connects parents to the community resources they need.
  • HealthySteps, a program of ZERO TO THREE, integrates a child development expert into the pediatric primary care team to promote nurturing parenting and healthy development for babies and toddlers, particularly in areas where there have been persistent inequities for families with low incomes and families of color.
  • Help Me Grow supports communities in strengthening their early childhood systems through centralized access points, family and community outreach, child health care provider outreach, and data collection and analysis.
  • Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) provides nurse home visits to first-time moms and children living in poverty or with other risk factors. Services are provided prenatally to the child’s second birthday.

The organizations behind Hand in Hand encourage the use of the framework at every level of program implementation to deepen trust, engagement, and synergy between and among all partners in local communities. Resources include a guide to the framework; a story bank with detailed accounts on implementation; briefs exploring the alignment of early childhood services, policy and advocacy, and racial equity; and a directory of publications and resources.

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