While high-quality programs and services are central to supporting the health and well-being of young children and their families, they are not enough. Children get the best start in life when communities take a holistic approach to meeting their needs. When service providers from across service categories work together to connect and coordinate services and address system issues that influence families’ ability to access services, children and families benefit more.
AOK Networks approaches system building in a variety of ways. It starts with developing the capacity of local stakeholders to take responsibility for all young children in their community. One important aspect of network capacity building is the ability to understand the specific needs and issues faced by families in their communities so that specific local strategies can be developed to address root causes of those issues.
AOK Networks also use system building strategies to create a more coherent, cross-sector system of services and supports while addressing local child/family priorities. AOK Networks use strategies such as those described below to connect and coordinate early childhood services and supports. Strategies like these improve the system through better access, higher quality services, more equity among those who access services, greater service capacity, and improved family satisfaction.
- Early Identification: (1) Identifying all expecting parents and children birth to five living in the community, and (2) ensuring that developmental screenings and assessments are offered so that developmental delays are identified early
- Public Information & Education: Sharing information with providers, families, and the general public about (1) the importance of the early years, (2) parents’ essential role, (3) the work of the AOK Network, and (4) local early childhood issues, e.g., Sudden infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Information & Referral: (1) Providing information about available services and resources to families and providers, and (2) establishing a system-wide referral process to assure families get the services they need
- Service Needs & Utilization: Monitoring service availability, need, and use to assure there are adequate services to meet the need
- Workforce Training & Development: Assuring a high-quality early childhood and family support workforce that is skilled in their fields of specialization and in family support principles and practices.
- Local and State Policy: Addressing local and state level policy issues through information sharing, education, and advocacy