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.
One of the primary ways AOK Networks improve the service delivery system is by making sure critical system components are in place in their community. These components contribute to a more accessible, coordinated, cross-sector system of services and supports.
For the Child and Family initiative. These components can be used as a broader approach to improving specific child and family outcomes. For example, AOK Networks often engage in public information and education to raise awareness about specific child or family problems. Sometimes child and family outcomes can be improved by focusing on a specific component. For example, making sure all children are receiving developmental screenings is part of early identification.
More recently, AOK Networks statewide have focused on a specific system building component for a five-year program cycle. While the focus is on the same system component, each AOK Network develops and implements a plan specific to their local context and goals.
- 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.
- State and Local Policy: Addressing local and state level policy issues through information sharing, education, and advocacy