The Early Childhood Connector: A Virtual Solution for Supporting the Early Childhood Field through COVID-19
Colleen Murphy, Vice President, Early Childhood Connector
The Ounce of Prevention Fund
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our health care system and our national and global economy, we must stay focused on the short- and long-term effects the crisis is having on the health and well-being of young children and their families. From disruptions to child care access to economic hardships and health concerns, crises such as this one often strike our most vulnerable (and often youngest) populations the hardest.
As devastating as this pandemic is, the early childhood field has been given an opportunity to rethink the way our health and early childhood systems respond to the needs of families with young children, in times of crisis and beyond. Many rays of hope have emerged recently, as individuals and organizations collaborate to support our communities and children.
One shining example is the early launch of an online early childhood community―known as the Early Childhood Connector (ECConnector). The Ounce of Prevention Fund worked with a group of early childhood organizations, community leaders, and experts to design the ECConnector, to connect and share, in real-time, the great work the early childhood community is doing. Originally slated to launch in July 2021, access to this virtual community to anyone in the field building early childhood systems was accelerated to help coordinate a more efficient and collective response to COVID-19. This platform will ultimately become a broader knowledge-sharing community for the early childhood field in accordance with its original mission. The conversations, connections, resources, and ideas emerging from this current space have already demonstrated how the field is working together to support each other and young children and families.
Set out below are highlights of the noteworthy work that is emerging from the ECConnector:
- Exchanging ideas and resources: Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, one of many urgent needs for the early childhood community has been the ability to share tools and resources among the field quickly and efficiently to solve both immediate and long-term problems. The pandemic has unveiled the need to continue providing virtual health services for children and families. The ECConnector has proven to be an active space to exchange relevant, timely resources quickly, especially those related to telehealth and the well-visit planner.
- Collaborating: In the brief time since the ECConnector was launched, individuals in the field already have been collaborating in new and innovative ways. One community, Tarrant County, Texas, regularly shares how they are supporting each other during COVID-19. Their blogs and resources are consistently among the most searched items on the platform. Other participants have been actively collaborating to help the field provide services in new ways through discussion posts, resources, and webinars on how to provide virtual services, such as home visits and developmental screenings.
- Building new connections, solutions, and conversation spaces: As the ECConnector community grows and we continue to add new and diverse voices to the conversation, we are receiving requests from communities, organizations, and committees who are interested in using the platform to continue building on these meaningful discussions and connections. The ECConnector Stewardship Team is helping people across the nation design and build their own space that expands upon the community and conversations that began on listservs and other less user-friendly platforms.
As we settle into our new reality, it is heartening to see the myriad ways in which we are leaning on our peers and our collective expertise to find innovative solutions and ideas to meet the needs of our children, families, and communities across the country. We hope the EC Connector will be the gathering space to evaluate how we not only rebuild the early childhood systems after this crisis but improve upon them to make our communities more resilient than ever. We encourage you to join us at ecconnector.org and add your voice to this growing community!