Best Beginnings of Yellowstone County
February 1, 2020 | by rebecca stewart
There's a reason the saying, "It takes a village" has endured through the years. More often than not, combined forces are what make a difference in this world. In fact, when asked why Best Beginnings Yellowstone County was formed (with the ever-growing shared efforts of many), United Way of Yellowstone County’s Director of Impact, Kristin Lundgren, says because “We are stronger together.”
It all began in 2012 when our local Best Beginnings coalition started with “infrastructure” funding from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. A collaborative project between the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program and the Childcare Division, while RiverStone Health drove the formation of the coalition as the recipient of the funding from MIECHV. However, United Way of Yellowstone County was quickly identified as a potential home for the coalition, as making an impact in early childhood is a top priority for the organization in their work to alleviate poverty. Indeed, one of their core skills is convening multi-sector coalitions, says Lundgren, whose role as Director of Impact has involved the coordinating of the coalition since 2012.
The Importance of Best Beginnings:
So much of the trajectory of a child's life is determined prenatally to age 3, and early childhood issues greatly impact our economy. Lundgren elaborates, "The Federal Reserve Bank and other renowned economists, like Nobel Laureate James Heckman, unequivocally state that investing in early childhood is the best way to reduce economic deficits and strengthen the economy. The investments work by creating better education, health, social, and economic outcomes, including raising wages for mothers. If we want to do things like close the achievement gap in high school graduation, increase the number of qualified workers entering and staying in the workforce, we need to invest in the early childhood system.”
The combined forces of the Best Beginnings coalition have created stronger advocacy positions, making it possible to tackle projects together that no single entity could realistically do alone. Under the umbrella of Best Beginnings, there are various areas of focus with specific strategies in place for each.
Areas of Focus:
- Parent access to information
- Financial stability for parents
- School readiness
- Healthy start
The early days of parenting can feel fairly isolating and overwhelming, and Best Beginnings partners aim to build a bridge to expecting and new parents via Parent Connect, which includes (among other things) Welcome Baby calls and emails to interested parents (Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare give parents the opportunity to opt-in on receiving information from Parent Connect). Should parents choose email, those messages contain links to resources new parents might find helpful:
- Childcare resources
- Parents as Teachers coaching program for parents
- Bright By Text (rolled out April 2019)
The goal is for parents of newborns to know that they aren’t alone and that their community cares about them and their challenges. The hope is parents will reach out and make those connections that will support them in their journey.
Attending a parenting class would be great, but often it feels like there's not enough time, so Bright By Text is a "simple coaching companion that provides tips you can digest in a few seconds and put to use immediately," explains Lundgren.
- keeps you connected to resources and events in your local community
- offers parents and caregivers expert tips and resources for children prenatal to 5 years old, right at their fingertips
- helps parents and caregivers make the most out of their early interactions by suggesting fun and easy activities, providing positive parenting tips and resources, ways to aid a child’s physical development, and much more.