Child Well-being Movement

Child Well-being Movement

JANUARY ARTICLE

In 2022, United Way spearheaded the process of joining Early Matters, a statewide collaborative of business, civic, education, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders dedicated to economic mobility and prosperity for all Texas families. The collaborative is focused on strategic investments in both policies and practices that support children birth through age 8. Represented in the statewide entity are the major regions of our state (Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio) and Waco/McLennan County is the newest member!

With the launch of the Child Well-being Movement, we saw a clear alignment with the efforts of Early Matters and our movement’s focus for all McLennan County children to be well. Many of the strategies in our Community Action Plan highlight specific areas for local change, but many also illuminate the need for change at the state and systems levels. As such, we knew that we needed to get connected to advocacy work happening within our state that would trickle down to enact change in McLennan County. 

As the 88th Legislative Session is in full swing, Early Matters is hyper focused on influencing state policy that is aligned with our goals. We bring stakeholder voices to the capitol to ensure policy is informed by data and real-world experience. Our local role in this is to ensure that the needs shared with us by McLennan County residents are being reflected in the coalition’s statewide advocacy work.

For the 88th legislative session, we seek to:

  • Strengthen Local Workforce Boards
    • Ensure local workforce boards have the standards and supports needed to maximize funding, improve transparency, and provide families access to high-quality child care.
  • Additional Policy We Support
    • Strengthening the child care workforce
    • Helping parents get back to work with affordable child care and Pre-K
    • Investing in the child care infrastructure in Texas

Learn more from our coalition’s advocacy partners: Download “88th Session Early Childhood Education Legislative Agenda (PDF)”

If you’re interested in supporting the advocacy work of Early Matters, please visit our website, scroll to the bottom and sign up to receive action alerts throughout the session. In addition, we encourage you to contact your legislators and share with them the importance of a statewide investment in the child care sector so that we can strengthen our current workforce and prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

DECEMBER ARTICLE

If you’ve read or even heard about the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement, you know that it is a movement all about TAKING ACTION for children and families. This was a resounding theme that residents shared with us throughout the community listening process.

McLennan County is known by many for its collaborative spirit and for being a county whose residents embody a willingness to work together to take on the tough issues. However, it’s important that we don’t stop there. Working together to take on issues like child well-being requires more than meetings, more than community listening sessions, and more than reports. No matter title, position, or location, people agree that it’s time for our community to move past the “let’s talk about it” phase and get started on the difficult work ahead of making impactful change for children and families.

This was our guiding vision for putting together our Community Action Plan, a document with actionable next steps, created by community, for community. We’re determined to make sure that community residents see results in the areas that matter most to them. But we certainly know that change doesn’t happen alone. That’s why we’ve rallied troops from across many community sectors to come together in collaboration and work to see the strategies and action steps in the plan take shape.

Partners from healthcare, education, economic development, housing, early childhood, parks & recreation, and many more sectors came together in a series of 3 meetings this month to take inventory of existing work underway where partnership could allow for expansion of needed programming, and to identify partnership roles for implementation of the plan’s strategies. In the New Year, these partners and more will meet again to identify target timelines and measures to track progress on implementation of the various action steps.

Meanwhile, some of the work is already underway! We shared in last month’s article about the Language Justice Initiative that United Way and the Hispanic Leaders Network have developed and launched based on community requests for more language supports in McLennan County. In addition, the City of Waco’s Housing and Community Development team are using the action plan’s strategies around neighborhoods and housing to inform their internal strategies so that they can get to work on responding to the community’s desires for thriving neighborhoods and affordable housing.

We are committed to seeing the community’s vision come to life. Some pieces will take shape quickly, while some will take time, but we won’t stop until McLennan County is a place where every child, individual and family can thrive.

If you’re interested in being a part of implementation of the action plan’s strategies, reach out to Haley O’Connell at haleyoconnell@unitedwaywaco.org to learn more.

This work is made possible with funding and support from Episcopal Health Foundation and the Prenatal to Three Collaborative.

To learn more about the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement and view the Community Action Plan, one can visit www.mclennancountychildwellbeing.org.

NOVEMBER ARTICLE

Community members and residents of McLennan County have made it clear, and I think we would all agree, that it’s time to move from talk to action when it comes to ensuring kids and families in our community are well supported. Likewise, partners across McLennan County are gearing up to take action on the Community Action Plan’s identified strategies.

This month, we want to highlight an area of the action plan that has already moved from talk to action. The Hispanic Leaders Network is coming alongside the work of the Child Well-being Movement to lead out in a language justice initiative focused on ensuring the accessibility of local resources and information in McLennan County residents’ desired language.

The Language Justice sub-committee of the Hispanic Leaders Network has defined ‘language justice’ for McLennan County as “the commitment of our community to support an individual’s fundamental right to communicate in the language in which they feel most comfortable and confident by creating multilingual spaces that foster cultural pride, diversity, and equity.”

In the Action Plan’s ‘Increase Access to Resources’ Focus Area, community members outlined a strategy to “Provide local resources (staff, programs, information) in Spanish throughout community services.” Implementation of this strategy includes the creation of a language justice plan, an awareness campaign, provision of interpreter certification classes and interpretation devices.

United Way and the Hispanic Leaders Network are working to develop this plan to be shared with entities throughout McLennan County and launch an awareness campaign focused on building an understanding of both the importance and need for language justice in our community. The plan identifies prominently spoken languages in McLennan County, community needs, and ideas for implementation of language inclusive strategies in local organizations and services. In addition, the Hispanic Leaders Network is working to become an interpretation hub by providing interpretation certification training courses and interpretation devices that can be used by local individuals or organizations for their translation needs to ensure that community meetings and events can be more language inclusive.

We are excited to see these strategies already taking shape and for the impact they will have in our community. Stay tuned for more updates about the roll-out of this initiative coming soon!

This work is made possible with funding and support from Episcopal Health Foundation.

To learn more about the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement and view the Community Action Plan, one can visit www.mclennancountychildwellbeing.org.

OCTOBER ARTICLE

McLennan County Child Well-being Video

We may not be dragon-slayers, and we aren’t quite superheroes, but we ARE a collaborative of residents and community partners dedicated to ensuring McLennan County children ages 0-5 and their families can thrive.

You may have heard the phrase that United Way of Waco-McLennan County works as a convener, a collaborator and a funder, but you may still be wondering what exactly that means and how it plays out through the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement.

As a convener, we bring people together to work towards making changes that our community wants and needs by listening to parents and residents of communities across McLennan County. This is what led us to catalyze the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement. We create spaces to convene community partners to align efforts and collaborate for change.

True collaboration, we believe, happens in partnership with professionals and service providers in our community alongside parents and residents who have dreams and aspirations for their children and families. Collaborating together in this way allows for maximum impact because no single individual or entity can tackle our community’s challenges alone, and it ensures that everyone gets their needs met. Collaboration also gives way to creative community solutions to our county’s most pressing issues and provides accountability for taking action.

Lastly, the dollars we raise thanks to YOU, allow us to invest directly into those community solutions by funding local programs that work hard to meet the needs of our community. All of the dollars we raise locally stay local through the work of McLennan County nonprofits dedicated to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to thrive. 

To learn more about the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement and view the Community Action Plan, one can visit www.mclennancountychildwellbeing.org.

This work is made possible with funding and support from both local and state-level partners: Waco Foundation, Episcopal Health Foundation, and The Texas Prenatal-to-Three Collaborative. United Way acknowledges Waco Foundation as the founding local leader of this work before it transitioned to United Way in 2018.

SEPTEMBER ARTICLE

United Way and our partners in the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement have launched a Community Action Plan designed by residents of McLennan County to address the needs of local children and families.

You may remember that in May of 2021, we released the “Are the Children Well?” report which captured the current condition of McLennan County’s children ages 0-5 and their families, and the aspirations of parents and county residents to create a community in which all children can thrive. Check out that report here. Since then, community members have continued to collaborate and develop solutions to the county’s most pressing issues, as identified in the report, which has resulted in a Community Action Plan.

The movement’s Community Advisory Board and Core Partner Team members spent countless hours (around 26, to be exact!) synthesizing a list of priority solutions shared with us by residents of McLennan County through community conversations and surveying, which has now become a set of strategies and action steps that the community wishes to see take place in support of children and families.

This Action Plan will serve as the bedrock of United Way’s work and funding strategies moving forward, and will be shared with city and county leadership and various stakeholders in an effort to aid local decision-making.

Just as it took the partnership of numerous residents and organizational representatives to design the action plan, it will take even more partners to carry out its strategies. Many county entities have already agreed to take action on these strategies and with their dedication to seeing each action step through to completion, we will see sustained progress in our community over time. This fall, these county organizations will meet to discuss next steps in partnership and develop the various components necessary for implementation of the strategies and action steps outlined in the plan.

To learn more about the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement and view the Community Action Plan, one can visit www.mclennancountychildwellbeing.org.

This work is made possible with funding and support from both local and state-level partners: Waco Foundation, Episcopal Health Foundation, and The Texas Prenatal-to-Three Collaborative. United Way acknowledges Waco Foundation as the founding local leader of this work before it transitioned to United Way in 2018.

“As a United Way CIC member, I’ve had the opportunity to champion the way forward at increasing the equity in grant-making. Collectively, we strive to move the dial in a direction whereby funded programs are representative of the communities they serve.”

Paula Solano, 2021 Community Investment Council Member

1516 Austin Ave., Suite 2
Waco, Texas 76701
254.752.2753