The ‘why now’ question

Young children sing in a classroom setting with a teacher.

This is the second blog about the challenge of kindergarten readiness in Elkhart County. The first blog presented the reasoning for choosing this challenge as our central focus. I also mentioned that we’ve joined the Community Foundation of Elkhart County (CFEC), The SOURCE, Crossroads United Way, and Child and Parent Services (CAPS) in pulling together stakeholders from around the county to work toward comprehensive solutions that will transform how we support the preparation of our youngest individuals.

I want to take a brief side trip to the world of psychotherapy. Please stay with me! A psychotherapist I know tells me that he would always want to know, in an initial conversation with a new client, why the client is seeking help just now. This is particularly true when the problem the client presents is long-standing. “You say you’ve been depressed for many years – why are you seeking help for the depression just now?”

The reasons can be happy (“I’m feeling new hope that things can get better, and I’m ready to tackle the problems I’ve been avoiding”) or sad (“I’ve had a recent nosedive, and feel desperate for help”). In any event, the answer to the “Why now?” question is important in putting together a strategy for success.

It would be fair – and important – to ask HEA and our collaborating partners “Why now?” As the first blog noted, research demonstrates that investing resources in early childhood gives much greater return than the same investment later in life. As I noted, working at kindergarten readiness is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. But we’ve known that for a while – so why start now? That’s the question this blog addresses.

  1. The “major players” listed above are working together in new ways. In the past, our efforts have at times been disjointed and unintegrated in this area. Now, however, we’re all on the same page, so a county-wide effort is doable. 
  2. We have an eye-popping goal. Working together, we have decided to take on the enormous challenge of transforming the community’s approach to kindergarten readiness, so that we have many more children ready on their first day of school. This isn’t just adding a few new day-care providers or setting up a hotline – this is changing the game entirely! 
  3. We have a proven means of accomplishing the goal. This may be the biggest part of “why now?” We don’t just want to change the game, we want to implement proven strategies for transforming systems! We have been working with the Tamarack Institute, a global leader in community transformation that has a solid record of success. Their experts have been guiding us in our efforts. 
  4. We have a new reason for urgency. New legislation means more women will need support as they navigate pregnancy and motherhood. Without support, there will be inevitable downstream tragedy. We also know that Covid has had a negative effect on our children’s academic results, with the latest testing showing drops in math and reading skills for Indiana students. Our community needs to act quickly to surround these women – and their children – with care.

So that’s “why now.” 

In the meantime, I’ll end with same announcement I made in the last blog: 

This coming Tuesday, November 1, HEA will join the Community Foundation of Elkhart County (CFEC), The SOURCE, Crossroads United Way, and Child and Parent Services (CAPS) in hosting a major community gathering held on the Goshen College campus. Action teams from around the county have been working to develop strong-brain-building solutions for months now, and they will have recommendations to share!

Just as important, we will hear from national expert and author Dr. Dana Suskind, whose books “Thirty Million Words” and “Parent Nation” have transformed the conversation about how best to grow strong brains in young people and transform a community. 

Check out the informational poster below about the evening’s keynote address, which you are all warmly invited to attend. Hope to see you there!

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