80×3: Resilient from the Start aims to support early childhood professionals by developing a shared understanding of how trauma impacts early relationships, and subsequently, how providing culturally responsive care builds resiliency. Since the launch of 80×3 last summer, we’ve focused on cultivating connections between individuals and organizations committed to providing trauma-sensitive child care.
To date, more than 150 early childhood changemakers have met regularly, shared resources and learned collaboratively. Preliminary evidence shows that our efforts have strengthened how educators and leaders use trauma-sensitive skills in their centers and increased the type of collaboration needed to address systemic challenges in the field.
As we reflect on the lessons learned during our first year and look ahead to our next phase, three key indicators stood out:
Lesson #1: Staffing challenges in early childhood
Research from the Yale School of Medicine links strong teacher retention to better outcomes for children – and yet in October of 2022, throughout our cohort of 9 funded partners, 32 percent of educator positions were vacant.
According to the report Early Care and Education: Profile of an Industry in Crisis, “the early care and education industry has a higher turnover rate than nearly any other industry in Minnesota.” Research shows that professional development, cooperative environments and peer support are key factors to support educator retention.
To address this disparity, 80×3 has connected our partners with representatives of Empower to Educate, the YWCA’s Child Development Associate program and local early childhood substitute companies. We’ve discussed strategies to engage current staff, recruit future staff and support staff’s professional development time. We have also advocated for public investments to stabilize the workforce, which resulted in historic early childhood investments in the 2023 legislative session.
Read more from 80×3 advisor Dianne Haulcy about the Seven New Minnesota Laws That Early Childhood Education Professionals Should Know About.
Lesson #2: Prioritizing safety in centers and communities
Safety is fundamental to a trauma-sensitive approach. These concerns are shared by our 80×3 partners who are embedded in communities disproportionately impacted by trauma. Centers in the 80×3 cohort and across the Twin Cities region are in communities dealing with gun violence, police violence and a militarized response to homelessness.
As one leader explained, physical safety is a particular challenge for educators: “…you can ensure that inside the walls is safe, but what do you do about the factors outside of the center that impact children so greatly?”
While there is no single solution to these challenges, 80×3 supports child development centers by bringing them together to discuss safety and other complex societal issues. We are already seeing that leaders and educators in the 80×3 cohort report a reduced sense of isolation and are more likely to collaborate with peers to find solutions to the issues they face.
Lesson #3: 80×3 is making an impact
Over the last year, center leaders and educators have reported that partnership with 80×3 has increased their ability to identify signs of trauma and stress and offer more resources to support children and families.
Center leaders are improving policies and practices to ensure teachers have the support they need to meet children and families where they are – and 80×3 is strengthening support systems for these child care centers with the potential to scale and replicate.
Some of the shifts in our partners’ approaches this year include:
- Redesigning classrooms to include quiet spaces and sensory items
- Applying a trauma-informed lens to family meetings, including conversations about assessment results and behavioral challenges
- Emphasizing children’s emotions and helping them express their feelings
What’s next for 80×3
Building on our learnings, this month we are launching a Leadership Residency partnership with Embracing Equity to support 80×3’s vision among organizations that provide training, consultation and other professional services within the early childhood sector.
These are the organizations participating in our new Leadership Residency:
- Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington County Head Start
- Center for Inclusive Child Care
- First Children’s Finance
- Hmong Early Childhood Coalition
- Think Small
- Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health
- Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children
- Montessori Center of Minnesota
- The State of Minnesota
Our vision of trauma-sensitive and culturally responsive child care has the potential to dramatically improve the outcomes of our youngest learners. The educators and leaders we’ve engaged are already stepping up as catalysts for this transformational change. Looking ahead to the next phase of 80×3, we are excited to see what the future holds.