If you ask Jill Mahoney about her organization, the Naugatuck Partnership for Children, be prepared to listen for a while. That’s because working with dozens of partners and hundreds of individuals to ensure that Naugatuck’s children succeed in all facets of their growth and development involves a lot of work, connections and talking.
“Success for us means that all Naugatuck children are healthy, safe and successful learners,” said Jill Mahoney, executive director. “It takes the entire community to make that true.”
The Partnership brings together parents, childcare and family service providers, educators, seniors, community groups and faith-based organizations, giving every stakeholder a voice and creating a vehicle for shared decision-making. All of these these groups had a hand in creating the Early Childhood Blueprint that guides the work of the Partnership.
“It took us two years to draft the blueprint because we wanted to be sure everyone’s voice was included,” said Jill. “We’re grateful to the Connecticut Community Foundation for funding a portion of the work that went into creating the blueprint, which now gives us specific action steps and benchmarks to measure our progress and better target our services.”
The blueprint, published in 2014, identified three areas of focus: health and safety, education, and parental engagement.
An annual health and wellness fair – including a walk, activities and information from variety of community resources – organizing a diaper bank for families in need, and working with the food service department are just a few of the ways the Partnership helps promote the health and safety of Naugatuck’s children.
“Families can’t use their WIC or SNAP benefits to purchase diapers,” said Jill. “Working with the Connecticut Partnership for Children, we are able to supply one quarter of the diaper needs each year for 25 Naugatuck families. Our first diaper drive in 2016 brought in 4,000 diapers. We’ve also organized a small business fair where vendors donated cases of diapers in exchange for booth space.”
An even larger portion of the Partnership’s efforts, also funded by the Foundation, focuses on working with private and public preschools, parents and kindergarten teachers to create portfolios for every child entering kindergarten. About 300 kids were registered to start kindergarten last fall and the Partnership helped create portfolios for more than 200 of them. The portfolios include information on each child’s progress in several developmental domains, identifies helpful interventions and eases the sharing of information between pre-K and kindergarten teachers.
“We want a seamless transition, and to ensure that all kids start kindergarten on a level playing field,” said Jill. The portfolios encourage a common language and dialogue among teachers, parents and administrators, which creates familiarity for the kids.
The partnership also organizes free professional development opportunities for parents, preschool and elementary school teachers. Their latest workshops were about mindfulness in the classroom and at home.
The Partnership has always understood that parents are a child’s first teachers, so ensuring strong parent engagement in the educational process is imperative to their work. The Parent Leadership Training Initiative trains parents to take leadership roles for children in local parent teacher organizations, parent involvement committees, Boards of Education, town commissions, city councils, nonprofit boards and even the Connecticut General Assembly.
This good work will continue thanks to Connecticut Community Foundation donors: In April 2018, the Foundation awarded $10,000 in continued grant funding to Naugatuck Partnership for Children to support low- and moderate-income families by providing them with basic care items (diapers, food) for their infants up to age three.
Story by Laurel Kelly for Connecticut Community Foundation