Imagining the Future for Philadelphia’s Infants and Toddlers

A Running Start is Shared Prosperity’s initiative to support and expand access to early learning for children ages 0-5. Shared Prosperity’s March Roundtable brought stakeholders together to solicit the best ideas on how to meet the specific needs of infants and toddlers. Twenty-seven percent of Philadelphia’s infants and toddlers are currently living in poverty, meaning that increased access to supportive resources is essential. At this meeting, we highlighted the need for cross-sector collaborations among service providers so that infants and toddlers receive the health care, family support, and child care they need.

Thomas Farley, Commissioner of Health for the City of Philadelphia, gave a great presentation on how coordinated services contribute to the well-being of infants and toddlers. His presentation highlighted resources currently being offered in the city, and emphasized that health in early childhood determines health for the rest of one’s life. Farley furthered this point by sharing a preview of the upcoming Children’s Health Agenda from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. This strategy will focus on identifying adverse health and development outcomes, the risk factors that increase them, and interventions to mitigate these.

Along with Commissioner Farley, our panelists held a thought-provoking discussion on key challenges and opportunities to keep in mind while working toward aligned services.  Panelists included Rashanda Perryman of the William Penn Foundation, JoAnne Fischer of Maternity Care Coalition, Aliya Johnson-Roberts of Pratt Street Learning Center, and Joanii Marrero of Norris Square Community Alliance. When discussing services, ensuring quality is always important. Of particular importance are teachers and staff who have been trained to work with infants and toddlers, can create developmentally appropriate resources, and understand the specific needs of their communities. Because of this, parental engagement was also highlighted as important for this population.

After the panel, participants broke into groups to brainstorm how to facilitate greater collaboration among service providers, as well as how their organizations could contribute to this effort. From this discussion, strategies were suggested including co-locating resources in services frequented by families with infants and toddlers, data sharing across agencies and sectors, implementing written agreements between agencies to guarantee active collaboration, and integrating community health and service ‘navigators’ into agencies that serve infants and toddlers.

Here’s what you said about the Roundtable:

What is one thing you will take away from this discussion to enhance your work?

  • “Reflect upon how my organization can help continue and sustain these goals. Advocacy! Advocacy! Advocacy!”
  • “The importance of elevating need for infant and toddler and family supports and services to keep on par with preschool efforts.”
  • “Reinforcement of need to collaborate and work in non-siloed approach.”

How could future discussions be improved?

  • “A sheet listing organizations that registered to be at roundtable – so we know who is who and what they do.”
  • “Simply host more discussions, and follow-up communications. Looking forward to the progress report! Side note: our table wished to remain in touch via email, to continue our collaborations.”
  • “More time for roundtable discussion.”

Thanks for your time, contributions and efforts supporting this work.