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Published January 31, 2020
The Wyoming Early Childhood Outreach Network (WYECON) at the University of Wyoming is a partner in the Early Childhood State Advisory Council that recently was awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
“Families, young children and early childhood educators in Wyoming have experienced the negative impacts of a lack of funding and disconnected or nonexistent systems of support for too long,” says WYECON Director and Associate Lecturer Nikki Baldwin. “Research has long recognized how vital early experiences are in shaping children’s lives, and now leaders in Wyoming acknowledge that we must create a new vision for supporting our youngest children, their families and those who care for and educate them.”
The funding will be used to help the council use existing resources more efficiently; encourage partnerships among child care and prekindergarten providers, Head Start programs and state and local governments; and improve transitions between early childhood programs and school systems. The yearlong project will include the development of an in-depth strategic plan and a comprehensive statewide birth-age 5 needs assessment.
WYECON, an innovation put into motion by the UW Trustees Education Initiative, will serve as the UW partner on the council. Baldwin and her team will guide the council’s efforts to identify and share best practices that support the education of early childhood teachers throughout their careers. Baldwin additionally provided her expertise to the council as a member of the grant-writing team whose efforts were successful in obtaining the federal funding.
“The early childhood faculty in the UW College of Education, with myself in the lead, will work to identify, vet and share best practices in the areas of teacher preparation and professional learning using online tools,” Baldwin says. “We will be sharing important resources in a new online portal and creating original content, including blog posts and podcasts. All of these resources will focus on improving the quality of learning opportunities for Wyoming’s youngest children.”
The Wyoming Early Childhood Advisory Council was created through an executive order issued in November by Gov. Mark Gordon. The council includes representatives of UW, the Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming community college system, the Wyoming Legislature, early childhood educators, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, and others with early childhood expertise.
Other partnering agencies and organizations include Align; WY Kids First; Wyoming Early Childhood Professional Learning Collaborative; the Wyoming Department of Family Services, Department of Health and Department of Education; Wyoming Head Start Association; and private child care and early education providers.