As the lead for a new Children First project to support home visiting programs throughout Oregon, I started by researching programs to understand whom they serve and what they provide for clients. The goal was to educate state lawmakers about the value of these programs to secure additional funding during the 2017 legislative session. I developed a set of interview questions to create a story bank that would showcase the impact these programs have on Oregon families. I drafted an outreach email to program providers to invite their participation in this effort, and conducted four interviews that formed the basis for four short stories. I compiled a toolkit including blog post, op-ed, and social media templates for program providers to use in advocating for funding.
This work was funded by a grant with a digital toolkit as the primary deliverable. In the course of my discovery process it became clear to me that a toolkit did not serve the needs of small, rural programs without capacity to utilize new communications materials and that the stories of people who dedicate their lives to this work also need to be heard by policymakers and funders. In addition to the toolkit and story bank, my recommendation was to request the grant to extend to interview program directors and home visitors across the state, highlighting the significance of location for each program’s unique challenges. I recommended that the advocacy list I created for Children First to be shared with all program directors across the state to connect home visiting and early learning programs and create a holistic service network. During my research, I discovered the Early Learning Hubs project, which is focused on developing a network of early learning providers and resources across the state. That seems to be stalled without sufficient funding, so I flagged this need and opportunity for my colleagues at Children First, as they are determining fundraising priorities for the year ahead.