January 2015 Newsletter
In This Issue
Committee and Task Force Meeting Summaries
Upcoming Meetings
Upcoming Events, Workshops and Webinars, and Links of Interest
Spark New Hampshire's website is www.sparknh.org
 Visit it today for up-to-date information about the great work Spark NH is doing to improve early childhood in New Hampshire.
Get Involved!
If you are interested in being involved in Spark NH, please contact
Director Laura Milliken at lmilliken@sparknh.org
Spark NH 
2 Delta Drive
Concord, NH 03301
Tel: (603) 226-7900
Fax: (603) 226-7290
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Dear Friend of Spark NH,


Spark NH Needs Assessment

Spark NH's needs assessment was released last month. The report is intended to contribute to our understanding of the extent to which children in every New Hampshire community have access to the resources and experiences that promote their development- good health, strong families, positive early learning experiences. When there are limitations or gaps in our capacity to provide positive contexts for development, prospects for a healthy and prosperous future for individuals, families and communities in New Hampshire are jeopardized. The report documents a number of systemic gaps for many of New Hampshire's children and their families - gaps in developmental screening, limited access to essential services, gaps in availability of services, geographic and racial disparities, and a critical lack of information where we need it most. We intend to repeat a needs assessment periodically. If you have not had a chance to look at the report, you can find it at: http://sparknh.com/uploads/files/Need%20Assessment%2011-20-14%281%29.pdf  


I have reprinted the introduction/ executive summary here:  


Our future relies on the health and well-being of our children, their families, and the communities who nurture and support them. Since early experiences set the foundation for all of the development that follows, ensuring strong supports early in life is essential not only to children's health and well-being, but to the future health and well-being of our communities. In short, child development is community development. If we are to realize our children's and our community's full potential it is crucial that communities across our state provide the critical supports and resources young children and their families need to thrive.

There is a strong economic and social case to be made for such community-based support. When resources are grounded in research-based best practices and are provided at the appropriate time and for sufficient duration, they can have dramatic positive social and economic impacts on our communities. We know that investing in early childhood programs can yield up to a 10% annual rate of return that includes long-term individual benefits of increased income, as well as savings to society in reduced costs for special education, juvenile justice, welfare and unemployment.

Such investments provide an even greater rate of return for children and families living with multiple risk factors. We know from numerous studies that children from families with low incomes may benefit the most from comprehensive early childhood programs. Not only have these programs demonstrated improvements in

cognitive-development, social-emotional development, approaches to learning, child health, and improvements in parenting, but research also suggests longer-term positive impacts on graduation rates, college attendance, reductions in criminal activity and teen parenthood, and improved health status.  


The report below documents a number of systemic gaps for many of New Hampshire's children and their families - gaps in developmental screening, limited access to critical services, gaps in availability of services, geographic and racial disparities, and a potentially dangerous lack of information where we need it most. All of these factors, if left unaddressed, will limit the developmental potential of our children, and therefore New Hampshire's potential for growth and success.   


Screening Gaps

As the first step to ensuring the healthy development of our children, having access to standardized research based screening practices is essential. As discussed in this report, national research suggests that clinical assessment alone, without the use of standardized screening tools, identifies fewer than 30% of children with developmental disabilities, while validated screening tools correctly identify such children at least 70% of the time. Unfortunately, this report also documents that fewer than 50% of children with a developmental disability or disabling behavioral problem are identified before they start school. Given that early identification can effectively reshape a child's developmental pathways, improving access to screening is a critical need for our state.


Access Gaps

Much like a traveler facing a ravine without a bridge, many families in the state face serious barriers that they have no or limited control over which limit the possibilities that are open to them.

For example, this report highlights:

  • Barriers to Quality and Affordable Child Care: For a family of three at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the average cost of care for an infant in New Hampshire consumes more than one third of their household income, putting child care out of reach for many families whose incomes are low.
  • Barriers to Early Education and School Readiness: While New Hampshire children enjoy almost statewide access to public kindergarten, most of this access is only to part-day programs. In 2012, only 37% of children enrolled in public kindergarten had access to a full day program.
  • Barriers to Family Care: 52% of employed parents in NH did not have access to even a minimum of five paid sick days to care for a sick child.
  • Barriers to Economic Sustainability: Even when all the adults in a family are working full time, 7% of their children continue to live in poverty in New Hampshire. One in four families with children under the age of 6 are sometimes or very often experiencing financial hardship covering basic needs, like food or housing.

Gaps in Availability of Services

New Hampshire supports a broad range of programs to aid families in need. As documented in this report however, such supports are limited in scope and do not meet the needs of all those who would otherwise be eligible.

Some of the most critical gaps include:

  • Limited Access to Early Supports and Services. National estimates suggest that 13% of children ages 0-3 are at risk for developmental delays, and yet, due to state financial constraints, the Family Centered Early Supports and Services Program (FCESS) was only able to serve 4.4% for this age group in 2011-2012.
  • Limited Access to Mental Health Professionals. As of a 2008 review, only 1 in 5 physicians reported having expertise in early childhood mental health issues and there were no child psychiatrists located in Carroll or Coos counties for physicians to refer to. As of 2012, about 1 of every 3 children ages 2 to 17 with problems requiring mental health counseling did not receive it.
  • Limited Access to Appropriate Health Care. Three in ten children (30%) aged birth to 15 months in New Hampshire receiving Medicaid did not receive the recommended number of well-child visits and, similarly, one in four children (27%) ages 3-6 years with Medicaid did not receive recommended well-child visits
  • Limited Access to Before/After School Programs. According to the After-school Alliance, although there are over 43,000 children in NH who are eligible to participate in federally funded afterschool programs, due to limited funding, fewer than a quarter of those are enrolled.

Gaps Based on Geography and Race

Where a child grows up in New Hampshire can provide differential opportunities for their health and well-being. In addition to high risk pockets located through the state, specific geographic areas have demonstrated a far higher prevalence of critically negative factors that can impede child and family well-being. For example, in Sullivan County, children are much more likely to be identified with a mental health disorder than other areas in the state and families are faced with a severe shortage of child care slots (only 64 slots available per 100 children) making it more difficult to maintain quality employment. In Coos County, emergency department visits for mental health reasons are significantly higher, children have the highest rate of tooth decay, have the highest asthma rates, as well as the highest rates of child maltreatment in the state (nearly three times the state average rate).

In addition to disparities arising from geography, New Hampshire is faced with growing racial disparities as well that are likely to continue to limit opportunities for growth and success among the populations impacted. For example, while about seven percent of White, non-Hispanic residents have incomes below the poverty line (7.3%), Hispanic residents of NH are more than twice as likely to be living below the poverty line (15.8%) and Black or African American residents are more than three times as likely to be living below the poverty line (24.2%). As a result of limited financial security, it is likely that these families will also experience a range of obstacles which will continue to negatively shape their futures, including: food insecurity, housing insecurity, and limited educational opportunities.    

Gaps in Information for Decision Making

Further complicating the above issues is a lack of reliable data to document where demand exceeds supply, or in some cases, to accurately gauge what the demand is so we can better understand what needs are and are not being met. New Hampshire needs more integrated information systems not only to improve efficiency and knowledge of services provided, but also to eliminate gaps or duplication of services and to assist families in navigating the complexity of systems of care and support. As outlined in this report, this fragmentation occurs across a broad range of areas.    



If we were to provide a more coordinated and aligned system of services for New Hampshire children and families, it would have multiple, significant direct impacts on the future of our state. Addressing our state's gaps and challenges requires a multi-pronged approach emphasizing the importance of improved data systems, as well as implementing system wide and targeted programs with a history of demonstrated effectiveness.

Within this context, programs providing temporary financial or food assistance can be helpful, but they are frequently not sufficient to enable families to overcome their challenges and become fully self-sustaining. As discussed in this report, other programs and services such as job training and work supports, parent education, health care, home visiting and other family supports are critical to improving child health and developmental outcomes. Central to these efforts will be improved collaboration among agencies and programs with an eye towards decreasing duplication of services and efforts, providing greater access to services, and facilitating optimal use of scarce resources.

As the State of New Hampshire continues to work on these areas, Spark NH will look forward to continuing its efforts to support a coordinated, sustainable early childhood system that achieves positive outcomes for young children, their families, and their communities. By documenting where some of the critical gaps are in New Hampshire, this report reflects an important first step in understanding the needs of New Hampshire's children and families. By combining this effort with the multiple activities of the Spark NH Council and committees, we are one step closer to achieving our vision: that all New Hampshire children and their families are healthy, learning and thriving now and in the future. To learn about and join us in our efforts, please visit www.sparknh.org or contact me at lmilliken@sparknh.org.



The Spark NH Data Committee will be taking a close look at the report and how to make it most useful in future iterations. We will be thinking about indicators that should be used to determine how well the early childhood system is coordinated and how well it works for young children and their families in New Hampshire. If you would like to contribute to this discussion, would like to join the committee or have feedback on the needs assessment, please contact me at lmilliken@sparknh.org.



Respectfully submitted,


Laura Milliken

Director, Spark NH


 "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."
- Helen Keller

Committee and Task Force Meeting Summaries  


Policy Committee - October 6, 2014

The Spark NH Policy Committee reviewed the timeline and process for the upcoming policy scan and recommendation work. Decisions were made about the upcoming October policy strategist meetings in regards to the goals of the meetings. An update was given on the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) task force.   The next meeting date was set for November 17, 9-noon.


Data Committee - October 6, 2014

The group completed a review of the Executive Summary and a final review of the Draft Needs Assessment Report. Final edits were completed and the FINAL Needs Assessment Report will be issued and made available via the Spark NH list serve and website. The group also reviewed a proposal for review of the usefulness of the Report and for future refinement of the Indicators. The Data Committee supported this proposal. 


Executive Committee - October 14, 2014

The Committee debriefed the retreat and potential next steps. The budget and funding for FY2015 were discussed. The group proposes allocating funds to hire a consultant to redesign needs assessment as requested by the Data Committee. Open Council positions and leadership roles were reviewed. Laura's report to the Governor was submitted October 1. A quarterly meeting with the Governor's Office and Commissioners of DOE and DHHS will take place on October 22. The agenda for October's Council meeting was set. An update on the Preschool Development Grant was given. An MOU to formalize the relationship between Spark NH and Early Learning NH was drafted.   


Family Engagement Taskforce - October 20, 2014

The Taskforce discussed the Parent Engagement Roadmap Tool and is awaiting the parent organization list to decide how best to use it. The group reviewed plans for 2015. There was a presentation on the Policy Scan work. 


Quality Committee - October, 21, 2014

In October, the Spark Quality committee reviewed the printer approval copy of the two Quality definition cards and discussed the dissemination plan in more detail. The committee hopes that many of the cards can be distributed personally with an opportunity to talk to individuals about the cards and the definition of quality, but also agrees that the cards are a good stand-alone product. The committee finalized its  ecommendations stemming from the family and professional surveys regarding availability and access to resources.


Workforce and Professional Development Committee - October 24, 2014    

The committee had an update on NH Shared Competencies and conducted discussions around wording. Changes to the NAEYC PD Policy Blueprint Project were reviewed. There was a report out on the SEE Change Project. Evidence-based practices related to engagement were chosen for this project by The Council on Exceptional Children's Division of Early Childhood's Recommended Practices. There was also a brief update on Spark NH PORTAL usage given.


Communications and Public Awareness Committee - November 6, 2014

The 2-1-1 taskforce gave an update on their work looking at how data is gathered and how accessible the service is to families. The committee discussed the development of a webinar and short video that will be used to increase the viewing of the Bedrock messaging. The group reviewed past and upcoming bedrock presentations and ambassador trainings.  The group discussed the Endowment for Health's plan for a companion show for the PBS documentary "Raising of America." Better communication about Spark NH will be looked at further in the new year.

Evaluation Committee - November 7, 2014 

Updates and requests from other committees were reviewed. The Committee Member Survey was discussed and some proposed edits were made. The evaluation for Project LAUNCH was discussed including expectations from SAMHSA. The Wilder Tool was reviewed to see how it fit with the data needs of Spark NH. An initial brainstorming session took place and  discussion of parts of the tool that would be good to keep. There were several action items that came out of the meeting.  


Policy Committee - November 17, 2014

The goal for the meeting was to bring the policy recommendations down from thirty to ten: three each in Good Health, Positive Early Learning Experiences and Strong Families and one in the area of Systems. Consultant Peggy Kieschnick reviewed the process to date and reminded the committee about the selection criteria. Peggy and Laura Milliken shared the recommendations from the Policy Strategist meetings in October and interviews with legislators involved with Spark NH. Nine of the ten recommendations were finalized, and the last one will be finalized in December. Other agenda items were tabled for December as well


Executive Committee - November 18, 2014

The Committee debriefed the last Council meeting and approved the latest meeting summary. The 2015 budget and sustainability plan was reviewed.  The group discussed open Council positions and Executive Committee membership.  The agenda for the December Council meeting was set. The MOU between Spark NH and Early Learning NH was finalized. Laura's evaluation which will be conducted in January was discussed. The contract  with NH Kids Count for policy research was discussed. Annual conflict of interest forms by governor- appointed Council Members are due and will be brought up at the next Council meeting.

Quality Committee - November 18, 2014 

Thanks to Debra Nelson who chaired the Quality Committee meeting in November due to Kristin's absence/ illness. The committee reviewed and suggested changes to the cover letter and began dissemination of the Quality Definition cards for providers and families. Further dissemination will take place according to the dissemination plan. An electronic version of the cards will be posted in several places on the Spark website. Organizations may request cards on the Contact Us page of the Spark website. The committee introduced work on "Activity 5D: Create Cross Sector Collaboration for Timely Identification of Child and Family Needs" and will coordinate with Project LAUNCH and Watch Me Grow as first steps.


Workforce and Professional Development Committee - November 21, 2014

The WPD Committee heard an update on the SEE Change Task Force from Ruth Littlefield. Information about this project is available at: http://ptan.seresc.net/blog/see-change/. The Committee reviewed the latest revisions to the Shared Professional Early Childhood Competencies (SPECC) and offered feedback to the subcommittee. We reviewed and discussed the work of the workgroups on the Professional Development System Project, including the draft of the Framework of the Advisory Structure; we will make a final decision about the Advisory Structure at the next meeting in January. In addition, Ellen Wheatley discussed the implications of the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant for workforce and professional development. 


Data Committee - December 1, 2014

The Data Committee reviewed with Peter Antal the creation of a Stakeholder Survey, regarding the recently released Needs Assessment, to help identify recommendations and processes for ongoing needs assessment activities. The Committee generated a list of what other agencies/areas of expertise the group might like to pursue for member recruitment. Finally, the committee's charge was reviewed and suggestions for editing it were made.

Upcoming Meetings 

Meetings are held at 2 Delta Drive in Concord NH unless otherwise noted.


Friday, January 9, 2:00-4:00
Evaluation Committee (Every other 1st Friday at the Endowment for Health, One Pillsbury Street, Suite 301, Concord)
Tuesday, January 13, 12:00-2:00
Executive Committee (Every 2nd Tuesday)
Tuesday, January 20, 1:00-3:00
Quality Committee (Every 3rd Tuesday)
Friday, January 23, 9:00-11:00
Workforce and Professional Development Committee (Every 4th Friday)

Monday, February 2, 9:00-10:30
Policy Committee (Every 1st Monday)
Monday, February 2, 2:00-4:00
Data Committee (Every 1st Monday)
Monday, February 9, 9:00-10:30
Family Engagement Task Force (Every other second Monday)
Tuesday, February 10, 12:00-2:00
Executive Committee (Every 2nd Tuesday)
Tuesday, February 26, 9:00-11:00
Spark NH Council (4th Thursday of every even month)
Friday, February 27, 9:00-11:00
Workforce and Professional Development Committee (Every 4th Friday) 

Upcoming Events, Workshops and Webinars


Visit the PORTAL at www.sparknh.org/portal to view upcoming events, workshops and webinars, and job postings available throughout the state!  


New Hampshire Children's Trust is offering trainings around New Hampshire for anyone whose work involves children. 

The Strengthening Families Framework, developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, not only identifies what characteristics make families strong but tells us what everyday actions those of us who work with children and families can take to enhance those characteristics!  This training series received rave reviews when NH Children's Trust brought this training series around the state last year and we are beginning to schedule our 2015 dates now.  We begin this year's tour in Laconia on January 21.  The entire training series provides 16 training hours.  Please click here to learn more.  Space is limited so register today!  Please forward to anyone whose work touches children or families.  Look for trainings in Coos County, Claremont, the Seacoast and Strafford County among others in 2015.  You can always see what trainings we offer at www.nhchildrenstrust.org/trainings


Links of Interest     

In this article, Zero to Three illustrates the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. The MIECHV program is supporting healthy development by building comprehensive systems. The article explains the key factors that are needed in order to effectively include home visiting programs in a comprehensive early childhood system. Multiple states are highlighted as examples of how those key areas are being improved upon under the MIECHV program.

SAMHSA's latest publication aims to build a shared understanding of Trauma Informed Approach. The article includes a working definition for trauma and the key principles of the trauma informed approach. The publication was created as a step towards a common understanding for those working with trauma informed care.  

The Data Quality Campaign released its 10th annual state analysis. The article includes data on a state by state basis. The Data Quality Campaign shares highlights and the gains that states have made. The DQC also provides data that will improve teacher training efforts. 

The Census Bureau released a report evaluating the impact that key factors and family situations have on child well-being. A national level baseline is provided to compare the percentages of children who experienced various transitions.

The BUILD Initiative has released a web-based QRIS Compendium. The QRIS Compendium allows people to access information on quality rating and improvement systems in every state and also regionally/locally.

CLASP compiled the 2013 Head Start and Early Head Start Profiles based on Head Start Grantees' Program Information Reports. Included in the report for the first time are state by state Early Head Start profiles. State by state data includes the number of slots, program options, enrollment numbers, and staff information.

In this report, the Center for American Progress researches the need for greater funding in infant and toddler programs. The report explores the diversity of infants and toddlers. The Center for American Progress concludes with recommendations on how to support the growing demographic of infants and toddlers.

Ascend at the Aspen Institute has released their ten policy areas for action in order to guide policy to improve two-generation approaches to poverty. The policy recommendations cover early childhood, post-secondary education, economic assets and human services, and health and well being.

The Urban Institute investigated the workforce challenges faced by low wage and low skill workers with children. The report uses national data on personal and family characteristics to discover who are not participating in education or training. Access to childcare was found to be one reason parents are not participating in education or training.
The Urban Institute takes a looks at child care subsidy policies that relate to parent education and training activities. The report includes priority recommendations aimed at improving child care assistance for parents involved in training or education programs.

The report, released from the National Center for Children in Poverty, examines the impact of income taxes on poverty-level earnings. The National Center for Children in Poverty uses data that show how much working poor families owe in state income taxes and how much the family received in state income tax refunds.

The National Center for Children in Poverty released their online tool for searching and comparing data related to working families. The data includes a state by state breakdown of child care subsidies, and family and medical leave.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Urban Institute brought together experts from public health, education, community development, and other related fields to publish an article about the need for data driven solutions in policy related to low-income families. The article makes the argument for the use of data in policy that affects the poorest areas of America.

The University of Wisconsin's Institute for Research on Poverty researched the impact that parental incarceration has on children. The fact sheet highlights the emotional effects incarceration has on children as well as risk factors that the children face. The author includes ways for teachers and other adults to encourage children to voice their feelings. Policy recommendations that center around child support, sentencing, and prison visitation are made.

The Alliance for Early Success has published two reports on policies that link health, family support, and early learning. These new reports build upon the Birth Through Eight Policy Framework. State Policies that Support the Intersection Between Health and Early Learning highlights important findings from the Health Policy Roundtable. Bridging State Policies for Children and Families compiles the policy recommendations that were created based on conversations with the National Governors Association and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a new KIDS COUNT policy report. The report expands upon the challenges faced by low-income families and recommends ways to remove barriers so children and families may succeed simultaneously.

The Council of Professional Recognition released a white paper that discusses the changing demographics in America. The Council analyzed how the demographic changes require a call for an increase in tolerance and understanding of different backgrounds. The Council's Child Development Associate National Credential is highlighted for the tools it provides to early educators as they work to improve their skills in pushing for diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion practices that are effective throughout the country are highlighted.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has released an evaluation on READY4K!. READY4K! is a text messaging program for parents of preschoolers. The goal of the program is to help parents support and nurture their child's literacy development. The report discusses the program in depth and shares how the program impacted family engagement at home and at school.

The Center on Technology and Disability has launched their new website. The new site is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs. Families and providers can utilize the site as a way to acquire assistive and instructional devices and services. The site is also a place for advocates to share about practices, devices, and services that are effective.

President Obama signed the Child care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 into law on November 18th. The Act reauthorizes the child care program for first time since 1996. Under the Act, health and safety policies are more defined and available child care options are more transparent for families and the public. The CCDBG Reauthorization Resource webpage includes resources and more information about the reauthorization.

A new paper from The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) investigates how states are accommodating children in their quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). The report highlights states that have exemplary inclusion programs.

A new brief, published by Child Trends, analyzes Raising A Reader. The national program focuses on early literacy and parent engagement. The brief shares evidence and lessons that were learned through the project. Child Trends reviews the project's growing evidence base.

The National Center on Family Homelessness released a report on child homelessness. The data shows that American childhood homelessness reached an historic high in 2013. State by state trends are provided as well as policy recommendations for addressing childhood homelessness.

Results Matter is a program of the Colorado Department of Education. The program has posted two new videos in the Results Matter Video Library. The videos are designed to be used for professional development. Each video allows early care and education professionals to grow their observation, documentation, and assessment skills and may be accessed at no cost.

Child Trends Hispanic Institute released a fact sheet about Hispanic children in America. The paper shares information on demographics, family, education, and health of Hispanic children.

The National Women's Law Center released their annual report on child care assistance policies. The report covers all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Researchers found that family situations improved for the second year in a row.

The Early Childhood Mental Health Toolkit provides tools and information on combining mental health practices with pediatric primary care. The toolkit includes information on children's social and emotional health as well as creating medical home systems.

Secretary Burwell and Secretary Duncan shared the release of a policy statement regarding expulsion and suspension practices in early learning settings. Secretary Burwell announced that Health and Human Services has dedicated 4 million dollars toward early childhood mental health consultations as part of the movement to end expulsions and suspensions in early care. The 4 million dollars will be part of President Obama's My Brother's Keeper Initiative.

A new resource for shelter staff is now available from the Administration for Children and Families. The assessment tool was created to help shelter staff establish shelter environments that are safe and developmentally appropriate for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Shelter staff are able to access specific recommendations on how to support child development and safety in the shelter. ACF published this tool in the hopes that it will build local level collaboration and community resources.

The New Hampshire Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention 2013 Surveillance Report has been released. The report shares blood lead data for children under six as well as adults. Valuable information from the Economic Burden of Environmentally Attributable Illness in Children in NH report is included in the Surveillance Report.