Engaging Families to Improve Early Childhood Systems

July 28, 2022 | By Child Care Aware of Kansas

Engaging Families to Improve Early Childhood Systems

By Heather Smith, Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services, Bureau of Family Health. Originally published in the Winter 2022 Issue of Kansas Child Magazine.

Kansas has established an innovative approach to address the needs of families and consumers and to support the state’s early childhood systems. Aligned with the All in for Kansas Kids Strategic Plan and the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) program, the Family and Consumer Partnership (FCP) program was created to expand family engagement opportunities and promote healthy families and relationships through strengths‐based services and supports.

The FCP Program is based on a culture of continuous quality improvement, innovation, and growth. It has a sustained focus on what matters — peer support and connections, advisory opportunities, and supporting family and consumer leaders. A guiding principle of the Title V program is consumer engagement — the belief that we must obtain buy-in from those served or directly affected by systemic change.

Providing quality services requires centering the voices of consumers and families in programming, initiatives, and special projects.

This is the purpose of the Family Advisory Council (FAC), a partner within the early childhood governance structure. 

After a decade of focusing primarily on children with special health care needs, the FAC has expanded to address the needs of four more populations: women/moms, early childhood, children, and adolescents.

The FAC is composed of individuals interested in informing services and programs that support women, children, and families. Dedicated family or consumer members can share what it is like to access services and live in their local communities. Having families and consumers work as part of the team is the best way to ensure that service delivery is guided by their needs.

The vision of the FAC is to engage families in program planning, evaluation, service delivery, and policy development; partner with families in advocacy; and support family leaders within their communities. Learn more about the FAC at kansasmch.org/fac.

Members of the FAC are valuable partners in this work. An institutional approach to family engagement requires collaborative relationships with families that strengthen service delivery across systems. Partnerships with families and consumers are critical to making this dream a reality in Kansas.

Heather Smith, MPH
Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services, Bureau of Family Health

Heather received a Master of Public Health degree from Missouri State University and has worked with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) for over 12 years. She currently serves as a Title V Director and oversees the System of Supports team. In this role, she serves as the lead and point of contact for the Family and Consumer Partnership (FCP) program and the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services Block Grant, as well as the staff lead for the Family Advisory Council (FAC).