Data Will Help Guide Early Childhood Initiatives

The village is gathering around the children of Elkhart County with some new ways to help raise them to be lifelong learners.

The Kids and Families Committee of the Community Foundation is focused on awarding grants to empower early childhood development and education. Helping children from birth to age eight is one of the areas of emphasis for Community Investment Grants.

Data and Results-Based Accountability will be key components of the effort to help address areas of need and improve performance.

Since identifying the area of emphasis in 2020, the Kids and Families Committee picked community-level indicators to track over time. Kindergarten readiness will be measured with the Elkhart County Early Skills Inventory assessing social-emotional and physical developmental skills. Reading scores from all of Elkhart County’s schools will also provide key population-level data. The data can help show if trends are improving or declining. 

Early Childhood Initiatives
Community Investment Grants are supporting local education efforts. (Photo courtesy of Elkhart Education Foundation)

 The Community Foundation will continue to engage community leaders to evaluate the reasons behind the trends and identify strategies to move the needle in the desired direction. The Community Foundation will prioritize programs and projects that focus on the period immediately before and after birth and the very early years of childhood.

A foundational framework known as Results-Based Accountability will help agencies assess the impact of their programs and help identify effective strategies. The Community Foundation has been meeting with leaders of organizations in our community about the approach and how it will shape future efforts.

“We are asking nonprofits to work together, to work with the community, to achieve the best outcomes for all young children.”

— Candy Yoder
Chief Program Officer for the Community Foundation

“We are asking nonprofits to work together, to work with the community, to achieve the best outcomes for all young children,” said Candy Yoder, Chief Program Officer for the Community Foundation.

The Harvard University Center for the Developing Child recommends supporting young children by aligning efforts around:

  • Supporting Responsive Relationships
  • Strengthening Core Skills
  • Reducing Sources of Stress

These can happen in a number of ways, including coaching parents, training other adults who work with children and assessing the safety of homes where young children live. Activities in the three areas can be measured in a variety of ways and tracked over time. No single program alone can drive significant change in either kindergarten readiness or third-grade reading scores, but a collection of targeted interventions can lead to meaningful change.

“We are excited to work with nonprofits to help create and fund strategic projects that will yield better outcomes,” said Vonnie Trumble, Program Officer for the Community Foundation.

Small child playing with a toy car
Community Investment Grants are supporting local education efforts.

The Community Foundation and Horizon Education Alliance are also teaming with the Tamarack Institute to address systems-level resources and opportunities to better support early childhood development. The goal will be to understand the early childhood system, build deeper connections between organizations serving children and their families, and facilitate the alignment of priorities and activities. Together we can create a community where children thrive.


This story appeared in the 2021 Annual Report.

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