08 / 04 / 15
Throughout Kent County, thousands of public, private, and independent organizations are working to ensure that all children have a clear path to economic prosperity.
That’s the good news.
Despite decades of hard work and millions of dollars, key indicators for children have not improved significantly.
That’s the bad news.
Through KConnect, dozens of leaders are working together to improve those results.
Rich Liberatore understands the need better than most. For more than three decades, he has worked in social services agencies such as United Way and Catholic Social Services. Now interim executive director at First Steps and member of the KConnect Prenatal to 3rd Grade work group, he’s working to connect the dots in the early childhood sector, helping agencies fill gaps in service, build bridges of understanding, and work collaboratively instead of competitively.
“It all connects, it just does,”
“We’re working together to align activities and identify outcomes across the community for children in those early years,”
“First Steps has always seen its primary role to be an independent, influential, nonpartisan advocate for children from birth to 3rd grade.”
Tracie Coffman knows from her big-picture systems work just how interconnected everything is as well. As director of the Kent County Essential Needs Task Force, she leads coordination in areas of transportation, food and nutrition, energy efficiency, economic and workforce development, and housing. Each basic need area has a subcommittee of people working together within their own arenas.
Coffman, a member of the KConnect Basic Needs work group, says it’s just as important to get people working across systems.
“Transportation is setting goals, but transportation is affected by jobs and that’s affected by where people live, and that’s affected by housing, and housing is affected by the jobs people have and the access they have to food and what kinds of food they have access to… so all of these things are so interrelated that you have to be looking at the larger picture,”
“The Essential Needs Task Force is working to align goals and bridge gaps.”
Both Liberatore and Coffman say that their work at the systems level has convinced them: working together is the only way to make real change.
“So many of the agencies, they do all of their great work, and they do it every day, and they are producing a ton of outputs. So they’re feeding this many people, and they’re housing this many people,”
“At the Essential Needs Task Force we say ‘but do we have fewer people who are homeless?’ ‘do we have fewer people who are hungry?’
“Unless we join together and begin to do some work together, your goals are not going to be able to be accomplished. You are going to keep every day meeting your output goals, but not being able to reach your ultimate goal of not being needed.”