Get to Know an Affiliate is a blog series focused on building affiliate-to-affiliate connections and resource sharing. Sarah Zucker recently interviewed the team at Help Me Grow Kansas (HMG-KS). In this interview, you’ll hear from Danielle Brower, Rebecca Gillam, Teri Garstka, Kelli Mark, Heather Smith, and Rachel Sisson.

Affiliate: Help Me Grow – Kansas
HMG Organizing Entity: Center for Public Partnerships & Research, University of Kansas
System Lead(s)/Interviewees:
Danielle Brower, Rebecca Gillam, Teri Garstka, Kelli Mark, Heather Smith, and Rachel Sisson
Affiliate Since: 2017

SZ: Tell me about how your community/state came to be interested in Help Me Grow and why it ultimately decided to join the National Affiliate Network. 

HMG-KS: Kansas originally learned about HMG during a Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs State Grantee meeting.  After additional exploration of the opportunities available with HMG, a Core Leadership Team comprised of key program staff and partners from early childhood agencies discussed how HMG fit into the existing early childhood vision for Kansas. The HMG framework aligned with much of the early childhood work taking place across Kansas and provided an opportunity to help further strengthen coordination among programs and initiatives across the state.  With the support of the Core Leadership Team and other key stakeholders, Kansas became a HMG affiliate in 2017.

SZ: Kansas has been exploring HMG and planning installation with the Kansas Department of Education as a key partner in that work. KSDE recently received the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) B-5: how did planning for that proposal help advance plans for Help Me Grow?

Danielle Brower, MSW
Help Me Grow Project Coordinator
Center for Public Partnership & Research, University of Kansas

HMG-KS: Over the last year, the HMG Kansas Core Leadership Team and the ECCS State Advisory Team combined to support a stronger collective of stakeholders and partners, becoming the Kansas Early Childhood Advisory Team.  This intentional alignment of initiatives in Kansas continued when the planning for the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) B-5 began. Kansas’ approach has utilized the HMG components as a foundation for integrating efforts such as Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Child Care Quality Initiatives, and PDG B-5, among others. The HMG framework is a key component to further coordinate and build on existing initiatives around the state.

SZ: How do you see the two initiatives, HMG and PDG B-5, aligning or supporting each other in your state over the next few years?

HMG-KS: It is an exciting time for early childhood work in Kansas!  We are focusing on our shared vision of connecting families and communities so that all Kansas children thrive. HMG and PDG B-5 will continue to support efforts of intentional integration of our early childhood system; promoting connected families and communities, meaningful family engagement, family choice and voice, best practices, and equitable access to services.  The needs assessment and strategic plan that come out of the PDG B-5 will help to inform the spread and scale of HMG across the state.

SZ: When you think about the potential for HMG and PDG B-5 to work together and advance each other’s goals collectively, what are the types of outputs or outcomes you would be most excited to see as a result? 

HMG-KS: Since Kansas had already adopted HMG prior to the PDG B-5 proposal development, we were able to incorporate the HMG core components into the PDG work plan. The HMG framework, which incorporates centralized access points, data collection and analysis, provider outreach, and family and community outreach, will be interwoven throughout our mixed delivery system. Efforts around Family and Community Outreach, in particular, will ensure that families’ experiences and insights shape early childhood systems building as the HMG framework continues to spread and scale.

Kelli Mark, BS
MCH Program Consultant
Bureau of Family Health, Kansas Department of Health and Environment

SZ: So, I’m assuming you’re coming to the Forum in Buffalo, NY in May! What are you hoping to get out of it this year? Anything specific you’re hoping to learn or hear about? Any other affiliates you’re planning to connect with?

HMG-KS: The Kansas HMG team is looking forward to the upcoming HMG National Forum in Buffalo, New York.  We are excited to connect with other affiliates and hear lessons learned, emerging ideas, and best practices from the last year that will help Kansas advance our HMG work. 

SZ: If you were to say what HMG Kansas could offer in terms of expertise to the HMG Network, what would it be? 

HMG-KS: Kansas has a strong history of collaboration across early childhood. We’ve learned a lot about integrating initiatives, supporting partnerships, and connecting state and local efforts. Our innovations, such as the Integrated Referral and Information System (IRIS), have provided organizations in the state the ability to streamline communication and offer the very best to meet the needs of young children and families.

SZ: Last question. As a HMG affiliate, what do you want to see most from the National Center and for the affiliate Network in the coming year or two?

HMG-KS: As HMG Kansas continues on our journey to spread and scale HMG across the state, we look forward to the continued connection and support offered through resources from HMG National and our affiliate network. 

If you would like to connect with HMG Kansas, send a message to Danielle Brower.