The Model Convening Project is a multi-year initiative,
with leadership and facilitation from ZERO TO THREE and
funding from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative.
Four national early childhood models – Family Connects International, HealthySteps, Help Me Grow and Nurse-Family Partnership – are exploring ways to have a greater impact on young children and their families in communities where their programs overlap.
The Model Convening Project and its Hand In Hand framework aims to ensure families receive the services they need in a coordinated manner by strengthening highly collaborative early childhood systems.
Why a Model Convening Project
In communities across the country, families are striving to give their children a good start in life. They share a common desire for their babies to be healthy, happy, and secure. Alongside this positive outlook, families face considerable obstacles in raising their children. Many struggle to make ends meet. Nearly all grapple with health concerns, ranging from ear infections to substance use disorders, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some worry about violence in their neighborhoods. Racial and economic inequities make all these matters worse.
The front line for supporting families is people in the community. Yet, many well-intentioned community programs and supports operate independently and don’t make the critical connections families need to address their complex challenges. This reality has created a new urgency towards pursuing a bold, shared vision — a nation where all babies are born into communities of opportunity that provide them with what they need, where they need it and when they need it.
The initial partners were identified because of shared work in many local communities. The partners are actively seeking ways to share what is learned and engage other entities and programs as this work evolves. The project includes but is not limited to a survey and focus groups with program affiliates and sites; input from local and state leaders; development of a framework for collaboration across programs; and guidance on implementing the framework.
The leaders of four national early childhood models came together to develop Hand In Hand, a silobusting, trust-building framework for community collaboration that achieves positive, equitable outcomes for all young children and their families.
About the Hand in Hand Framework
The Hand in Hand framework is a collaborative approach to supporting positive, equitable outcomes for all young children and their families. It envisions a nation where all babies are born into communities of opportunity that provide them with what they need, where they need it, and when they need it. The framework was developed by the Model Convening Project, a partnership of four complementary, evidence-based models:
- Family Connects is a population-based health program that enhances the local network of care by providing nurse home visits to all parents of newborns during the first month of life. During the visit, the nurse provides information, conducts health assessments, and makes connections to community resources that are needed/
- HealthySteps, a program of ZERO TO THREE, integrates a child development expert into the pediatric primary care team to promote nurturing parenting and healthy development for babies and toddlers, particularly in areas where there have been persistent inequities for families with low incomes and families of color.
- Help Me Grow supports communities in strengthening their early childhood systems through centralized access points, family and community outreach, child health care provider outreach, and data collection and analysis.
- Nurse-Family Partnership provides nurse home visits to first-time moms and children living in poverty or with other risk factors. Services are provided prenatally to the child’s second birthday.
The Hand in Hand framework is for everyone who supports families with young children. It is inspired by decades of evidence on the powerful impact of early childhood on human development. It recognizes collaboration as an essential tool for doing the most good for the most families, especially those with the greatest needs.
The framework is organized around three interacting elements of early childhood collaboration: foundation, relationships, and actions. All three elements are always in play, though communities may focus on one more than others at different times.
- Foundation: The values, processes, leadership, and resources that nurture collaboration in a community over time.
- Relationships: The social fabric that engages and sustains people in their shared efforts.
- Actions: The tangible steps people take together to support young children and families.
The Model Convening Project Call to Action
We encourage the use of the Hand In Hand framework at every level of program implementation to deepen trust, engagement and synergy between and among all partners in your community working to support young children and families. This is a practical and effective approach to collaboration that can be adapted to fit all communities.
The Hand In Hand Resources
A framework introduction, guiding principles, key elements, applications of the framework in communities, and questions to consider when using the framework:
Exploring alignment of early childhood services, policy and advocacy, and racial equity:
- Aligning Early Childhood Services in Communities
- Advancing Racial Equity in Early Childhood Systems
- Public Policy Advocacy for Early Childhood
Detailed accounts from communities on implementing various aspects of the framework, including families’ perspectives on early childhood collaboration:
The Early Childhood Innovation Network in Washington, D.C., shares how they are leading a citywide movement to promote healthy families and children through focused interventions such as ZERO TO THREE’s HealthySteps program.
Denise Brown recounts her experience with an unexpected pregnancy after being told she would not have children, and how Nurse-Family Partnership supported her and her family to work through the ups and downs of parenthood.
Psychologist Dominique Charlot-Swilley sees systemic racism firsthand in her work with families of color in Washington, D.C. Learn why she sees integrating behavioral health into pediatric primary care as a racial equity strategy.
Fatimah Jeffery was earning a bachelor’s degree while working full-time when to her amazement, she discovered she was pregnant, at age 40. Learn how she worked with Nurse-Family Partnership to become a parent leader.
Learn how the four Model Convening Partners work together in Long Island to make sure all young children and families can access the services and resources they want and need in their community.
Stormi Covington loves serving families with young children in North Carolina. Learn how she fights for better early childhood outcomes in Guilford County with the Get Ready Guilford Initiative.
Explore lessons learned from three communities about strategies for supporting parent leadership, from ZERO TO THREE and The National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers.
For the past 30 years, Phyllis D’Agostino’s work to support families has led her to seek connections like a detective hunting for clues. Learn how she has developed an expertise in community engagement and collaboration.
The Early Learning Alliance supports organizations working to help children in Tarrant County achieve success in school and life. See how its work is guided by the aim to eliminate disparities that undermine child well-being.