Shared Spaces at The Children’s Campus of Kansas City

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The Children’s Campus of Kansas City
Pictured right: The Children’s Campus of Kansas City is a 72,000 square foot building located in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.
Dedicated to a mission of preparing young children who are at risk for academic failure for success in school and life, the Children’s Campus of Kansas City is a collaborative research program partnership aimed at improving outcomes for young children and their families. At the Children’s Campus of Kansas City we are building the future. The children impacted today will be the workforce and community of tomorrow. Annually more than 1,000 children participate in services designed to prepare them for success in the future. These services are provided by nearly 200 professional staff across agencies working together to improve the outcomes of children. Parents and families have opportunities to engage in their child’s development and education and learn about their important role in their child’s future success. The co-location and collaboration of the Children’s Campus of Kansas City partners contributes to a solid foundation for academic readiness, greater ease for parents in following through on referrals, and business efficiencies that allow more dollars to be directed toward high impact programming.

The Children’s Campus of Kansas City Partners
Juniper Gardens Children’s Project – Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, of the University of Kansas, works to improve children’s developmental experiences and their academic and social achievements through research.

Project Eagle – Project Eagle, of the University of Kansas Medical Center, directs multiple programs including Educare of Kansas City, Early Head Start, Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting Program and the Connections centralized screening and referral system for Wyandotte County.

The Family Conservancy – The Family Conservancy provides mental health assessments and services, parenting education, crisis intervention, assistance to overcome poverty, and professional development to enhance the quality of early education across the community.

History
In 2000, local organizations, including the current Children’s Campus of Kansas City partners, envisioned a campus where multiple agencies would co-locate and develop an integrated and coordinated system of services for young children and their families. This vision emerged in response to the needs of children and families in the community that far exceeded the capacity of the programs. The partners recognized that they could maximize their capacity and impact by working together in a new and collaborative way. The shared goals of this group centered around children entering school ready to learn, parents being supported in the role as their child’s first teacher and research translated to practice resulting in the development and dissemination of practices leading to improved outcomes for children and families.

In fall of 2001 the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation funded the Children’s Campus to undertake a feasibility study and explore the efficacy, costs, benefits, risks, and possible locations for such a campus. With additional community support they completed the feasibility study in 2002 and articulated both the need and the commitment for moving forward with the vision. In the years that followed the Children’s Campus Board of Directors developed a public-private partnership to support the construction of a 72,000 square foot, LEED certified building located at 4th and Minnesota in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. In May of 2010 the CCKC opened its doors. The partners continue to collaborate around the original goals and continue to identify additional and innovative ways to expand impact.

Accomplishments
Growing up in a low-income household can present many challenges for children. In fact, children living in poverty often enter kindergarten two standard deviations below the norm and never catch up with their peers. Research has demonstrated that there is a way to change the trajectories and outcomes for these children. Unfortunately there is often a gap between what we know about supporting children and what we do in practice. The Children’s Campus of Kansas City serves as a model for bridging this gap, capitalizing on the collective impact that results from genuine collaboration and truly changing the lives of children and families.

Since opening in 2010, The Children’s Campus of Kansas City’s collaborative model has supported direct service delivery to over 1000 children and their families every year in order to contribute to higher rates of school readiness and positive outcomes for children and families:
• Connecting Families with Resources Throughout the Community
• Demonstrating the Impact of High Quality Early Education
• Providing Intensive Home Visiting Services
• Utilizing High-Quality Research and Evaluation to Guide Work with Children
• Ensuring that Children Receive the Services Needed to Succeed Across All Domains of Development
• Maintaining Partnerships to Ensure Smooth Transitions for Children

The Children’s Campus of Kansas City is committed to long-term, collective impact through research-program partnerships. Partners utilize strategies and programs that impact the environments in which children live and learn and influence the early childhood and service professionals of both today and tomorrow. By reaching “beyond the walls” the Children’s Campus has generated regional, state and national interest. The partners are shaping future professionals who will use their new skills and experiences to impact other local and regional systems working with young children and inform the policies that will drive early education well into the future.

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TALK READ PLAY…with your child every day!
Pictured left: Volunteers for The Village Presbyterian Church distribute Talk, Read, Play materials and discuss the importance of engaging children in talk, read and play every day with families at Faxon Elementary.
In the early day of the collaboration, the partners discussed ways to further cooperate and support their shared mission. In these discussions a gap in the services they were providing was identified. While each of the organizations supported child development, they could all benefit from a program that would help parents and caregiver reinforced their efforts.

This knowledge led to the development of the Talk, Read, Play campaign, which educates parents on brain development in the first five years and equips caregivers and parents with a simple, memorable, science-based tips they can use to support their child’s development.
After the concept’s initial development, it quickly became apparent that all parents, not just those being served by the Children’s Campus, could benefit from a reminder that adult interactions are what help children’s brains grow.
The Talk, Read, Play message has spread beyond the Children’s Campus to become a community-wide initiative, supported by partners all across the Kansas City metro area. And with good reason —everyone benefits when parents interact with their children, especially during the formative early years. By talking, reading, and playing every day, children and parents build loving and nurturing relationships and support brain development. These simple actions put children on the path to educational achievement, third grade reading proficiency, high school graduation and successful futures.
Since the campaign’s launch in 2011, the important message and helpful tips has been shared with more than 80,000 families.

Lessons Learned
Nearly seven years after opening, and over fifteen years since embarking on this effort, the Children’s Campus of Kansas City continues to carry out the original vision. The opportunities for collaboration have continued to grow, expanding the capacity of each individual agency as well as the broader partnership.

Important lessons learned by the partners at the CCKC all reflect one theme that is important to successful collaborations: allow plenty of time. Allow enough time to plan thoroughly and extensively. Explore what has worked, and not worked for others. Invest time in establishing a governance structure that will support the long-term vision of the collaboration. If the collaboration includes construction and land purchase, be thorough during the feasibility and planning stages. Protect and value the time needed to develop and maintain strong partnerships. Engaging support of funders and the community takes time, therefore allow plenty of time. Be persistent.


For the benefit of the nonprofit sector everywhere, we wanted to provide resources for ways we can continue to operate and grow within this era. And once social distancing begins to fade, what lessons can we take from this to improve our operations permanently. Come back often for more updates.