I'm Tricia Howland, the Director of Family & Community Engagement at Brightside Up, Inc. I’ve been at the agency for 20 years helping parents find child care, engaging in community events and facilitating family workshops. Vroom has been an exciting addition to the work we do at the Brightside Up, Inc. The Brightside Up agency was one of the first ten Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&R) to become an ambassador in a pilot project of the Child Care Aware® of America Vroom Partnership initiative.
By bringing Vroom to the Capital District area of Albany, New York, we were able to share the brain building benefits of play with the community we serve. It has allowed us to boost family engagement and provide information on the importance of relationship building, all while supporting the early years of a child’s development.
Child Care Aware® of America had the opportunity to sit down with Tricia and hear how her agency incorporates Vroom as an every day resources.
Tricia, how did you feel when you heard that your agency was selected to be an Ambassador?
It was exciting to hear that we were selected as an Ambassador for the pilot project. It was a great opportunity to be able to share such valuable information about the importance of a child’s development with our community, providers and families.
What impact has Vroom had on your family and community engagement efforts and outreach services?
We have, and still do, incorporate Vroom materials into our outreach events, in our CDA credential classes, in our infant & toddler work, parent cafes, and we share Vroom on social media. Parents and providers alike are energized by knowing what they do every day is boosting a child’s learning. They are in awe of how easy the app is to use.
Vroom values meeting parents and caregivers where they are with messages and resources that are positive and empowering, attainable and accessible, and grounded in brain science. How did parents and caregivers respond when your CCR&R introduced Vroom tools to parents and caregivers?
Everyone that we shared Vroom with has loved it—it is really relatable to each person.
Do you have any stories or Aha Moments through your outreach with parents and caregivers around Vroom that has stuck with you?
I was hosting our table at an outreach event when an expectant mother came up with the soon to be grandma. They were both excited at the upcoming arrival of twins. Grandma was thrilled that there was something that she could access that didn’t require a gadget or a toy to engage with the babies—all that was needed was her. At the same time she was curious to see how the app worked. After sharing it with her she said, “I wish this was around when my children were little!”
Collaborating with community partners to become “trusted messengers” to families and help share messages on early brain science and brain building tools is a key role of being an Ambassador of the CCAoA Vroom Partnership Initiative. What was your experience as a CCR&R in partnering with other community organizations to bring these tools and information to your community?
We have had a few great collaborations with our community partners. Our local libraries have really embraced Vroom. They hang the posters and share tips and other Vroom resources with families that visit the libraries. The Head Start programs also continue to share Vroom with the families in their programs.
Vroom has created Vroom Tips® and other resources that are grounded in science on early brain development and helps families and caregivers turn everyday routines and moments with children into Brain Building Moments®. What feedback have you received from parents and caregivers about the benefits or influence Vroom Tips has had on caring for their children?
Everyone that has shared feedback about the Vroom Tips has loved them—many wish that it went beyond the age of five. Many child care providers use it as part of their curriculum and share the tips with the families-a great family engagement tool.
From your experience of being a CCR&R that has successfully integrated Vroom into its family and community engagement services, what does the phrase “Vroom is a movement, not just a message” mean to your agency?
It means something that we keep on sharing. It doesn’t stop after we were no longer Ambassadors or Mentors. Vroom is something that we will continually share with the parents, providers and community partners that we come in contact with on a daily basis. It is important that everyone knows they have what it takes to be a brain builder!
More recently, your CCR&R was selected to become a Mentor to a second cohort of Ambassadors, which is a new program of the CCAoA Vroom Partnership. We are eager to hear about your experience as a Mentor. What has been your CCR&R’s experience as a Mentor to other CCR&R agencies that have adopted and activated Vroom in their communities?
I continue to be amazed by those I mentor-they really are engaging with their communities in unique, innovative ways that highlight Vroom. They have embraced Vroom into their existing programs and have incorporated it in to their new ones. They're doing great work!
The mentorship program was not a part of the pilot project when your agency was selected as an Ambassador for the CCAoA Vroom Partnership Initiative. Looking back, how might having a Mentor have been helpful to your agency in integrating Vroom into its outreach and services?
I think there is great value in the comfort of having a Mentor. They are able to give you support or suggestions that ignite your thinking process in ways to incorporate Vroom into your work.
In what ways has your CCR&R been successful in sustaining Vroom into its outreach and services to families and early childhood professional?
We continue to share Vroom daily through parent referrals, professional development and our community outreach efforts.
If you had an opportunity to have a conversation with a CCR&R who has not heard about Vroom yet, what would you say to them about integrating Vroom into their services and outreach?
Vroom is a valuable resource to add to your agency. It complements the work you are already doing. It's very simple to explain, backed by research and is something the whole agency can engage in.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Tricia! We hope you continue to find value in using Vroom and sharing the power of brain building tips with the families in your community. Join Tricia and the rest of our Vroom Ambassadors and Mentors in celebrating brain building moments during Vroom Week, November 18-22, 2019!