Through a new program, leaders hone knowledge of early childhood issues to influence policy
Tiffany Carter has worked in early education for two decades, both in her native Detroit and in Chicago, where she is site manager for Children’s Home and Aid in the West Englewood neighborhood. While she loves running day-to-day operations in her current role, she wants to learn more about how to better serve children and families through system-wide changes.
“In most of my career, I’ve spent time with coaching, operations, and general programming,” she says. “Now, I want to expand my mind, digging deeper into systems and making my voice heard in a way that yields results.”
This spring, she was nominated for and accepted into the Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows program, a leadership initiative at Erikson Institute for child advocates who seek to enhance their capacity to influence early childhood policy. Named for one of Erikson’s founders, the program recently welcomed 11 new fellows, including Carter.
“Programs that impact the lives of young children and their families are often shaped at the policy level,” says Geoffrey A. Nagle, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Erikson. “This new initiative reflects a deliberate strategy in which Erikson Institute will support the development of leaders in the field with an experience that can broaden their vision to make informed decisions and help them make a lasting difference.”
The new Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows Program is part of the Early Childhood Leadership Academy at Erikson, which delivers on a commitment to influence positive outcomes for young children, families, and communities through policy initiatives and builds on Erikson’s contributions to previous leadership initiatives: The Illinois Early Childhood Fellows and Illinois Early Childhood Senior Leaders programs.
“The fellows program expands on Erikson’s commitment to developing a pipeline of effective leaders reflecting underrepresented communities and diverse early childhood sectors who possess the knowledge, tools, and practice to shape early childhood policy in a way that brings about positive change to benefit children and families,” says Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Ph.D., director of policy at Erikson.
The fellows represent a diverse range of personal and professional backgrounds. Hailing from various parts of the greater Chicago area, the 11 fellows include professionals working for community-based nonprofits, state agencies, the Chicago Public Schools, advocacy groups, and other child and family-focused organizations. Over the program’s eight months, the fellows will continue their full-time jobs while taking part in a variety of activities that will help them develop their knowledge and skills related to public policy, including:
- Full-day seminars that cover policy development and implementation, effective leadership, child development, and child and family services.
- One-on-one professional coaching with leaders experienced in early childhood policy and advocacy.
- Applied learning opportunities, such as the program’s culminating project: developing a policy memo on an early childhood topic and delivering testimony or authoring an op-ed.
- Networking and engagement with an extensive community of professionals, such as Erikson faculty and staff, alumni of past Illinois Early Childhood Fellows and Senior Leaders programs, and leaders of sponsoring organizations.
For the fellows, the program is a chance not just to deepen their own knowledge of early childhood policy, but also to put it into practice through their own organizations. To fellow Lucy Gomez, that means applying a new understanding of policy and navigating systems to her community organizing work with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, through which she helps families in Chicago’s heavily Latino Northwest Side neighborhoods prepare for kindergarten.
“Because I don’t have any formal training in early childhood education, what I know has been a result of the generosity of leaders, mentors, and peers who have embraced me and my organization’s commitment to the work,” she says. “As part of this program, I know that the new knowledge, support, and inspiration I gain from the other members, coaches, and guest speakers will provide me and the association with tools necessary to making greater advances in our early childhood education work.”
To learn more about the 2016 Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows, click here.
To learn more about the Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows program and the Early Childhood Leadership Academy at Erikson Institute, click here.