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To carry out their mission, AOK Networks must (1) strengthen their capacity as a Network, (2) enhance coordination of cross-sector service delivery, and (3) improve the system of services and supports so it works for families.

Systems Building

While high-quality programs and services are central to supporting the health and well-being of young children and their families, they are not enough. Children get the best start in life when communities take a holistic approach to meeting their needs. When service providers from across service categories work together to connect and coordinate services and address system issues that influence families’ ability to access services, children and families benefit more.

AOK Networks approaches system building in a variety of ways. It starts with developing the capacity of local stakeholders to take responsibility for all young children in their community. One important aspect of network capacity building is the ability to understand the specific needs and issues faced by families in their communities so that specific local strategies can be developed to address root causes of those issues.

AOK Networks also use system building strategies to create a more coherent, cross-sector system of services and supports while addressing local child/family priorities. AOK Networks use strategies such as those described below to connect and coordinate early childhood services and supports. Strategies like these improve the system through better access, higher quality services, more equity among those who access services, greater service capacity, and improved family satisfaction.

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  • Early Identification: Ensuring screenings and assessments take place for prenatal and postpartum parents (e.g., perinatal depression) and young children (e.g., developmental screening) sot hat needs can be identified early.

  • Public Information & Education: Sharing information with providers, families, and the general public about the importance of the early years and parents’ essential role, the work of the AOK Network, and local early childhood problems.

  • Information & Referral: Increasing family, provider, and
    community knowledge of and connection to available services and resources by implementing a system wide referral process that includes a feedback loop.

  • Service Needs & Utilization: Monitoring service availability, needs, and use to assure there are adequate services to meet the families’ needs.

  • Workforce Training & Development: Promoting the use of family support principles and assuring the early childhood system has the knowledge and skill to address locally targeted child and family problems.

  • State and Local Policy: Addressing local and state level policy issues through information sharing, education, and advocacy.

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