Early in the life of Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood, which was formed in 2012, a need for a particular kind of partner organization emerged. “We realized pretty early on that we needed a partner who was more nimble, and who operated at a bit of a distance from the state government,” says Elsa Holguín, Rose Community Foundation senior program officer for Child & Family Development, and member of the state’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission.
Enter Early Milestones Colorado, a new nonprofit intermediary group, which exists as a resource and partner to foundations, state and local agencies, nonprofits and the business community for work that benefits young children and their families.
Holguín and many of her foundation partners have worked for months to establish the infrastructure for this new nonprofit. They hope it will become a trusted resource for all those interested in early childhood, as well as an engine for innovation. “Ultimately, Early Milestones will make Colorado a key state and leader in early childhood,” Holguín says. She feels the organization will bring more resources here from national funders, businesses and even the federal government.
One of Early Milestones’ initial projects – LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health) Together – is a great example of how the organization can function to meet a clear need in the early childhood landscape. Many foundations and early childhood groups have identified early childhood mental health as a need in our community, and have talked together about how best to address that need. Project LAUNCH is a federally funded project that helps to integrate mental health care for young children into primary care environments. The group of funders who created LAUNCH Together selected Early Milestones to implement the project. This will bring federal resources into Colorado through Project LAUNCH, and very high level experts in the field. Early Milestones is best positioned to make this project a reality in the way that makes the most sense here in Colorado.
Holguín says that Early Milestones is quite unique and while there are just a few models for an intermediary group like this on the national level, there is nothing directly comparable on a state level. As part of the planning for this new organization, she says the founding board members met with key early childhood organizations in Colorado. Not only did the leaders of these organizations support the concept, they immediately suggested several projects that Early Milestones should take on.
Currently, the organization is working on three major projects: updating the state’s Early Childhood Framework; LAUNCH Together; and a collaborative communications strategy for parent awareness and engagement in Colorado. Several foundations who support early childhood work are working together to fund this new organization. They include the Ben and Lucy Ana Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation, Chambers Family Fund, The Denver Foundation, the Cydney and Tom Marisco Family Foundation, Rose Community Foundation and the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation. They have all invested some money in the start-up, but more importantly, they have all contributed leadership and expertise to its formation.