RAISING OF FORT WORTH 2019: BUILDING THE BEST PLACE FOR KIDS!
On April 24th, the Raising of Fort Worth kicked off its fifth year of early learning events to engage local nonprofits, businesses, schools, foundations, and families to join together in building Fort Worth as the Best Place for Kids!
Led by Mayor Betsy Price and local private and public partners, the “Best Place for Kids!” initiative is a natural outgrowth of the success achieved by the local Early Learning Alliance over the last several years – which has led to Fort Worth being recognized nationally for its early education efforts.
Fort Worth Is Leading the Nation in Quality Child Care and Early Learning
The Early Learning Alliance’s collaborative work of its 50+ local member organizations has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, Tarrant County was selected as 1 of 3 national models for quality early education (by the National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers).
Other notable local key child care and quality early education achievements for Tarrant County include a 62% increase in quality-rated child care centers over just the last two years, and over 1,800 child care professionals registered to pursue an accredited career track. 
Why Fort Worth Believes in Strong Beginnings for a Brighter Future
Sadie Funk, CEO of First3Years, opened up the April 24th event by reiterating our local shared vision to ensure a quality early education for every child. The Raising of Fort Worth community believes early education is a key strategic lever for Fort Worth in three distinct ways:
1. The Early Years Set the Trajectory for Learning & Life Success.
Research has shown us that quality early education provides up to a $16 return for every dollar spent on quality early education.
2. Quality Child Care Is Needed for Working Families.
Quality child care IS quality early education – so while quality child care is preparing our workforce of the future, it is ALSO supporting our workforce of today.
3. Employers Need to Attract and Retain a Competitive Workforce.
Quality child care enables our businesses to attract and retain a competitive workforce. As the 15th largest city in the U.S., Fort Worth must be able to compete for the best talent to sustain our city’s rapid growth and economic development.
The Next Phase of Our Work: Building Fort Worth as the BEST PLACE for KIDS!
In 2019, Fort Worth is leveraging our local momentum and early learning successes to date to help mobilize the entire community in building Fort Worth as the Best Place for Kids!
Mayor Price introduced the four key pillars of the Best Place for Kids! strategy:
1) Repurpose & Upgrade Facilities
Together with Child Care Associates and Huckabee architects, we are building a best-in-class child care facility model - an Early Learning Innovation Studio - that our entire community can reference when developing great places and spaces for young children. We also have mapping that identifies the highest-need areas for quality child care in Fort Worth so that we can be targeted in our child care facility efforts.
2) Inspire Family-Friendly Business Practices
The second piece of the puzzle is equipping businesses with a suite of options that will help them attract, retain, and support employees with young children. We know that providing parents with high-quality, reliable child care improves employee performance and retention. Together with our Chambers of Commerce and local businesses, we are co-developing a toolkit that will help Fort Worth attract and retain top-notch talent of today.
3) Utilize Summer School Spaces as Early Ed “Hubs”
Our third approach for increasing great places and spaces for young kids is to use summer school and community center spaces that are vacant in the summer to help improve that critical transition into Kindergarten for our youngest students and their families – and to use those schools as central “hubs” for connecting families to key community resources.
4) Recognize Great Places and Spaces!
The fourth pillar of our strategy is where so many of our community members come in – as we want to help reward and recognize those folks who really innovate to create awesome places and spaces for young kids! Whether it’s a park, museum, business lobby, doctor’s office, or grocery store – Mayor Price emphasized that every one of us can make an impact on our city’s future and help us become the Best Place for Kids!
Pillar 1 Overview: Repurpose & Upgrade Existing Facilities
The Raising of Fort Worth community enjoyed a deeper dive into this pillar with Kara Waddell, CEO of Child Care Associates, and Chris Huckabee, CEO of Huckabee Architects. Two key highlights of their presentation included:
1. Preview of the Early Learning Innovation Studio that will serve as a “best-practice model” for quality child care facilities for infants and toddlers.
2. Reference of data mapping of high-needs areas and “child care deserts” across Fort Worth as child care buildings and renovations are planned citywide.
Pillar 3 Overview: Utilize Summer School Spaces as Early Ed “Hubs”
Jay McCall, Education Manager at The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, and Whitney Scott, Principal at Eastern Hills Elementary at Fort Worth ISD, shared additional details on the summer plans for 2019.
1. Introduction of three key goals of the “whole community” approach to creating early education “hubs” in elementary schools over the summer.
2. Presentation of community-wide aligned efforts this summer to serve children beginning in pre-K across local community centers, libraries, and schools.
Get Involved to Build Fort Worth as the BEST PLACE for KIDS!
The next Raising of Fort Worth event on September 26th will focus on pillars 2 and 4 of the Best Place for Kids! strategy (Family-Friendly Business Practices and Celebrating Great Places & Spaces, respectively). In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to plug in, with several starting ideas below!
We appreciate the leadership of Mayor Betsy Price and her Chief of Staff, Mattie Parker, in maintaining the vision and momentum behind this effort! We also thank key partners engaged with The Miles Foundation in this work, including: North Texas Community Foundation, The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, The Morris Foundation, The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, Lena Pope, and Child Care Associates.
To find out more information or to get involved, contact Cheraya@BestPlace4Kids.com.