Nominations Open for Permanent Fund 2017 Early Educator of the Year Award

Nominations are now being accepted

To recognize excellence in the teaching of Vermont’s young children, the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children announced the third annual Early Educator of the Year Award. In the third year of this award, the Permanent Fund will be accepting nominations for an outstanding home-based child care professional who has demonstrated a commitment to quality early childhood education.

“We want to recognize the unsung heroes that work so hard for Vermont’s children,” said Rick Davis, president and co-founder of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children. “Besides parents, these individuals are a child’s first teacher. This award will honor an individual who has truly gone above and beyond to positively impact the lives of children, and has been a valuable resource for families.”

Through this award, the Permanent Fund wants to bring attention to the important work of early educators and emphasize the importance of high-quality care and early learning. The award alternates between honoring home-based and center-based programs each year.

This year, the top two finalists will be honored at the October 2017 VAEYC Conference, where one will be announced as the Early Educator of the Year and will receive $5,000 and all expenses paid to attend the VAEYC conference as well as one national conference. The runner-up will receive a $1,000 award, and all expenses paid to attend the VAEYC conference.

To be eligible for this year’s award, a home-based child care professional must have at least four stars in the Vermont STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS). Nominees must also have been providing care for at least three years, and must currently have infants and toddlers enrolled in their program. Individuals may self-nominate or can be nominated by others. The nomination period is now open but will close on May 1, 2017. Nominees will be notified of their nomination and must complete and submit an application to the Permanent Fund by May 31, 2017 to be considered for the award

An award selection committee comprised of leaders in early education and child development will review award applications and choose the two finalists. Committee members include:

  • Geralyn Barrows (2015 Early Educator of the Year);
  • Laurel Bongiorno (Champlain College);
  • Kim Buxton (VAEYC);
  • Mitch Golub (Vermont Achievement Center);
  • Chloe Learey (Winston Prouty Center);
  • Reeva Murphy (Child Development Division);
  • Sheila Queenneville (Vermont Child Care Providers Association);
  • Betsy Rathbun-Gunn (Building Bright Futures); and
  • Stacy Weinberger (Board of Education).

About the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children

Founded in 2000 by philanthropists Rick Davis and Carl Ferenbach, the Permanent Fund works to improve the quality of Vermont’s early care and education system primarily through the support of two statewide initiatives: Let’s Grow Kids and Vermont Birth to Five. Using a collaborative philanthropic approach, the Permanent Fund works with other funders, non-profits, community leaders and policymakers to improve educational outcomes, build stronger communities and make a lasting difference in the lives of Vermont’s children. The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children is a supporting organization of the Vermont Community Foundation.

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Vermont’s 2016 Early Educator of the Year

Aly Richards (center), CEO of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, with the Early Educator of the Year Award winner Jacquelyn Reno (left), and finalist Kathi Apgar (right), at the VAEYC Annual Conference 2016.

October 13, 2016 (Burlington, VT) — The Permanent Fund for Vermont Children announced the second annual Early Educator of the Year Award today at the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children (VAEYC) Annual Conference held in Burlington, VT. The award winner, Jackie Reno, Burlington resident and educator at the Janet S. Munt Family Room, was named 2016’s Early Educator of the Year. New Haven resident Kathi Apgar of the YMCA at University of Vermont Medical Center Early Childhood Program was the award finalist. The Permanent Fund created the Early Educator of the Year Award to recognize and celebrate excellence in the teaching of Vermont’s young children to bring attention to the importance of high-quality care and early education.

“This award is meant to honor early educators and recognize the impact they have on the lives and futures of Vermont’s children. Jackie Reno and Kathi Apgar and their centers are unsung heroes who work tirelessly as resource partners with parents to create a positive foundation for students’ education,” said Aly Richards.

“Quality early education means thoughtful services that evolve with what families need,” said award winner Jackie Reno, a 10-year veteran of early childhood education. “It means getting children and families out into nature, connecting families to each other, and strengthening families so that they can provide children with what they need over time.” The Janet S. Munt Family Room, a member of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network, offers free programming to parents and their children from birth to six years old in the Old North End of Burlington, including a licensed preschool, parenting support and education groups, and connecting families to community resources through its partnerships with other social service agencies. As the winner, Reno received a $5,000 award and all expenses paid to the VAEYC conference, along with one national conference. Her program was also awarded $2,500.

The award finalist, Kathi Apgar, who has worked with young children for 35 years, said “These children come to us with rich experiences, they just don’t know how to verbalize them, they don’t know how to put them together, but they can share with you the pieces they are interested in. It’s our job to facilitate that excitement and that interest and turn it into a learning experience.” The Y Early Childhood Program for UVM Medical Center provides high-quality child care for its hospital employees who often have demanding schedules. As the award finalist, Apgar received a $1,000 reward and all expenses paid to the VAEYC conference, along with $500 to her program.

To be eligible for this year’s award, a center-based childcare professional must have had at least four stars in the Vermont STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS), the state’s voluntary recognition and improvement system for early care and learning programs. Nominees must also have been providing care for at least three years, and must serve children age birth to 5. The award selection committee was comprised of local leaders in Vermont’s early education field, including: Laurel Bongiorno of Champlain College; Mitch Golub of the Vermont Achievement Center; Bethany Hale of VAEYC; Reeva Murphy of the Vermont Department for Children & Families’ Child Development Division; Melissa Riegel-Garrett of the Vermont Agency of Education; and Betsy Rathbun-Gunn of Building Bright Futures.

For next year’s award, the Permanent Fund will be accepting nominations for high-quality home-based programs in Vermont.


Janet McLaughlin Named as New Executive Director of Vermont Birth to Five

PF_JanetMcLaughlin_VB5Burlington, Vermont—The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children is thrilled to announce the hiring of Janet McLaughlin as the new executive director of its Vermont Birth to Five initiative. McLaughlin will assume her role August 16.

Vermont Birth to FiveMcLaughlin is currently special projects director and head of the Food & Farm Initiative at the Vermont Community Foundation. In this role, she distributed over $1.6 million to Vermont nonprofits for collaborative projects aimed at building the capacity of the local food system to support farmers and connect Vermonters with healthy food they can afford. Prior to her work for the Community Foundation, McLaughlin served as the national director of Share Our Strength’s initiative Cooking Matters, a cooking-based nutrition education program for families at risk of hunger. In this role, she enhanced the program’s focus on serving caretakers of children aged birth to five, including the development of a Cooking Matters for Child Care Professionals program.

“We admire the work Janet has done to promote an equitable society, including her leadership for the Vermont Community Foundation,” Permanent Fund CEO Aly Richards said. “We are excited to see the positive impact she’ll have on our mission and we wholeheartedly welcome her to the Permanent Fund family.”

As executive director of Vermont Birth to Five, McLaughlin will lead the initiative’s continued implementation of critical child care quality improvement projects while addressing regional and statewide barriers to creating a system of high-quality child care. McLaughlin will continue to strengthen the symbiotic partnership with VB5’s sister organization, Let’s Grow Kids, in order to achieve the Permanent Fund’s mission of ensuring that every Vermont child has access to high-quality and affordable early care and education by 2025.

“I am eager to work on behalf of Vermont families like my own who need quality care for their kids now—and toward the thriving Vermont that results from all kids reaching their full potential,” McLaughlin said. “Child care providers are unsung heroes in our communities and I look forward to supporting them as part of the Vermont Birth to Five team.”

Vermont Birth to Five works to ensure that every Vermont child has access to high-quality, affordable child care. Research has demonstrated that when children experience strong early relationships in enriching, high-quality environments, they build a foundation for healthy development and successful learning. Through close collaboration with state agencies and community organizations, VB5 directly engages child care providers in projects designed to improve program quality. These include: one-on-one mentoring; training and professional development; assistance in partnering with public schools; strategies for increasing access to care; models for comprehensive family supports; and methods for sustainable business practices.

Founded in 2000, the Permanent Fund ( is a philanthropic organization that partners with other early childhood organizations to promote access to high quality, affordable early care and learning in Vermont. The Permanent Fund is the parent organization of two early childhood programs—Let’s Grow Kids and Vermont Birth to Five—which are supported in collaboration with two other major philanthropic organizations: The A. D. Henderson Foundation and The Turrell Fund.


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The 0-5 Emergency and Innovation Fund

The 0-5 Emergency and Innovation Fund

The 0–5 Emergency and Innovation Fund provides child care programs with emergency relief assistance and/or funding for innovative new services, program enhancements or expansions. This fund is made possible by The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and the Turrell Fund. The Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation is administering the fund and is now accepting applications for grants.

Emergency Relief Grants

Emergency relief grants are designed to provide immediate assistance for unforeseen emergencies to eligible early care and education programs. Relief grants are intended to help grantees cover expenses for unexpected problems that impact their ability to meet their mission, or an unanticipated opportunity that will enhance its work.

New & Innovative Project Grants

Project grants are awarded to child care programs focused on children birth through five years old and their families. Programs for which funds are requested must be new or an expansion/enhancement of an existing program to be eligible. Project grants are available for planning or assessment to determine long-term viability of a new program offering (think pilot).

To learn more about the Emergency and Innovation Fund at the Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation, visit

Health Care/Child Care Integration

Health Care/Child Care Integration

Recognizing the child care link to community health and well-being

In partnership with the University of Vermont Medical Center, the OneCare Vermont accountable care organization, and others, we’re developing a first-in-the-nation project that integrates child and family health services with early care and education in the community-based child care setting. Child care is an overlooked but ideal setting for primary prevention, which leverages trusted relationships between provider and parents to support a two-generation approach to serving children and families. It frees physicians from the demands of screening and educational activities, so they can focus on treatment; and it relocates those preventative services, including nutrition and fitness education, for delivery by qualified professionals in the child care setting.  This innovation will generate new income for care providers while fostering a sustainable cycle of prevention.

“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” – John F. Kennedy

What was President Kennedy’s lofty belief 50 years ago is now a scientifically-based reality. Research has increasingly pointed to the importance of the first years of life in setting the trajectory for lifelong well-being. This research has various applications, from “brain science” to “developmental origins of health and disease,” but a common lesson for public policy: the first five years of life are the most important for affecting lifetime cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being. Our best hope for the future is to adopt practices and policies that recognize this reality.

Today’s American childhood includes a growing component that represents a key opportunity to improve the lives of our youngest children: child care.

The child care setting: An under-utilized lever for change

An estimated 11 million children under the age of five spend an average of 36 hours per week in some form of child care in the United States. In Vermont, a state with one of the highest rates of parental employment, more than 70% of children under the age of six spend some portion of their day in child care.

Despite the data, efforts to improve child health and development have only rarely recognized this reality of children’s lives and even more rarely taken advantage of it.

The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children has focused its efforts on building a high-quality and accessible early care and education system—the child care system—because this is where most of our children spend much of their time and we have the greatest opportunity for creating positive, lasting change.

Connecting child care professionals to the health care community through education and training programs provides a powerful, yet previously untapped, way to support the whole child and improve the health and well-being of our communities.

Trusting relationships provide foundation of support

Child care professionals are in a unique position to support families because they see our children and parents regularly, often five days a week. This regular contact builds a positive, trusting relationship—the foundation to the child care professional’s ability to successfully help and support families.

This relationship enables the child care professional to touch two generations (the child and parents) by providing positive, nurturing experiences for the child and serving as a supportive resource (and role model) for the parent.

Child care professionals as a resource for prevention

All families experience stress, but the causes and amounts vary, as well as a family’s ability to cope with such stress. Research has shown a powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children and our physical and mental well-being as adults. Adverse childhood experiences are common, destructive and have an effect that often lasts for a lifetime. High-quality child care professionals trained in the evidence-based Strengthening Families framework can engage parents in building protective factors that promote optimal child development and prevent abuse and neglect.

Child care professionals as a natural part of the medical home model

As we work on health care reform and integrating services, there is an incredible opportunity to tap the child care community and use resources more effectively. The high-quality child care professional is in a unique position to act as a partner in this effort, serving on the frontline—as the eyes and ears—of the health care community. The Permanent Fund is working within the child care community to influence outcomes in many areas of community health:

  • Early identification of developmental delays or mental health problems. Because of their regular, year-round contact with the children they serve, highly trained child care professionals can spot areas of developmental or health concern before the parent or health practitioner. The child care worker can refer parents to a medical professional early and assist with coordination of ongoing early intervention services.
  • Resource for integrated and efficient service delivery. High-quality child care professionals know the resources and services available in the local community and can connect parents to the supports they may need (housing and food programs, crisis management services, mental health services, etc.)
  • Providing support and knowledge of parenting and child development. High-quality child care professionals can provide support for parents through accurate information about child development and appropriate expectations for young children’s behavior. Modeling effective adult-child interactions can be a powerful form of parent support and education.
  • Improving nutrition. By providing healthy snacks and meals to the children in their care and sharing nutrition information with children and their families, child care professionals can help develop healthier food preferences in young children to counter the recent epidemic of childhood obesity and lay the cornerstone for lifelong healthy eating and exercising.
  • Functioning as part of the community family care team, child care professionals can provide support services that complement or fill gaps for other professional services being provided to the family.

President Kennedy was right: Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future. As a society, we need to increase our investments of time and energies in the first years of life and make smart decisions about these investments. By recognizing and leveraging the important role that the child care professional can play in community health, we have a great opportunity to create lasting change for the well-being of our children, our families and our communities.

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