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Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley

A Community of Practice for Home Visitors serving families with children 0-5 years ~offering professional development, networking & support.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

I have learned that an idea does not need to be shiny or sparkly - sometimes rock solid is best.

Name or Organization

United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley


Located in the heart of the Midwest in Western Wisconsin. We serve Eau Claire & Chippewa Counties.

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

This matters! When you support the professionals that work with vulnerable children and families right in their homes, you provide a domino effect of support. These children and families deserve consistent, engaged and informed Home Visitors. The Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley lifts up the Home Visitors, provides them with protective factors and let's them know that they are not alone.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Network: Connecting people with each other to enhance the reach or effectiveness of new or existing resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

The Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley grew out of the unmet needs of Home Visitors - a group of individuals from Public Health, Head Start, Early Head Start, Health Care, Birth to Three, Public Education and Family Resource Centers that serve families of children 0-5 right in their homes. All of these Home Visitors use some type of evidence-based curriculum to serve families throughout the urban & rural communities of the Chippewa Valley...that is their common denominator. Work isolation is also a common denominator. Through conversation, we discovered an unmet need for a place to connect with others that do similar work in this fairly isolated field. By supporting the Home Visitors through a Community of Practice, it is the goal that they will be armed with Protective Factors that will enrich their work and ultimately enrich the children & the families that they serve. In addition, this Community of Practice "speaks the language" of Home Visiting in the professional development, support, and networking AND meets on a regular basis. Because of this, there is a mutually inclusive focus. It is the hope that this council will work toward case management as they evolve, eventually embracing the idea of "dosage" (collaboration) when working with vulnerable families of young children. This council can also become a powerful voice of advocacy. However, the first purpose is to come together with a shared mission - from there, truly the sky is the limit.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Home Visitors for families with young children often feel isolated in their work. This Community of Practice provides a place for Home Visitors to come together for focused professional development, to network and to support each other. It is creating a team throughout the community that can have the tools they need to better serve families of young children right in their homes. Investing in Home Visitors is an investment in children and families.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley provides grant funds for Home Visiting as part of our Community Impact model. Home Visiting provides support to families of children 0-5 right in their homes. The Home Visiting programs may provide for a particular niche such as Nurse-Family Partnership offering support to first time parents that begins during pregnancy OR Birth to Three offering support to children with a diagnosed need OR the Department of Human Services offering support due to AODA issues in the home. With both urban and rural communities in the two counties served, a Home Visitor can easily be out in the field all day -- covering hundreds of miles and not seeing colleagues for days. Home Visitors often express feelings of isolation. By bringing Home Visitors together on a regular basis around focused professional development, networking and support - it became very apparent that the Home Visiting Council was replicating the Center for the Study of Social Policy's "Strengthening Families: Protective Factors Initiative" -- only for these direct service professionals. The Home Visiting Council was providing concrete support in times of need, information on child development, social connections with others who understood this unique work, resource sharing and resiliency for the Home Visitors themselves! We initially test drove the idea in the spring of 2017, bringing Home Visitors together to talk about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) -- 28 Home Visitors showed up! By the second meeting of the Home Visiting Council, we realized we were outgrowing the space that the community action agency in our community offered us to use. By the fall of 2017, the group had grown to 53 Home Visitors, with Home Visitors from counties outside our designated service delivery area wishing they could participate too. In this first year, focused conversation topics ranged from ACEs to Trauma Informed Care to Compassion Fatigue to Strengthening Families Protective Factors. We were coming together with a purpose. We soon discovered that this focused conversation served an important role in providing quality services to families. We also discovered that supporting Home Visitors helped to connect community dots -- linking services, addressing unmet needs and supporting retention. The Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley continues to evolve, with the goal to be a true Community of Practice. With this prize, we will be able to continue to invest in providing an intentional, meaningful venue. We will be able to support the professional development needed most and offer a safe place for Home Visitors to come together with a shared purpose. There isn't anything shiny or sparkly about this goal or this work -- but it is rock solid. When you invest in the direct service staff that support vulnerable children and families -- you invest in the foundation. This investment provides for an engaged, consistent group of professionals that keep coming back to their work recharged with the right "tools in their toolbox". This prize would indeed help to expand that toolbox tenfold...and would help to support a model for other communities to learn from and use as they localize around their own Home Visitors.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Early Care & Education Home Visitors will benefit from this idea. And in turn, the vulnerable children and families that they serve will benefit from this idea. It truly is a domino. From a Home Visitor, "These home visiting meetings have helped me to better understand my clients. The natural thought when a client does not show up to a meeting or follow through on something we agreed upon is 'Ugh! Why?' These meetings have helped me to see why. From this new insight, I've been thinking about how I can change some of my home visiting strategies to be more attune to the unique needs of this population." The experiences we have interacting with beneficiaries includes tapping into community expertise in this field, constant reflection and inquiry, and asking Home Visitors what they need. We know that low to no cost professional support is crucial to Home Visiting programs and their staff. We also know that offering opportunities to see that there is a bigger team of professionals that span multi agencies is central to providing the support Home Visitors need. Finally, tapping into their expertise, ideas, leadership and mentorship will be key in sustaining this model. This work is truly foundational. My personal experience with Home Visiting includes 38 years in early care and education with work in child care, Early Head Start, Family Resource Center management, professional development, legislation and advocacy.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

From a Home Visitor, "I appreciate feeling supported by being with others who know the same experiences with home visiting. I also greatly appreciate the intentional time to learn new things, and even re-learn things that we thought we already knew. It is very helpful to re-set our perceptions of the experience and struggles that our clients face daily." From another Home Visitor, "The Home Visiting Council has been a way for me to meet other home visitors in the area. Home visiting can be an isolating job at times, but the Home Visiting Council brings us together around topics that pertain directly to our work." From another Home Visitor, "There are few trainings provided around this area centered around children under 5 and working in Birth-3, this is exactly what we need." We are in the piloting stage - but are surprised with some of the first year outcomes: 1. We doubled in size due to word of mouth. 2. We had consistency in attendance - they come back. 3. Word traveled to other Home Visitors in other communities who wished they could participate. Due to our funding, we had to become "gate keepers" of who could participate. 4. We realized that what we were truly doing was providing "Protective Factors" to these direct service professionals to support them in their unique work supporting children right in their home. Simple math: Each Home Visitor has a caseload of at least 10 families. At least 500 families benefit from the Home Visiting Council.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley provides funding to Home Visiting programs with a target population of children 0-5 years of age in families at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. This is based upon research from a United Way study called ALICE - an acronym for "Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed". It has been found that families at or below the ALICE threshold (approximately equivalent to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level) are struggling to afford basic needs. In Eau Claire County, 47% of households live at or below the ALICE threshold. In Chippewa County, 42% of households live at or below the ALICE threshold. In some of the rural communities within these two counties, the numbers are even more staggering - in Fairchild, 68% of households live at or below the ALICE threshold. Many of these communities do not have quality child care and are too far from areas that do. Home Visiting services provide an important support to parents/guardians/caregivers and their children. Home Visitors have honed their ability to reach out to families, build trust and enter into their lives and homes. By supporting the Home Visitors, families in this target population are served even better. By providing support to retain Home Visitors, families in this target population receive the important continuity and consistency of services. This is rock solid work that provides for vulnerable children and families.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

As mentioned before, there isn't anything sparkly or shiny about this concept...but it is rock solid. Supporting professionals that offer direct home visiting services to vulnerable children and families in both urban and rural communities provides for a gap in service. Often these Home Visitors work alone or in the silos of their individual agencies. Bringing them together around a collective purpose as a community of practice may not be new, but it is unique in our community. It has never happened before with this localized frequency and intentionality in western Wisconsin. There may be conferences for Home Visitors to come together annually, but that doesn't fill this gap in connecting with others in a specific localized community around common issues, dosage of service and consistent support. This need has brought Home Visitors out in unexpected numbers to attend our meetings, which speaks to an unmet need. There has also not been a purposeful connection to Protective Factors for Home Visitors -- this actually has not been even recognized until this group began to realize that the same factors that support vulnerable families support the Home Visitors that work with them. These Protective Factors include: resiliency, concrete support in times of need, social connections, and an understanding of child development and the social-emotional well being of children. The plan is to build this Community of Practice around these Protective Factors -- knowing that they will support the children, the families and the Home Visitors ----- this is new.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

The State of Wisconsin has identified providing a Community of Practice for Home Visitors as an important need - however, due to funding, this idea has been tabled. Many eyes are now on the work of our Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley. Through initial seed money provided by United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley and Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners, and through collaboration between multiple organizations - we have been able to launch this Council. Due to funding, we have only been able to focus on several counties in Wisconsin. Scaling this to provide a pilot that can be replicated in other communities is an exciting prospect. We would like to see a Home Visiting Council model created that truly could be replicated not only in other counties in Wisconsin, but in other states. We also truly want to see this localized effort continue - which this prize would allow for! From a Home Visitor: "The council has supported me (and therefore my team) in a couple of ways. First it has provided a contact list of people in the area who are familiar with home visiting, and who come from a variety of disciplines, that I can call with questions and/or for support. In addition, the discussion topics have been very relevant to our team's current goal of more effectively supporting families' mental health needs while taking care of our own needs as well." We believe that we are in the process of creating a model for home visitor support.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley recognizes the importance of continuing this work with the Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley. We have initially partnered with the Head Start in our area, Western Dairyland EOC Head Start, to provide this opportunity to Home Visitors. We have also reached out to Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners for support. Building a planning team that includes direct service Home Visitors to continue to implement this work is a goal - we know this will create strong ownership and also support leadership development. Learning more about the Community of Practice model will also be important as this project moves forward. We launched the new year with a survey of the 53 Home Visitors that have attended the Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley in 2017 - asking for feedback, input and their continued planning support. Ultimately, this Community of Practice needs to really belong to the Home Visitors. To date, we have a return of 58% of the surveys. We will also seek support from the individuals that have heard about this work and excitedly told us to keep going. They can provide the channels and connections within our local region and within our state. This prize would allow us to continue our efforts and continue to grow & evolve, leading the way for other Home Visiting Councils in other communities.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

The truth is that without investment at this beginning stage, this will not be viable. United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley provided the initial seed money -- and is now looking for ways to continue to grow and sustain this work. We strongly believe that if we can sustain this model through the first three years, with a focus on empowering leadership from within and providing strategic planning around sustainability -- we can see the business model last. We are now focused on reflection, assessment, planning and evolving in an intentional manner.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

This model is built on constant feedback and reflection. Each time the Home Visitors come together, they provide feedback. Annually, a survey is provided that identifies needs of the group as well as addresses logistics for meeting. Feedback from the membership drives the plan and facilitation of the Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley offers several Program Partner meetings every year to the 40 plus programs that receive funding in the following initiatives: Basic Needs, Financial Stability, Health and Education. Home Visiting has been identified as a gap in service in our counties, so in the Education Initiative, many of the programs that receive funding are Home Visiting programs. In general, the United Way Program Partner meetings are attended by administrators. Initially the idea of bringing Home Visitors together from multi-agencies for training and mutual support was an idea that came out of the United Way Program Partner meetings. United Way began to consider how to provide this support for Home Visitors in the fall of 2016, launching the project in 2017. With seed money of $2000 from United Way and $1000 from the Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners, we began work to create the Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley. We asked Home Visitors what they needed, and they responded. We began with creating a baseline of training in the first year: ACEs, Trauma Informed Care, Compassion Fatigue, Strengthening Families Protective Factors. As we look to the next year, we will continue to offer training opportunities, with more focus on the expertise within the group. Our hope is to continue to grow in the direction of a Community of Practice. Personally, I have been in the field of early care & education for a long time, graduating with my undergraduate degree in Nursery-Eighth Grade Education in 1980. My experience includes work in the following areas of early care & education: Teaching at a parent cooperative nursery school, Family Child Care, Early Care & Education Instructor at a Technical College, Director of a Child Care Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, State child care licensing specialist, Early Head Start Director, Director of a City of Madison Accreditation program for Family Child Care, Administrative Coordinator for a Community Action Agency, Coordinator for a state Quality Rating & Improvement System in 10 counties, Executive Director of a Family Resource Center, and now my current position as the Education Director with United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley. I was also proud to be an appointee to a 21 member Governor's state task force in Wisconsin to write the Child Care Quality Rating & Improvement System. What I have learned on this journey is that children do not come with instructions, that our own childhood guides us, and that we need to invest in the early years.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley has a background of strong collaboration in our two counties in Wisconsin. We will need to broaden that partnership to include key partners that can help support our growth in making this a true Community of Practice and then supporting the replication in other counties. The agencies that are providing paid time for their Home Visiting staff to attend the Home Visiting Council of the Greater Chippewa Valley also are key to making this idea work.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

Our call out would be for folks that know about the needs of Home Visitors. In particular, anyone that can help us understand how the Center for the Study of Social Policy Strengthening Families Protective Factors can connect directly to the welfare of the early care & education professionals in their work would be helpful. In addition, expertise on how to build a Community of Practice would be greatly appreciated. Finally, we can always use cheerleaders. This work can feel daunting.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

Mentoring support is needed in better articulating our problem and solution and creating a plan of action.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

The mentorship truly supported this concept -- providing that "outside looking in" view of the work.

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

The idea has remained the same -- I would say that most of all I have looked at it in a manner that shines the light on this as a rock solid idea -- a foundation of support that has a domino effect for vulnerable children and families.

Attachments (1)

United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley - WECCP 16-17 grant presentation.pptx

Power point presentation based upon grant funding for the first three meetings on ACEs, Trauma Informed Care and Compassion Fatigue.


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Photo of Kari Stroede

Our thanks for this opportunity!

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