The fifth annual Thriving Children, Families, and Communities Conference took place Monday, Sept. 19 in Kearney, Neb., with more than 650 registrants from 108 Nebraska communities and 30 states. These community leaders and elected officials represented education, economic development, child care, business, government, health care, higher education, and philanthropy with a shared commitment to helping children, families, and communities thrive.
This year’s conference returned to an in-person format and brought together community leaders from across Nebraska to continue building momentum around quality early childhood education and its connection to economic development and community vitality. Community members and experts discussed challenges, shared success stories, learned from each other, and highlighted the importance of implementing high-quality birth to Grade 3 care and education.
General sessions featured keynote speakers Dana Suskind, M.D., New York Times best-selling author of Parent Nation and co-director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, and Barry Ford, J.D., president and CEO of Council for a Strong America.
Community leaders from across the state were featured in a general session panel that highlighted local efforts and challenges and connected their work with the recently launched We Care for Kids statewide campaign.
Breakout sessions focused on early childhood workforce recruitment and retention, collaboration with economic development and business partners, community-school and other interlocal partnerships, effectively communicating with elected officials, and much more.
The full conference was available to in-person attendees and included all general and breakout sessions as well as lunch and two conference receptions. Keynote sessions were livestreamed for individuals unable to attend in person. Video recordings of the keynote session and panel presentation will be available soon.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, representatives participating in the statewide Communities for Kids initiative engaged in local planning efforts. This Nebraska Children and Families Foundation initiative works with communities across Nebraska to advance their early childhood programming and services.