Early Learning Hubs encourage success


By Sue Cody

Paula Mills Early Learning HubAdults’ success is strongly based on the education and care given to them in the first few years of life. That’s why Oregon created 16 Early Learning Hubs. They replaced the county Commissions on Children and Families, during a round of dramatic reforms to health care and education over the last few years. Paula Mills is the executive director of the Northwest Early Learning Hub that covers Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties. She works from an office in Astoria.

The hubs were created to address early childhood education by coordinating services such as health care, social services, school districts and the private sector. They focus on children from birth to 6 years old, with the goal of making sure:

• Services are aligned for families
• Children are ready to succeed
• There is a stable and attached family structure

Northwest Early Learning Hub is working on ideas and creating a strategic plan for 18 short-term indicators. The strategic plan will include working with schools, the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council, Head Start, neighborhoods, doctors, parents and service providers. The plan is due Oct. 31.

“There isn’t much money,” Mills said. “People need to work together to get where we need to go.” The Oregon Legislature increased the funding by $10.5 million to $15 million over the biennium, but that serves all of the hubs in the state. 

The Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization gave a $15,000 community investment grant last year that was the primary sponsor for two Clatsop County Early Childhood Health and Education Clinics.

One goal of the Early Learning Hubs is to increase the number of children in quality day care. Oregon’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) rates day care facilities with a 5-star quality rating system. It takes into account the physical layout, age-appropriate equipment, activities, written policies, training of staff and numerous other factors. Caregivers can improve their scores by labeling containers with words and pictures, learning more about child development, engaging parents, becoming multi-lingual and providing an educated staff.

“Kids learn through play,” Mills said. “If parents incorporate play with their children, it builds skills.” 

“The excitement starts in November,” Mills said. “That’s when we can make a difference in the lives of kids and families.”