Dana Anderson named childhood superhero

MIDDLEBURY — Let’s Grow Kids announced that Middlebury resident Dana Anderson is one of four Vermonters to be recognized as Early Childhood Superheroes for going above and beyond to help young children reach their full potential.
Anderson is the regional coordinator for the Addison Region Building Bright Futures Council, one of 12 regional councils operated by Building Bright Futures, a statewide nonprofit, public-private partnership focused on improving the well-being of young children and families by improving the system that serves them. Anderson strengthens Vermont’s early childhood system by securing grant funding for new programs and promoting collaboration within her community.
Anderson helped create an educational early childhood TV series on Middlebury Community Television called “Growing Bright Futures” and now produces it every month. Anderson says, “My hope for the future is to get more families engaged in wellness activities so the focus is on proactive health rather than fixing problems.”
The selection of Early Childhood Superheroes followed a statewide call for nominations of unsung heroes among educators, childcare professionals, parents, grandparents, volunteers, business people, policymakers, civic leaders and clergy. From the nominations, a panel of early childhood experts representing Building Bright Futures, Vermont Birth to Five, the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance and Let’s Grow Kids selected four Vermonters from various regions of the state who have demonstrated a commitment to the success of Vermont’s youngest children through “above and beyond” contributions to children’s lives.
“Early Childhood Superheroes understand what’s at stake when our children don’t have access to high-quality, early care and learning opportunities. They are working hard every day to address Vermont’s serious shortage of high-quality, affordable child care and they each deserve to be recognized for what they do to support Vermont’s youngest children,” said Let’s Grow Kids campaign director Robyn Freedner-Maguire.
The other Vermonters chosen for this round of Early Childhood Superheroes include:
Betsy Bailey, of Lyndonville, is the owner of Little Dipper Doodle Children’s Center, LLC. She considers the needs of all children in her care, whether by ensuring every child gets a present during the holidays, purchasing clothing for kids in need, providing rides to doctors’ appointments or helping with foster care.
Bailey’s program has five stars, the highest quality recognition level possible in Vermont’s quality recognition and improvement system for early care and learning programs known as STARS (STep Ahead Recognition System). Bailey says that making sure all kids have access to quality care starts with livable wages and benefits for providers, so that offering child care is sustainable and children can have consistent adults in their lives.
Kristy Haapala, of Braintree, is the executive director of Waitsfield Children’s Center, where she works hard to maintain the highest quality rating possible: accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and five stars from Vermont’s STep Ahead Recognition System. She is known for going above and beyond to meet the needs of families and young children.
When a foster mom suddenly got the call from the Department of Children and Families that a 10-month-old baby was in need of emergency foster care, she called Haapala for help with child care. Haapala jumped into action to accommodate the infant, allowing the mom to care for and ultimately adopt the infant.
Rachel Hunter, of Springfield, a home-based child care provider, works tirelessly to improve Vermont’s early childhood system as a Vermont Birth to Five mentor and through her involvement with Building Bright Futures and STARS. She also serves on the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care. Hunter says, “I hope we can get to a point where all children can access quality care, that families can afford it and that they don’t have to choose sub-standard care to pay the mortgage.”
Let’s Grow Kids continues to seek nominations to join the ranks of Early Childhood Superheroes through an online nomination form: www.letsgrowkids.org/nominate-superhero.
A Let’s Grow Kids report released in the spring of 2016 found that almost half of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to any regulated child care programs, and 79 percent don’t have access to high-quality programs; this poses a significant challenge not only for Vermont’s families with young children, but also for Vermont’s communities and economy. Learn more at: www.letsgrowkids.org/stalled-start.
Let’s Grow Kids is a public awareness and engagement campaign about the important role that high-quality, affordable child care can play in supporting the healthy development of Vermont’s children during their first five years — the most important years for laying a foundation for future success in relationships, school and life.
Let’s Grow Kids is working with Vermont communities, organizations, businesses and individuals to create positive lasting change that will allow all of our children to succeed in life. Let’s Grow Kids is an initiative of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children with support from the A.D. Henderson Foundation and the Turrell Fund.

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