The importance of early childhood care has become more well-known in recent years.

Multiple state leaders from groups such as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Wichita State Community Engagement Institute had an opportunity to hear from members of the community and their take on what should be improved in a child’s life before he or she reaches kindergarten Monday afternoon at the Clarion Inn.

Each attending member to the session was asked to write down three words that described their community. All the words were put together to create a word bank. Words like “supportive,” “diverse,” “welcoming,” “giving” and “resourceful” were unanimous choices. Other words like “generation,” “low-income,” “thriving” and “social” were also selected as thoughts of the community.

The reason for the community sessions is to hear from residents about what they want to be improved.

Whatever information the state leaders gather from all the communities they visit this week, they will take into consideration when it comes to discussing early childhood policy at the state level.

“We want to ensure that every child in our state reaches kindergarten ready to learn,” said Mary Murphy, section director with the KDHE’s Bureau of Family Health.

Through all thoughts from community members, they’re wanting to make this a collaborative effort with a one-year planning grant. Kansas wants to develop a comprehensive needs assessment and a strategic plan for early childhood in the state, while strengthening the current systems.

Kansas’ early childhood system includes a variety of programs, services which promote early learning, healthy development and strong families. State leaders are hoping with the system in place and everyone working together, communities can see more success coming out of each child.

Emporia has opportunities for early childhood care like the Maynard Early Childhood Center or Lord of Lamb’s Preschool, however, not all children are able to attend these preschools based on certain criteria.

Multiple attendees said they want to see all kids in their early ages be able to get the care they need before they head off to Kindergarten. Maynard is one example that allows students to prepare for this, but only has children for half of a day — unlike a full day of school — which they get when they turn 5 years old and go Kindergarten.

The city has several opportunities for children to get involved at a young age through the Emporia Recreation Center and the Emporia Public Library, just to name a few. Also, Emporia has several needs that help benefit low-income families with the WIC program through the Lyon County Health Department, Food For Students and the Emporia Public Schools Summer Meals Program.

Those who could not attend the Emporia community sessions can give feedback at kschildrenscabinet.org/share.

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