In Yavapai County, the Best for Babies Court team exists to create better outcomes for young children involved in the court system and support those children and families at risk of becoming involved. The Best for Babies team meets monthly to discuss opportunities to create these improved outcomes. The group regularly performs a system check to determine gaps that we can address collaboratively. In April, the team facilitated a robust discussion of our community’s providers’ needs to support our children. The group identified significant gaps, things we could not fix quickly or easily, like lack of affordable housing and child care. However, we also saw minor but still significant changes that were feasible for our team to address. Several of our partners who work in home visiting and childcare pointed out the scarcity of children’s books. Between childcare centers and families’ homes, there weren’t enough books in little hands. This we could fix! With funding from First Things First, we purchased hundreds of books: baby board books, social-emotional books, books about family changes, and early readers.

Our providers recalled the separation and strain they felt throughout the pandemic and the desire to reconvene in person safely. So we planned an in-person gathering for a Book and Provider Resource Fair. Our community court team members joined us for free books, lunch, and resource-sharing. The in-person interaction made community-driven problem-solving so much easier. Just being at the same table helped two providers connect over a concern and refer a child for a service – all over a sandwich!

Attendees were beaming and chatted with each other as they browsed. They shared how grateful they were to have free books to share and leave with their clients and families, and to share the experience of being reunited in person. The team was even able to support our members who could not make it, including sending lunch on the go to a local preschool amidst its hectic move.

This type of event is the root of community and system work. Together, we can make changes, big and small, to help our youngest members and those who care deeply about them.