Reigniting the conversation about what families of young children need to thrive in Rochester

A few years ago, the United Way of the Greater Seacoast (UWGS) convened community members in Rochester to begin a dialogue around what the needs of the community were. Participants explored Rochester’s strengths, challenges, and the various ways people wanted to be involved in improving life for families and children that call the Lilac City home. One of the dominant conversations was around early childhood and ensuring that Rochester’s youngest citizens and their families have what they need to learn and thrive.

In 2019, through funding from the Preschool Development Grant (PDG), United Way welcomed many of those same individuals back to the table to reignite the conversation about children’s formative years and kindergarten readiness. Leaders in child care, Family-Centered Early Supports and Services, early education, pediatrics, behavioral health, family support, and advocacy shared their perspectives on how to enrich and support positive early childhood experiences. Recognizing the benefits of this opportunity for community collaboration, they formed the Rochester Early Childhood Coalition (RECC).

Lauren Wool, Senior Director of Community Impact for United Way, explained the value of having this diverse group of professionals at the table.

“We will be able to accomplish together something that none of us could accomplish as individual organizations. We can form better connections and be more coordinated amongst ourselves to stay in tune with the needs of families so that kids can get a great start and families feel supported.”

One thing the group feels strongly about is providing ample opportunities for families to have a voice and inform their work. In the video below, Lauren Wool talks about why family voice will play a critical role in the work ahead.

Maureen Callaghan, a Speech Pathologist for the Rochester School District, has lived, worked, and raised her family in Rochester. In the video below, she explains her motivation for joining the effort.

Cora-Lynn Hoppe, Program Director for Rochester Child Care, is also working and raising her family in Rochester and shared her thoughts on joining the coalition.

“I’ve been through a housing situation here. I have had to navigate some special education needs for my family. As a parent who works in this field, I struggled to find the information and resources I needed at times. I often didn’t feel comfortable talking about what was going on in my life. I want to make sure every parent knows how to access the resources they need and knows that they are not alone.”

RECC brought the Parent Information Center and New Hampshire Family Voices on board to do a workshop with coalition members on family engagement, facilitate community listening sessions, and provide technical assistance throughout their first year.

“The Rochester Early Childhood Coalition’s vision to improve early childhood outcomes by meaningfully engaging with families is a recipe for success. They have a group of people at the table who respect and value family-professional partnerships. Progress is made by cultivating trusting relationships with the people you serve, and that is what they endeavor to do”, said Michelle Lewis, Executive Director of the Parent Information Center.

To learn more about the Rochester Early Childhood Coalition, contact Lauren Wool at

Want to learn more about making family engagement meaningful and family-professional partnerships?

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Explore additional stories of successful family engagement efforts around the state.