Meedra Surratte is the Executive Director of Parent Information Center of Delaware, Inc. (PIC), serves as the aRPy Ambassador for Delaware and is a proud parent and grandparent. She represents the needs, concerns, and interests of children with disabilities and their families on several statewide councils. Her area of focus lies in education and capacity building, particularly in the areas of special education, family engagement, and strengthening sustaining partnerships between families and schools.
How did you begin your work in early childhood?
I’ve always been involved in early childhood in some capacity, both personally and professionally. Personally, with my children (ages 21, 5 and 4) who all attended home or childcare centers, and professionally as an advocate for children with disabilities. It has been during my time at the parent center where most of my work has taken place in both direct support to families and systems advocacy.
What efforts have you been involved in to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services?
Partnerships are essential in early childhood work. As a parent center, we are members of our State’s Interagency Coordinating Council (SICC), and early child inclusion committees. We have also partnered with our state’s Head Start program to provide trainings and technical assistance to families and professionals serving infants and toddlers so they are more informed about Delaware’s early intervention process. Additionally, PIC remains an active stakeholder in Delaware’s Early Intervention Program and is instrumental in the State’s Systemic Improvement Plan work. As an aRPy ambassador, under the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center Program, I’ve been able to align the systems work in our state with practical ways of engaging families throughout the early intervention process.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced and what strategies have you tried to overcome them?
For me, parents are the key to making our systems work. The last 18 months have been extremely difficult for everyone, especially families. Identifying ongoing ways to support families and keep them engaged during these times has been difficult. I can identify with this personally as a parent of a child with special needs. Navigating early intervention services in this “new world” while juggling work, home, and family has been extremely challenging. Adapting and encouraging my four-year-old to participate and engage in Zoom sessions is a skillset for which I was unprepared. I hear this same sentiment from families. This is why meaningful partnerships and leveraging resources are extremely important at this time. Families should have access to information that is relevant, useful, and consistent across all systems in which they’re interacting. This includes therapies, school, and community-based resources and mental health resources.
What suggestions do you have for other parents who want to increase their engagement with educators and other professionals in the field?
Start with a working partnership with your childcare provider. Share information about your child, how they learn, and areas of concern. Inquire about opportunities for parents at the center such as a parent advisory council or other opportunities where families can provide feedback. Learn about statewide stakeholder groups, such as the SICC or other committees where parent feedback is welcomed and necessary to improving early childhood systems. These councils and committees rely heavily on parent experiences. Your experience in the early childhood system is essential in identifying the parts of the system that are working and those where improvements are needed.
What suggestions do you have for professionals and educators?
Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the work of serving children we forget the importance of the family voice. Parents have the lived experience that we don’t see. Their stories are vital to improving systems in early childhood and outcomes for young children. While opportunities for families to provide their feedback are well intentioned, we must regularly assess if we’re providing the means for authentic family engagement. What are we doing with the feedback parents are providing us? How can we work towards a shared goal by providing the support families need to be their child’s advocate and champion? This could involve working in less siloed spaces, combining councils and committees, or partnering with parent serving organizations to share resources and connect with families
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