Innovative Dual-Generation School Readiness Initiative Expands to Petersburg

Richmond, Va. (Aug. 24, 2017) – Smart Beginnings for Southside Families, a dual-generation school readiness initiative that is funded through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF), is expanding to include families with infants in targeted communities throughout the Petersburg area.

The initiative, which first launched in 2015 in Danville, Emporia, Martinsville and surrounding counties, builds collaborative partnerships that support efforts to better serve at-risk families with young children. An important aspect of the initiative is the involvement of a Family Coach, who works closely with the adults in the home to identify any barriers within local systems that may prevent families from accessing critical services, and then creating solutions to overcome those obstacles.

By addressing the needs and challenges of adults and the young children within the home, Smart Beginnings for Southside Families aims to establish a solid foundation for early learning and success in school.

“Smart Beginnings for Southside Families is designed to open doors of opportunity for the entire family and we are very excited about the recent expansion to Petersburg,” said Kathy Glazer, president of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. “In order to change the life trajectory for many at-risk young children, it is imperative to consider the family context in which they live and develop from birth. This initiative has proven to be a strong and collaborative regional model that integrates the educational, social, health and economic needs of both parents and children.”

VECF has engaged and trained a Family Coach to provide case management as well as parenting and career coaching services for the participating families in Petersburg. In addition, the Coach has received specialized coursework in understanding the impact of adverse childhood experiences as part of Petersburg’s communitywide resilience-building initiative.

Families enrolled in Smart Beginnings for Southside Families will receive ongoing counseling about many community resources including:

  • Access to quality early childhood education for young children
  • Parenting education
  • Adult education or training for the parent
  • Professional development for participating early childhood education programs
  • Access to health and mental health care
  • Access to resources for early literacy and family literacy
  • Financial literacy training for the parents

Recruitment is now underway at community events that are taking place in Petersburg, Interested families will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire and talk with the Family Coach to assess eligibility. If eligible, families will be enrolled and served based on the time it takes them to meet their identified goals. Parents taking part in the initiative may or may not have completed high school and are either expecting their first child or have given birth to their first child within the past 12 months.

“In all cities and counties impacted by this initiative, our Family Coaches are learning more everyday about the very real barriers facing at-risk families and, in many cases, adversely affecting the school readiness of their young children,” said Ruth Frierson, VECF’s coordinator for Smart Beginnings for Southside Families. “Here in Petersburg, we are partnering with professionals in healthcare, social services and library systems, among other stakeholders, to support parents in their efforts to be good providers and good role models.”


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About the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation: VECF creates results-oriented partnerships to ensure that young children are healthy and prepared for school, life and workforce success. For more information on participating in the Smart Beginnings for Southside Families initiative, call Ruth Frierson, Project Coordinator, at (804) 414-5900 or Elizabeth Di Stasio, Family Coach, at (703) 314-0852. Both Frierson and Di Stasio are fluent in Spanish.      

Media contact: Sara Hunt,, 804-994-1120