Skip to main content
Building Early Links for Learning (BELL)

Building Early Links for Learning (BELL)

By Joe Willard
BELL is a project of the People's Emergency Center. It bridges together Philadelphia's homeless family shelter system and early childhood education systems to ensure that children ages 0-5 who experience homelessness strengthen their resiliency. BELL promotes accessing to Head Start, high quality child care, home visiting, early intervention, and other proven strategies that address positive child development. BELL works with the Children's Work Group for Early Childhood, a discussion group with the participation of various systems supporting young homeless children.
Listen on
Where to listen
Breaker Logo


Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Overcast Logo


Pocket Casts Logo

Pocket Casts

RadioPublic Logo


Spotify Logo


Currently playing episode

Equity and Home Visiting - A Discussion by the Children's Work Group Early Childhood Conference

Building Early Links for Learning (BELL)

Equity and Home Visiting - A Discussion by the Children's Work Group Early Childhood Conference

Building Early Links for Learning (BELL)

Creating Safety: Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence
The February Children’s Work Group Early Childhood Conference brought together representatives from seven community organizations with over 100 attendees to have a conversation about a topic that too often gets dismissed: domestic violence. Building Early Links for Learning (BELL) recognized the need to discuss this topic in our work with both housing and early learning systems – both systems work with families struggling with domestic violence, but rarely have opportunities to work together sharing resources and providing support to better serve those families. Play the audio of the conference and follow along with the slide presentation here.  The conference opens with an introduction by Malkia Singleton Ofori-Agyekum, Pennsylvania State Director of ParentChild+. 
March 24, 2021
Equity and Home Visiting - A Discussion by the Children's Work Group Early Childhood Conference
What better way to begin the Martin Luther King national holiday weekend than a serious discussion on the role equity in the home visiting system.  This episode is exceptional in its depth. We ask ourselves: what is the role of racial equity in determining who receives home visiting services? How can we overcome disparities of service delivery? And how can we collaborate together to ensure families receive the services they need? Our discussion is led by Malkia Singleton Ofori-Agyekum of Parent Child + and co-chair of the CWGEC Conference. She is joined by Julia Reeves of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Sylania Burnett of the People's Emergency Center's Parents as Teachers program, and Toscha Blalock of the Maternity Care Coalition.  You will hear how the City of Philadelphia is leading the way with its "Philly Families Can" effort to centralize intake and ensure qualified and the most neediest residents receive home visiting services.  Sylania Burnett will discuss the city's first home visiting program specifically serving families in emergency shelter.  Toscha Blalock will discuss how Montgomery County organized itself to reduce inequity in home visiting, and offering a model for the rest of us. 
January 26, 2021
Pennsylvania's 2020 Family Supports Needs Assessment
Home visiting is a critical service for families experiencing homelessness. This podcast discusses the recently published Family Support Needs Assessment provides data and information on the value and need for home visiting. Featured here are Karen Grimm-Thomas, Director of External Communications of the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning, and Tara Dechert, a Project Director at the CHOP Policy Lab. The podcast also includes comments offered by two leaders in the community, Samia Bristow of the Maternity Care Coalition, and Erin Blair, a home visiting nurse with the Nurse Family Partnership.  The podcast was recorded at the Children's Work Group Early Childhood Conference on Friday, November 20, with participation from 54 local leaders in southeastern Pennsylvania, via a Zoom call. 
November 23, 2020
Support for Students Experiencing Homelessness in the time of COVID
A new school year is beginning. And its very different, due to Covid-19. How will homeless students be supported? What do we need to do? To help answer these questions, the Children's Work Group invited the School District of Philadelphia's Colleen Landy and Al Quarles to discuss their work to supporting all students who experience homelessness. Ms. Landy and Mr. Quarles are experts in supporting children and youth experiencing homelessness and identified more than 7,000 children and youth last year. They help anyone who needed help with access to school, supplies, and more.  PEC's Roz Edwards and Kamal Marell lead the discussion, along with CWG Co-Chair Malkia Singleton. 
September 9, 2020
In Family Homeless Shelters: The Self-Assessments for Child Development Support
We discuss with Marsha Basloe of the Child Care Services Association of North Carolina and Dr. Sara Shaw of Child Trends the usage and effects of the 'Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters.' The Self Assessment was pioneered by Dr. Grace Whitney in Connecticut, promoted widely by Ms. Basloe during her work at the Administration for Children and Youth, and validated by Dr. Shaw.  Philadelphia's Building Early Links for Learning (BELL) and 15 emergency/transitional housing programs used the self assessment tool starting in 2017, working with Dr. Shaw and others (JJ Cutuli and Janette Herbers) to operationalize the tool and to measure effects.  PEC's Sarah Vrabic guides the discussion with Ms. Basloe and Dr. Shaw at the Children's Work Group Early Childhood meetings. These are monthly gatherings of staff from homeless shelters, public health centers, early learning programs, hospitals, local and state government, and other networks. 
August 4, 2020
Pennsylvania's Early Learning system responds to the Covid 19 Crisis
The podcast features Karen Grimm-Thomas of the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning discusses how Pennsylvania's early learning system is responding to the COVID 19 crisis. How is the state supporting child care? What should parents think about when considering sending their child to a child care program? Will child care programs be prepared to be safe? Plus, Deborah Hartranft of the School District of Philadelphia's Early Childhood department discusses the online registration tool for Pre K. 
May 19, 2020
Philadelphia's Centralized Intake for Home Visiting
The Children's Work Group Early Childhood group discusses the intersection of the family homeless housing system with the early learning community. This podcast features Julia Reeves of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health discussing the new centralized intake process with the CWGEC. 
April 21, 2020
Children's Work Group Early Childhood Discussion Home Visiting and Homelessness
Welcome to the very first podcast of the Children’s Work Group Early Childhood Committee. We are group of practitioners and advocates from various different systems in Philadelphia whose common feature is that we all work with young children who experience homelessness. Your hosts today are Malkia Singleton of the Parent Child+ home visiting program and myself, Joe Willard, of the People’s Emergency Center. Today’s discussion will feature a round-table discussion by front line staff and leaders in home visiting programs here in Philadelphia. We asked them a series of questions about their experiences working with young children who experience homelessness, their challenges, and their hopes.  We recorded this conversation at the March Children’s Work Group meeting.
April 7, 2020