Coordinator works to mesh early childhood programs

Otero_Cesia_HeadshotLAS CRUCES- My role as the Doña Ana County (DAC) early childhood education (ECE) coordinator is rather unique. La Clinica de Familia and Ngage New Mexico partnered on a grant to obtain funding for my position, which I’ve been in since 2017. My goal is to identify how the ECE coalition can support the work of early childhood organizations, bring them together and work on solutions to better the New Mexico 49th ranking on child-wellbeing at our local level.

My work is about building genuine relationships and developing trust. When people come to the table and they can be vulnerable about their failures and successes it creates a space to synergize.

Our relationships opened the door to further develop the Doña Ana County ECE Coalition. A large part of what I do revolves around bringing our early childhood partners together, facilitating important discussions, being a helpful resource for others and implementing the Doña Ana ECE plan.

Our grassroots plan was created by the partners to create a better ECE system and better serve children and families. There are eight goals within the plan. From my perspective, the full integration goal within the plan is the very foundation of setting the stage for success. In addition to this goal, the other seven goals include: public awareness, creating a children’s museum and early learning parent resource center, access to quality ECE, workforce development, family empowerment, accountability and measurement, and maternal health.

 Our goals set a direction for each unique childhood organization. Each partner organization is different in terms of services offered and funding sources, each organization is dedicated to doing the best job possible to serve children and families. Organizations like early Headstart (serves birth-3 year olds) and Headstart (serves ages 3-4) take their services a step further in providing children with wrap-around services.

These type of services attend to the social and emotional aspects of the child. Wrap-around services take into consideration important aspects, besides mere academics, by looking at the whole child. The ultimate child care center would take this comprehensive approach to early learning by meeting the developmental and behavioral needs of the child.

As another example, most programs require an updated immunization record for the child, but wellness checkups are also extremely important for the development of the child. A true high quality program would require the child to receive their appropriate, timely check-ups with their primary family doctor.

Before the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Coalition came along, collaboration and networking wasn’t as strong as it is today. Right now, compared to the past, collaboration among ECE organizations, has significantly improved based on a recent survey conducted by the Center for Community Analysis at New Mexico State University. The survey asked organizations about their strength of relationships with other fellow organizations based on partnerships for funding opportunities, memorandums of understandings (MOUs), etc. from 2014 to 2017. The results revealed that partnerships increased by 48% and the number of collaborations increased by 72%.

The survey really told us how far we have come in terms of meeting one of our goals, which is full integration of ECE systems. Simply put—when we understand how each organization operates to serve children, we can provide better service to every child and provide access to higher quality early learning experiences. In conjunction with the adequate amount of funding to do so, of course.

Over time, the ECE culture has shifted and fostered a better environment for partners to openly discuss their work, ideas and professional knowledge of what early learning could be for children and their families. We come together and actually agree on common agendas and we plan to further conversations to better serve our community. A few years ago this type of collaboration was just a dream.  The work isn’t done. We still have so many more projects and possibilities, within our coalition. I find reassurance when partners express their willingness to work together. Our real work has just started.

Cesia Otero is the Dona Ana County Early Childhood Education Coordinator with La Clinica de Familia and the SUCCESS Partnership. For more information about the ECE Coalition, email  The contributing column writer is Lynda Garcia, Communications Coordinator for the SUCCESS Partnership.