About Smart Beginnings

Smart Beginnings is an initiative that creates community commitment to the school readiness of young children.  We help local communities deliver on ensuring conditions for a strong, healthy start for young children and their families.

A successful school readiness network requires the cooperation of parents and families, schools, child care providers, the faith community, higher education, business, and other community assets such as social services, libraries, and museums.

Smart Beginnings serves as the public-private connector in communities, harnessing all the parts of the network and driving its coordinated functioning.

What does it look like?

With assistance from VECF, a local Smart Beginnings initiative brings public and private leaders together to collaborate on priorities for their youngest citizens:

  • Agree on a plan to coordinate effective early learning, health, and family support services for young children in their communities
  • Improve services by promoting high quality common standards and evidenced-based practices
  • Create efficiencies and leverage funding to ensure that the community's resources are targeted to children with greatest need

104 cities/counties in Virginia have benefited from Smart Beginnings.  Communities that focus on school readiness strategies document K-12 school system cost savings from reduced need for early reading intervention and early grade repetition.

How does Smart Beginnings transform communities? Read all about it:



PROFILE: Virginia's Smart Beginnings Initiative

Click here to read the Build Initiative's profile on Smart Beginnings.



This resource provides recommended models and practices to

guide the work of local Smart Beginnings initiatives.

Download the directory here.


Building the capacity of local communities to create optimal environments for children’s healthy growth and development is complicated work, requiring the ability to impact local change through influential leadership, strategic focus, credibility, long-term sustainability, and innovation. VECF is committed to ensuring that Smart Beginnings communities have access to the expert technical assistance needed to attain excellence as they address the complex issues faced by young children and their families.

VECF’s “Building Excellence” provides Smart Beginnings communities opportunities to work with topic area experts to learn system development skills and explore strategies for innovation. 

  • Learning Tables- Smart Beginnings communities are invited to identify strategic local teams and apply to participate in high-quality multi-session coursework and consultation provided by topic area experts.
  • Executive Institute- New or transitioning Smart Beginnings directors are invited to engage in a six month institute designed to build skills unique to leading the development and operation of a collaborative community system.  
  • Ask the Expert-  Inspired by a popular session at the Smart Beginnings annual meeting, these quarterly sessions offer community leaders the opportunity to participate in conversations and Q+A with state agency leaders and other experts.