In June 2013, VECF launched leadership strategies for research, evaluation and policy to provide service to communities across Virginia in analyzing data, guiding research and evaluation, and discerning policy implications for the state's system of school readiness services for young children. The work is guided by VECF's Advisors Council, comprised of policy, research, and evaluation experts, as well as by the practical findings from the network of Smart Beginnings initiatives. This distinguished group of experts includes:
Rhian Evans Allvin serves as Chief Executive Officer of NAEYC. She is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the organization as well as overseeing the daily operations. With more than 70,000 members and 300 Affiliate components across the United States, NAEYC serves as the leading voice on behalf of young children and early childhood educators. Before joining NAEYC, Evans Allvin was a guiding force in Arizona’s early childhood movement for more than 15 years. In 2006 she co-wrote the citizen’s ballot initiative that created First Things First (FTF) which set aside Arizona’s tobacco tax monies for children birth to five and created a state agency whose purpose is to ensure all Arizona children start kindergarten prepared to be successful in school and in life. During her tenure the organization led and participated in a variety of Arizona statewide early childhood systems-building efforts, including panels that adopted the Arizona Model Early Childhood System Framework, the development of First Things First’s 10 School Readiness Indicators, the FTF National Research and Evaluation Advisory Panel, and the development and rollout of Quality First, Arizona’s quality improvement and rating system. Rhian holds a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in business administration from Arizona State University.
Colleen A. Kraft, MD, serves as Medical Director, Health Network at Cincinnati Children's. Her specialties include pediatric primary care innovation; home visiting in the medical home; and global neonatal mortality. Formerly, she was a
pediatric program director at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and senior medical officer for MajestaCare,
a Medicaid managed care organization in Virginia. Kraft is the co-author of the book Managing Chronic Health Conditions in Child Care and Schools. She has been actively involved in pediatric engagement in school and child care
for children with special health care needs. She has served on the Early Brain and Childhood Development workgroup,
the Council on Community Pediatrics Executive Committee, and the National Medical Home Project Advisory
Committee at the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is a content expert for Text4Baby and serves on the National
Head Start Advisory Committee.
Thanks to the generosity of Board Member Emeritus, Thomas N. Chewning, VECF has in-house capacity for data analysis and policy development by retaining research and evaluation experts who facilitate the work of the Advisors Council, oversee and implement VECF's research and evaluation agenda, and manage data systems strategies.
Since 2013, Derek Chapman, PhD has provided data, research, and evaluation expertise to the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. Dr. Chapman is the Associate Director for Research at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Center on Society and Health, where he leads a number of projects looking at the health implications of social factors such as education, income, neighborhood and community environmental conditions. He has been a faculty member in the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, Division of Epidemiology since 2004. His research interests include maternal and child health epidemiology and the intersection of biologic and social factors on child health and development. In addition to authoring scientific publications and presentations on these topics, Dr. Chapman has 14 years of experience working in state health departments conducting applied public health research to inform programs and policy. From 2004-2013 he served as the State Maternal and Child Health Epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health, where he led maternal and child health surveillance efforts. This included creating and analyzing linked datasets that identify individual and community-level factors that contribute throughout the life course to health inequities in birth and developmental outcomes. The results of these analyses were primarily used to inform maternal and child health programs and policy. Dr. Chapman has a PhD in Psychology (Applied Developmental track) from the University of Miami.
Kelly earned her Bachelor of the Arts degree in English at the University of Virginia. After several years in corporate marketing, Kelly taught at a privately-funded preschool in Richmond, Virginia, that served children from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. Inspired by her experience at the preschool, Kelly went on to earn a Master in Social Work degree and PhD in Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University, focusing her graduate research on child welfare and disability policy. After receiving her PhD, Kelly provided legislative representation to the U.S. Congress for children’s organizations, such as Prevent Child Abuse America and the national Association of University Centers on Disabilities, helping them advance their public policy agendas, conduct outcome and economic analyses, and draft white papers, Congressional committee testimony and legislation language. She also co-chaired a national child abuse & disabilities task force that helped draft language for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act when it was up for reauthorization in 2000. Currently based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Kelly operates her own consulting firm, conducting data tracking, analysis and visualization, program development and evaluation, and research for early childhood organizations. Kelly has a particular passion for supporting state and local efforts to integrate data latitudinally and longitudinally to improve child outcomes.
John Morgan is a child psychologist and public policy professional who now conducts independent policy research on issues impacting young children. His most recent work has focused on education issues and especially early education. Previously he enjoyed a long public service career managing community mental health and substance use programs for Chesterfield County’s behavioral health department. He pioneered prevention initiatives in the community behavioral health field and had a leadership role in state and local efforts promoting prevention approaches. Several years ago he left his position as Deputy Director to begin a second career at Voices for Virginia’s Children, first as a policy analyst and then for five-plus years as Executive Director. His tenure was marked by steps to strengthen Voices’ influence, including improvements to the Kids Count Data Center, creation of the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health, leadership of reform efforts in the child welfare system, and leadership of coalitions that helped expand funding for VPI and child care assistance.
John has a doctorate in Child Clinical Psychology from Penn State. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and recipient of the Distinguished Practice Award from its community psychology division. His prevention work was honored with the McNeill Award for Innovative Practice from the National Council of Community Mental Health Centers.