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From Baby to Big Kid

An e-newsletter that showcases how children learn and grow each month from birth to 3 years. From Baby to Big Kid translates the science of early childhood and offers strategies parents can tailor to their unique family situation and to the needs of their child.
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State Policy Updates

Celebrating Improvements in Infant and Toddler Policy: Top 10
Policy Achievements of 2008
December 8, 2008

Throughout the year, the ZERO TO THREE Policy Network works to keep readers informed of important and innovative policy developments on both the national and state levels.  This article highlights the Top 10 Policy Achievements of 2008 for infants and toddlers, providing examples of public policies that recognize that we all have a role to play in supporting children and families during the early years.
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Delaware Created new Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood
November 24, 2008

In October, the Delaware Department of Education showed a commitment to professional development with the creation of the new Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood at the University of Delaware.  The institute will serve as a professional development clearinghouse for practitioners working with young children and their families, both coordinating professional development opportunities and collaborating with current providers of professional development.  To launch the institute, the University of Delaware received a three-year $2.4 million grant from the Department of Education, funded primarily with federal Child Care and Development Block Grant dollars.  The new institute officially opened on November 1st. 

Recognizing that professionals working with infants and toddlers represent a variety of disciplines, the institute will take a broad approach to professional development that is inclusive of many fields and topics.  The current professional development system in Delaware is focused primarily on private early care and education providers, but the institute will also serve practitioners such as public pre-k, early interventionists, and those working with children with disabilities. In addition to serving a clearinghouse function for the state’s early childhood professionals, the institute will conduct best practice research to help improve the quality of care in the state, and house early childhood quality initiatives, such as the Delaware Stars for Early Success, the state’s new quality and improvement rating system established in 2007  To ensure that the institute continues to provide relevant professional opportunities and resources, it will conduct an annual needs assessment of early childhood professionals in the state.  Standards and policies for the institute will be set by the professional development subcommittee of the Delaware Early Childhood Council, a public-private partnership established through legislation in 2007

The creation of the new institute was spurred by recommendations from a task force formed in 2008 to integrate early childhood and K-12 professional development  which was charged with developing a new framework for a comprehensive and coordinated early childhood professional development system in Delaware.

California Creates QRIS Advisory Committee
October 27, 2008

In late September, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law legislation to create an Early Learning Quality Improvement System Advisory Committee.  The committee was tasked with developing a policy and implementation plan for a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for early care and education programs serving children birth to age five.  The legislation, sponsored by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-6), passed the state legislature in late August.  Funding will be provided by the California Children and Families Commission to support the work.     

The new Early Learning Quality Improvement System Advisory Committee will be comprised of thirteen members, including representatives from the early care and education community, Governor’s office, California Children and Families Commission, state legislature, and the Departments of Education, Finance, and Social Services.  Additionally, the advisory committee will establish subcommittees to gather further input to guide their work, including one specifically dedicated to infant and toddler care. 

By December 31, 2010, the advisory committee will submit a final report to the legislature and the governor that makes recommendations for the creation of a QRIS for the state’s early care and education programs.  The report will include: an assessment of the current early care and education infrastructure, including an analysis of existing state and local systems; the development of an early learning quality rating scale that is inclusive of features known to be linked to high quality programs; the development of a funding model aligned with the early learning quality rating scale; and, recommendations on how federal, state, and local resources can be leveraged as part of a comprehensive effort to improve early care and education for young children.  

Both Los Angeles and Orange Counties in California are currently piloting QRIS systems that include elements to assess quality in infant-toddler child care programs.  Having nearly one million children from birth to 4 years of age, these two adjacent counties represent over one-third of the state’s young children.  Their efforts to improve the quality of early childhood programs will be watched carefully as the state considers broader implementation of a QRIS system.

Pennsylvania Creates New Early Childhood Panels
October 13, 2008

In September, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed executive orders to form two new panels, the Pennsylvania Early Learning Council and the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, that will help expand the state’s initiatives for young children birth to school entry.  The work to create the councils was supported by the National Governor’s Association and based on input from nearly 800 stakeholders across the state.

The new Early Learning Council is tasked with planning the expansion of coordinated and effective early learning and development services for young children and their families to ensure a smooth transition to K-12 education. The council was formed in response to the 2007 reauthorization of Head Start, which requires that states create State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood Care and Education to build statewide systems of early care and education.  It will replace the current Advisory Committee Structure for the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and will include a new committee devoted to children birth to three.  There will be broad representation on the council, including educational and business entities, local early care and education providers, higher education, Head Start agencies, local governments, law enforcement agencies, the media, advocates, families, and other stakeholders. 

The Early Learning Investment Commission is tasked with increasing support from business and civic leaders for the state’s early childhood investments, including engaging them in education and legislative advocacy, and increasing awareness of the importance of the early years.  It will be comprised of business leaders from diverse sectors of the economy and the secretaries of Education, Public Welfare, Community and Economic Development, Budget, and Planning and Policy. The commission builds on the work of a public-private partnership that has garnered business and civic support for early childhood investment since 2007, including two economic summits on early childhood investment.  This broader public-private group will now serve as partners to the Early Learning Investment Commission and will continue to build a network of support for public investment in early childhood education. 

Missouri Expands Access to Early Head Start Services
September 29, 2008

Missouri’s Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership Project expands access to Early Head Start (EHS) services for children birth to age three by developing partnerships between federal Head Start and EHS grantees and child care providers.  The initiative was created in 1998 when the state legislature set aside a portion of gaming revenue to create a fund for early childhood programs.  The Missouri Department of Social Services then made an administrative decision to use these funds to expand EHS services.  Earlier this year, the state legislature approved a $1 million increase in funds for the Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership Project for FY 2009.  The new funds increase the state investment by 20 percent, bringing the total FY 2009 funding to $5.7 million from state gaming revenues and the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant. 

Through the initiative, participating Head Start and EHS grantees contract with a variety of child care entities to deliver EHS services to additional children.  This partnership approach both increases the number of children receiving EHS services and also improves overall child care quality in the state.  The grantees can use various incentives based on the needs in their community to encourage child care providers to participate in the partnerships, including additional funding per child, access to EHS professional development and technical assistance, grants and other support to meet federal Head Start Program Performance Standards, and additional health and family support services for the children and families they serve.  All services delivered through the child care providers must meet federal Head Start Program Performance Standards, state child care licensing requirements, and other state requirements. 

While the initiative is administered by the Missouri Department of Social Services, the agency also partners with the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Region VII Office, the Missouri Head Start-State Collaboration Office, and other state professional development initiatives in offering education and training opportunities and resources to the EHS grantees. Additionally, Head Start and EHS grantees are selected to participate in the initiative by a team composed of staff from the Missouri Department of Social Services, the Head Start-State Collaboration Office, and the ACF VII Office.  In FY 2009, 691 children and pregnant women are being served.  At least an additional 1,300 children in partner child care facilities are also impacted by the additional training and resources provided through this initiative.

To learn more about the Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership Project, read the Building on the Promise Missouri state profile by ZERO TO THREE and the Center for Law and Social Policy.

 

Colorado Legislature Forms Early Childhood Caucus
September 15, 2008

During the 2008 legislative session, the Colorado Children’s Campaign supported the creation of the Early Childhood Caucus to convene a bi-partisan group of legislators committed to furthering the well-being of Colorado’s young children on an ongoing basis.  Over time, the caucus will work to develop early childhood champions within the legislature and in each new class of legislators.  The next Early Childhood Caucus meeting will take place this fall to prepare for the 2009 legislation session, which begins in January. 

The caucus is staffed by the Colorado’s Children’s Campaign and co-chaired by a bipartisan team of Senator Brandon Shaffer (D-17), Assistant Majority Leader, and Representative Amy Stephens (R-20), Minority Caucus Chair, who will work together to ensure that the caucus identifies and implements a short- and long-term policy agenda for children prenatal to age eight.  The caucus will be a forum to educate legislators on current research in early childhood development; illuminate questions to be addressed in order to further policy developments; identify legislative action, develop and pass a multi-year data-driven and research-based policy agenda for children prenatal to age eight; and increase awareness of the importance of the early years to build momentum for an increased focus on early childhood policies.  During the 2009 legislative session, the caucus will create policies built upon research-based practices in early care and education, family support, health, and mental health to support the physical, cognitive, and social emotional development of the state’s young children.

New Mexico Policymakers Invest in Children During Special Session
September 2, 2008

On August 22nd, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed into law legislation to increase access to state child care assistance for working families.  The bill was passed by the legislature on August 18th as part of a special session called by the governor to provide financial relief for families challenged by the rising cost of basic necessities, such as food, transportation, health insurance and child care. 

The new law provides an additional $7.2 million to the state’s child care assistance program, transferred from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  The funds will be used to increase the income eligibility level to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, currently $21,200 for a family of four, and to maintain the current level of children receiving state child care assistance. In recent years, the state child care budget has been under pressure, as providers have become increasingly eligible to receive higher reimbursement rates for improving their quality of care through the state’s quality rating and improvement system.  Five million of the new funds will be used to maintain the spaces for the 22,800 children currently served, and $2.2 million will be used to add 566 children to the assistance program.  In his outline for the special session, Governor Richardson had originally requested $13.2 million be added to child care assistance.

Legislation was also passed in the special session to help working families meet basic needs and to increase investment in children’s health and well-being.  The working families tax credit was raised from 8 to 10 percent of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and $1.9 million was added to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).   Additionally, $20 million was added to the Medicaid/State Children’s Health Insurance Program budget to increase the number of children covered, $10 million was added for children with developmental disabilities, and $2.5 million was added for mental health services. 

The special session was a success for the state’s working families and early childhood advocates and continues to build momentum to increase the focus on very young children in the 2009 legislative session.

Nebraska Awards First Early Childhood Endowment Grants
August 18,2008

In July, the Nebraska Early Childhood Education Endowment awarded its first round of grants for quality programming for the state’s infants and toddlers. The grants were awarded to eleven school districts throughout the state to fund services for at-risk children birth to three that meet research-based quality standards for programs serving groups of children or family engagement services. The grants are made for an initial three-year period. The state dollars that fund these grants are constitutionally protected and cannot be raided or reduced, and they are intended to provide a permanent and stable funding source for quality services for infants and toddlers. 

The Endowment Grant program is the result of 2006 legislation that created a public-private endowment fund, with an initial state investment of $40 million with a private sector match of $20 million over five years. The earnings generated from the public-private dollars are now being used to support services to at-risk families with infants and toddlers. The legislation also created a Board of Trustees, comprised of term-limited public and private representatives appointed by the Governor, to administer and monitor all Endowment grants.

The Endowment Board of Trustees designed the grant process with the goal to both increase access to high quality services for infants and toddlers and to enhance the quality of existing programs. The grants to expand access are intended for programs that have already achieved a high level of quality, and can be used to increase the number of children served, extend the day or year of programs, or offer a new service component to bolster the comprehensiveness of services being provided. 

The quality enhancement grants are intended to help existing providers reach a research-based level of quality, including having degreed teachers, small class sizes and caseloads, a high staff to child ratio, and a research-based curriculum.  If grantees have achieved quality standards after the initial three-year grant period, they may apply for a grant to expand access to services. They will continue to receive funding as long as they maintain the quality standards. 

In the first grant cycle, the Board of Trustees placed a priority on access expansion grants to increase the number of infants and toddlers who receive services. A total of $1.7 million was awarded in July, with each grant ranging between $75,000 and $150,000, with the expectation of a one-on-one local match at the community level.   

Delaware Governor Approves Quality Rating and Improvement System
August 4, 2008

On July 8th, Governor Ruth Ann Minner signed into law legislation to create the Delaware Stars for Early Success program, a voluntary quality rating and improvement system aimed to increase access to quality early care and education for the state’s young children.  The new Delaware Stars for Early Success law will build upon a current pilot of the quality rating and improvement system.

Delaware Stars for Early Success was initiated by the Delaware Early Childhood Council as a pilot in 2007, with funding from the state Departments of Education and Health and Social Services, and private sector funds through the United Way.  It is overseen by the Department of Education and is supported by a public-private partnership.  

The quality rating and improvement system is designed to have five tiers, with the state licensing standards serving as the basis to attain the first star level rating.  To attain higher rating levels, programs must meet increasingly higher quality research-based standards in four categories: Qualifications and Professional Development; Learning Environment and Curriculum; Family and Community Partnerships; and Management and Administration.    At the third star level, programs must complete a self-assessment using the Environment Rating Scale (ERS), while at the fourth and fifth star levels, outside evaluators assess the programs using the ERS.  At these stages, programs serving infants and toddlers would use the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS-R).  Programs participating in Delaware Stars for Early Success have a quality improvement plan to aid them in their progress, and resources, professional development, and technical assistance are available to providers working to increase their quality of services.  Phase One of the pilot was implemented in 2007, with 8 of 15 programs moving up a star level at this point.  An additional 60 programs are participating in 2008 as part of Phase Two of the pilot. 

The current plan is to enroll an additional 60 programs each year, including both center-based and family child care.  As Delaware Stars for Early success becomes more widely available throughout the state, it is expected that funding will come increasingly from public dollars.

STATE AND COMMUNITY POLICY ROUNDUP: PROGRESS ON INFANT-TODDLER ISSUES ACROSS THE UNITED STATES
July 21, 2008

The ZERO TO THREE Policy Network works to keep members abreast of new and exciting infant-toddler legislation and initiatives happening across the country. This article summarizes state and community policy activities featured in The Baby Monitor from January through July 2008, and provides updates on the progress these states and communities are making in their efforts to serve infants, toddlers and their families. [ 93 KB Icon_pdf ]  

Colorado Puts Forth a Plan to Promote Social and Emotional Health
June 9, 2008

The Smart Start Colorado Office of Professional Development recently released a strategic plan to promote the social and emotional development of young children through the professional development of the early childhood field.  The plan was created with the support of the Piton Foundation, as well as the Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Child Care through the federal Child Care and Development Fund.  The Office of Professional Development and stakeholders have adopted the strategic plan and are now working to implement its goals and action steps.

As part of the plan’s development, the Office of Professional Development convened the Social and Emotional Professional Development Planning Council, which consists of statewide multidisciplinary early childhood experts from both the public and private sectors.  The council helped to identify the critical issues to be addressed by the plan, as well as seven professional development goals to promote social and emotional health in young children: 1) organize a core body of knowledge the field needs to foster positive early childhood social and emotional development; 2) develop an infrastructure for training early childhood professionals on social and emotional development; 3) establish an early childhood social and emotional credential; 4) promote early childhood social and emotional programs of study in higher education; 5) influence public policy that promotes the social and emotional health of young children; 6) develop approaches that influence funding to advance early childhood social and emotional health; and 7) define strategies that help promote public awareness of the importance of early childhood social and emotional development.  For each of the goals outlined, the plan identifies multiple strategies and specific action steps to be taken to achieve the goal.  

As a first step to implement the strategic plan, the Office of Professional Development has convened a working group that is charged with developing a core body of multidisciplinary knowledge of social and emotional development that is needed by early childhood professionals, as well as measures by which professional can be accountable for this knowledge.  Once developed, the core body of knowledge will be used to create a voluntary credential for professionals, which will offer a method for formally recognizing their knowledge attained in early childhood social and emotional health related topics.

Throughout the summer, the Office of Professional Development will work to vet the strategic plan and implementation work with other states and local communities.  Specifically, they will share the plan with Colorado’s Early Childhood Councils, which are working to build community-based comprehensive early childhood systems throughout the state.

For more information, contact Holly Wilcher or Kathleen Stiles at the Smart Start Colorado Office of Professional Development. 

Maine Passes Law to Invest in Young Children
May 12, 2008

On April 23rd, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed into law new legislation that takes multiple measures to invest in the state’s youngest children.  The law creates the Maine Children’s Growth Council and a new Office of the Child Advocate, and also contains numerous other provisions that will improve services for young children birth through age 5.  The legislation was introduced by State Representative Anne Perry (D-31), Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services, and passed by the legislature in mid-April.  While the law is a strong step forward in the state’s early childhood policy, funding for its various provisions was not included in the passed legislation.  Advocates will work toward funding the provisions of the new law in the next legislative session.

As established by law, the Maine Children’s Growth Council will develop, maintain and evaluate a long-term plan for investment in the healthy development of Maine’s youngest children and their families, including strategies to create a unified, statewide early childhood services system.  The 27 member council will consist of public and private partners appointed by the Governor who are influential in early childhood issues in their communities.  The law closely specifies the membership of the Council, including bipartisan representation from the state legislature, the Governor (or appointee), the Attorney General (or appointee), parents, philanthropists, business leaders, representatives of child abuse and neglect prevention and postsecondary education, and representatives of statewide organizations dealing with issues that impact young children.  When making the initial appointments to the Council, the law requires members of the Children’s Cabinet Task Force on Early Childhood to be considered.

The new Office of the Child Advocate is charged with providing ongoing, coordinated advocacy on behalf of young children birth through age 5.  The office will be operated by a nonprofit organization selected through a competitive award process by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.  The duties of the Office of the Child Advocate will include providing advocacy and representation regarding state policies and programs affecting young children; reviewing legislative studies and policy recommendations; advising the Maine Children’s Growth Council; creating a business plan that provides opportunities for public-private partnerships, serving as an early childhood information clearinghouse for the state; and raising public awareness of the connections between economic growth and early investment.  The office is also charged with providing ongoing evaluation services of the effects of the state’s investment in programs and services to benefit young children and their families.  This evaluation will be conducted through contracted services and will include a longitudinal database of child and family outcomes, as well as economic and fiscal impact. 

In addition to the creation of the Maine Children’s Growth Council and the Office of the Child Advocate, the law also has numerous other provisions to improve services for young children and their families, including requiring the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to offer voluntary universal home visiting for new families (as permitted by availability of funds); increasing funding for quality child care education scholarships; and undertaking a public education campaign on the availability of loans for child care facilities.

Virginia Creates New Office of Early Childhood Development
April 28, 2008

On April 3rd, Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced the creation of the state’s new Office of Early Childhood Development.  The new office will work to expand access to and coordinate the state’s systems of high-quality early childhood development programs for children birth to age five. 

The new state-level office is Governor Kaine’s most recent commitment to providing a seamless continuum of services to Virginia’s youngest children and their families.  The impetus for the office’s development came from the state’s Start Strong Council, established by Governor Kaine early in his gubernatorial term to develop a plan to expand access to quality pre-kindergarten for Virginia’s four-year-olds.  In July 2007, the Council provided the governor with six recommendations regarding birth to five services, including the development of a state-level office to coordinate existing early childhood programs.  Additionally, in August 2006 Governor Kaine also established the Governor's Working Group on Early Childhood Initiatives, which brings together public and private partners to coordinate executive branch early childhood policy and programs.

The Office of Early Childhood Development will function under two government agencies: the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services.  The initial work of the office will involve examining the resources and programs housed within the two agencies that impact young children and their families.  In particular, they will look for ways to coordinate federal, state, and local funding streams to maximize their impact and ease the challenges faced by families seeking services across multiple government agencies.  The Office of Early Childhood Development is expected to become operational later in 2008.

Kathy Glazer has been named the Director of the Office of Early Childhood Development.  She is currently the Executive Director of the Governor's Working Group on Early Childhood Initiatives, and was a key advisor on Governor Kaine’s Start Strong initiative.    

Missouri Senate Passes Quality Rating System Legislation
April 14, 2008

On March 27th, the Missouri Senate passed legislation that would create a quality rating system for the state’s early childhood programs serving children birth to kindergarten.  The legislation (SB 726), introduced by Senate Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields (R-34), passed the chamber by a 19-14 vote.  If passed by the Missouri House of Representatives and signed into law by Governor Matt Blunt, implementation of the quality rating system would begin on September 1, 2008.

The Missouri Department of Social Services, in collaboration with the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Department of Mental Health, would be responsible for the creation and implementation of the new quality rating system.  The system would have three main goals:  provide information to consumers and parents so that they are able to evaluate and select high quality programs; create an accountability system for policymakers and those who fund early care and education programs; and guide providers as they attain increased levels of quality.  The rating system would be tiered, with the base level of quality for early care and education programs being licensure by the Department of Health and Senior Services, and the highest level being accreditation by a state or nationally recognized accrediting agency, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or Missouri Accreditation (MOA).

As part of implementation, the state would be required to promote and distribute materials to educate the public and providers about the quality rating system, as well as post the quality ratings of early care and education providers on the Internet. Additionally, by the end of 2009, the Missouri Coordinating Board for Early Childhood would develop a plan for a tiered system of reimbursement for child care subsidies based on the quality rating system. The Missouri Coordinating Board for Early Childhood was established by statute in 2005 to develop a comprehensive statewide strategic plan for a cohesive early childhood system and to identify legislative recommendations to improve services for children from birth through age five.

The legislation would also create a Quality Rating System Program Improvement Grant Fund to provide grants directly to providers seeking to improve the quality of care they provide to young children, or to community-based organizations assisting providers in improving quality.  These grants would be dependent upon appropriations of funds by the state legislature.

Similar legislation passed the Missouri Senate in 2007 and passed the Missouri House with several additional controversial amendments that inhibited the bill’s passage. The bill was blocked from being brought up for a vote in the Senate on the last day of the 2007 legislative session.

The current bill, SB 726, has passed out of the Senate and is waiting to be referred to committee in the House. A companion House Bill was introduced by Rep. Ward Franz (R-151), but has not advanced after it was approved in committee in late February.


Ohio Governor Allows Family Child Care Providers to Unionize

March 31, 2008

In February, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland signed an executive order which would give an estimated 10,000 child care providers the right to unionize.  The executive order applies to licensed large family child care homes or certified small family child care providers that serve families whose children receive child care subsidies.  Ohio joins many states, including New York, Maryland, Michigan, Kansas, and Pennsylvania, which have recently taken action to recognize the right of home-based child care providers to unionize. 

The unionization effort in Ohio has been led by Child Care Providers Together, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).  While the state regulates the rate of reimbursement for subsidized child care services, as well as licensing and certification requirements, each county in Ohio administers its own home-based child care provider program.  Consequently, Child Care Providers Together began to work toward state recognition for collective bargaining in 2005 by organizing providers locally at the county level.  In late 2006, at least two counties had passed resolutions that required county agencies to confer with the union.*  

With the passage of the executive order and formal recognition at the state level, Child Care Providers Together is now actively working to gather union cards and has called for an election to be recognized as the bargaining representative of the providers. The executive order stipulates that a union may request an election if they are able to demonstrate that 30 percent of the providers eligible to unionize request an election to select a bargaining unit.

The unionization in Ohio creates the opportunity for home-based child care providers to negotiate for higher pay, health benefits and increased professional development opportunities, which may increase the number of providers who remain in the child care field. These implications will consequently impact the children and families being served.

* National Women’s Law Center, Getting organized: Unionizing home-based child care providers, 2007.  http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/GettingOrganized2007.pdf.

New Jersey Legislature Passes Family Leave Legislation
March 17, 2008

On March 13th, the New Jersey General Assembly passed paid family-leave legislation (A873), taking a major step forward in supporting the state’s working families.  The legislation passed by the Assembly differed slightly from the version passed by the State Senate on March 4th (S786), so the bill must now return to the Senate for a vote and then be sent to Governor Jon Corzine for his signature.   The legislation sponsored in the Senate by Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Barbara Buono (D-18), and in the Assembly by Nelson Albano (D-1), Wayne Deangelo (D-14), Sheila Oliver (D-34), and Linda Greenstein (D-14), narrowly passed in both chambers. If signed into law, New Jersey would become the third state in the country, joining California and Washington, to offer paid leave to workers to care for sick relatives and newborn or adopted children.  

The family leave legislation would be implemented through the expansion of New Jersey’s temporary disability insurance program and would be financed through payroll deductions.  All workers in the state would pay up to 64 cents per week, or a maximum of $33 per year, to fund the program.  Workers taking leave would be able to receive two-thirds of their salary for six weeks, receiving a maximum of $524 per week.  Additionally, the legislation stipulates that companies with more than 50 employees must hold workers’ jobs while they are on leave, while it does not require smaller companies to do so.  Current federal law under the Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers in companies with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family and medical leave

Previously, the New Jersey state legislature considered paid family leave legislation in 2001, but the effort was derailed by business advocates who were in opposition to the passage of the bill.  More recently, Mr. Sweeney proposed a bill in 2007 that would have given workers 10 weeks of paid leave, but the legislation was defeated in December and compromises were made to create the current legislation.   If passed, the paid family leave law would take effect on January 1, 2009.


Connecticut Releases Infant-Toddler Systems Framework
March 3, 2008

Connecticut’s Early Childhood Education Cabinet has recently released “First Words, First Steps: Connecticut’s Infant-Toddler Systems Framework” which provides specific policy recommendations for the healthy development of the state’s infants and toddlers. The report was prepared by the Infant Toddler Working Group of the Connecticut Early Childhood Education Cabinet and presented during Governor M. Jodi Rell’s Early Childhood Summit in late January. 

Connecticut is one of ten states to receive a $10,000 grant from the National Governors Association to hold a Governor’s Summit on Early Learning this year.  The January summit marked the launch of the state’s plan to implement an infant-toddler policy agenda and highlighted Governor Rell’s focus on the first 1,000 days of life in preparing children for success in school and beyond.   Widely attended by hundreds of advocates, parents, business leaders, scholars and state and local policymakers, the summit provided a venue through which to discuss and disseminate the state’s new infant-toddler framework and policy recommendations.

The Infant Toddler Working Group worked with parents and national and state experts on early childhood, including ZERO TO THREE, to develop their recommendations for a comprehensive early childhood system in the state.  The working group focused on six key areas: maternal health, family support, physical and mental health, early care and education, early literacy, and systems innovation.  For each of the key areas, First Words, First Steps outlines the current research on the topic and provides policy recommendations based on this research.  All of the report’s findings and recommendation are based on four policy principles: families must be served within the context of their families and communities, the emphasis in the service continuum must be reoriented to prevention; service delivery needs to be consumer friendly and easy to navigate; and accountability and data-driven decision making are paramount to public trust.  Consequently, data will be collected on the policies and programs that result from the recommendations outlined in First Words, First Steps and this data will be used to inform future decision-making.

Legislators are currently taking up specific bills to implement the report’s recommendations.  One piece of legislation (Raised Bill 303) would require that the Department of Social Services, Department of Education, Department of Public Health, Department of Children and Families, and Children's Trust Fund sign a “master contract” for integrating and improving the services they provide to children birth to age 5 and their families. The contract would require the agencies to rely on research-based practices, align funding streams, adopt common outcomes for programs, and create protocols for working together with communities and providers.  Another piece of legislation (Raised Bill 340) would require that state agencies jointly develop an Early Childhood Integrated System of Care, which would bolster family strength and functioning with intensive case-management.  Taking a two-generation approach, the bill would provide home visiting services and support to both parents and their young children to address issues such as chronic poverty, maternal depression, and homelessness.  This integrated system of care would be based on the Child FIRST model used in Bridgeport, CT.  Both bills have been introduced by legislators and are awaiting further action.


Kansas Governor Proposes Significant Investments in Early Childhood

February 19, 2008

On January 14th, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius proposed a substantial investment in early childhood services during her State of the State address and budget recommendation.  The Governor proposed $27 million of new funding for children birth to five, including funding specifically to provide services to the state’s infants and toddlers.

A significant portion of the new funds proposed by Governor Sebelius would be used to expand early learning opportunities through the creation of an Early Childhood Block Grant.  Administered by the Children’s Cabinet, the funds would be granted to school districts, child care centers and homes, Early Head Start sites, Head Start sites and community-based programs to provide research-based programming for children birth to five.  The block grant emphasizes quality and accountability.  The grant process will focus on at-risk children and underserved areas in the state.  The new block grant would be funded with $23 million dollars for FY2009, at least 30% of which would be set-aside for infant and toddler programs. 

In addition to the new block grant funds, the budget recommends a proviso in the FY2009 Appropriations bill that would enhance coordination and collaboration of the state’s early childhood programs.  The proviso would require that the Children’s Cabinet use guidance from the Early Learning Coordinating Council to develop a transition to incorporate other state early childhood funding streams into the new block grant.  The proviso also would provide funds to hire an Early Childhood Program Specialist to assist in the coordination of the Early Childhood Block Grant and other implementation efforts.  The transition plan would be presented to the Governor and Legislature in January 2009.

The governor’s budget also provides funds to increase the quality of child care in the state, with a particular focus on collaboration with other early childhood partners.  A new statewide pilot program, initially funded with $500,000 in existing child care subsidy dollars, would be launched that encourages Head Start, Early Head Start and the Kansas Preschool Program to collaborate to blend funds for children in selected child care centers and family child care homes.   The pilot would aim to enhance the early learning environment of child care settings for at-risk children birth to five. 

The release of the governor’s budget recommendations is the first step in the state’s annual budget process. The budget recommendations will serve as a guide to the State Legislature as it works in the coming months to appropriate funds to state agencies for programming and operations.

MAY 2008 UPDATE: 
Kansas Legislature Approves Early Childhood Block Grant

In early May, the Kansas Legislature passed their state budget for FY 2009, including significant funding increases for early childhood.  The budget includes $11.1 million to establish the Kansas Early Childhood Block Grant, administered by the Kansas Children's Cabinet & Trust Fund, which will be used to support high quality programs for children birth to age five.  At least 30 percent of this funding will be set aside for programs serving infants and toddlers.  The FY 2009 budget also provides $1 million for early intervention services for infants and toddlers, as well as $2.3 million for newborn screening.

Georgia Provides INCENTIVES for Professional Development
January 22, 2008

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning recently distributed financial incentives to early care and education professionals throughout the state who have shown a commitment to enhancing their professional development. The INCENTIVES program is designed to encourage and reward eligible early care and education professionals for earning a credential or degree in the field, as well as tenure with their employer.  In November 2007, approximately $1.2 million was awarded to nearly 3,000 early care and education professionals through the program.

Based on research that demonstrates the importance of strong and consistent relationships with caregivers to a child’s healthy development, the INCENTIVES program provides four levels of financial incentives for early care and education professionals who have remained with the same employer for twelve consecutive months.  Participating providers are evaluated every six months for the incentives.  The first level of incentive awards providers $200 for attaining a Child Development Associate (CDA), a technical college certificate, or other early childhood care and education (ECE) credential. Georgia technical colleges offer several certificates including a program in infant and toddler care. The second level awards $375 to providers who earn a technical college diploma, which requires 70 or more hours of coursework. The third level awards $750 to providers who have earned an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education or Child Development, and the fourth level awards $1,000 to providers who attain a Bachelor or Master’s level degree in Early Childhood Education or Child Development.   Since 2001, the program has used more than $8.77 million in federal Child Care and Development Block Grant quality targeted funds to award approximately 4,600 early care and education professionals. By rewarding the state’s providers for both their longevity with their employer and their education attainment, the program encourages the high quality, continuous care that is so important to development in the early years.

To be eligible for the INCENTIVES program, early care and education professionals must be employed in a setting registered or licensed through Bright from the Start. Their child care center, group or family day care home must serve subsidized children, be nationally accredited, or state recognized. Additionally, participants must work at least 25 hours per week and earn less than $14.45 per hour.   The program is a key component of the Department’s professional development system, which includes a scholarship program for providers looking to increase their education attainment. The system tracks the professional development activities achieved by registered providers, guides and informs providers in developing their career path in early care and education, and allows providers to learn about high-quality professional development opportunities based on established professional competencies and Georgia’s Early Learning Standards. 

Alaska Makes Early Learning a Priority
January 7, 2008

Alaskan policymakers and leaders recently convened for Governor Sarah Palin’s Summit on Early Learning on December 5th and 6th, making another stride toward increasing the state’s investment in early learning.  The summit follows upon the release of early learning and literacy recommendations, developed in 2006 by the state’s Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force, which have guided the state’s work towards increased early investment.  Alaska is one of 10 states to receive a $10,000 grant from the National Governors Association to hold a Governor’s Summit on Early Learning this year.  The summit was supported by many partners of the Governor’s office, including Best Beginnings, a public-private collaborative effort providing leadership for Alaska's investment in its youngest citizens.  

Policymakers and leaders gathered at the summit to create recommendations for Governor Palin with three main goals: ensure that all children have access to quality early literacy and learning opportunities in and out of their homes; that these services are coordinated; and that parents and families have the support, resources and incentives to engage their young children in early learning.  During breakout sessions on the second day of the summit, small groups discussed each of these goals in-depth and began to develop strategies to accomplish them.  Topics discussed include formally coordinating services for children across state agencies, support for home visiting programs to reach families living in rural areas, improved access to child care support for families, and the implementation of the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (plan to be released in early 2008).  Based on the information collected at the summit, Best Beginnings, in collaboration with other partners, will make recommendations to Governor Palin early in 2008. 

Also at the summit, Governor Palin received the first copy of the state’s Early Learning Guidelines from the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services and the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development.  The Early Learning Guidelines are for children birth through five and are organized according to five domains of development: Physical Well-Being, Health, and Motor Development; Social and Emotional Development; Approaches to Learning; Cognition and General Knowledge; and Communication, Language, and Literacy.  The guidelines serve as a source document, informing parents and caregivers about expectations for children’s development and learning. Copies of the Early Learning Guidelines will be available in 2008 and a family-friendly version of these guidelines is in development.  Additionally, with support from the Alaska Children’s Trust, Best Beginnings will work to create family-friendly versions of the guidelines in languages other than English, including Spanish and Yupik, an Alaska Native language.

STATE AND COMMUNITY POLICY ROUNDUP: PROGRESS ON INFANT-TODDLER ISSUES ACROSS THE UNITED STATES
December 10, 2007

The ZERO TO THREE Policy Network works to keep members abreast of new and exciting infant-toddler legislation and initiatives happening across the country.  This article summarizes state and community policy activities featured in The Baby Monitor from July through December 2007, and provides highlights of the progress by some states and communities featured in the July 2007 State and Community Policy Roundup. 
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Wisconsin Advocates Push for Budget to Support Young Children
November 12, 2007

After months of intense advocacy efforts by state early care and education advocates, the Wisconsin state legislature passed its final budget bill for 2007-2009 on October 23, 2007, including many provisions that will affect the state’s infants, toddlers and their families.  The budget increases funding for Wisconsin Shares, the state’s child care subsidy program, and also provides for the expansion of the state children’s health insurance program, BadgerCare Plus, to serve more children and pregnant women.  The budget was signed into law by Governor Jim Doyle on October 26th.

Wisconsin Shares, which serves approximately 17,000 children under the age of three, enjoyed a substantial success in the state’s final budget, with a $69 million increase for the child care subsidy program over the 2007-2009 biennium.  At the outset of the state budget process, Governor Doyle proposed to minimally increase funding for Wisconsin Shares by $4 million, reduce family income eligibility levels, reduce payments to providers, and increase co-payments for families.  However, during the budget deliberations, the Legislature, with strong support from the state Senate, and the Governor eventually agreed to the $69 million increase, avoiding the need to create waiting lists, reduce eligibility levels, or reduce provider payments. The successes are due in part to advocacy efforts by the Wisconsin Early Learning Coalition, a statewide coalition consisting of twelve organizations dedicated to making quality early care and education a priority in Wisconsin.  Earlier this year, the coalition launched a statewide campaign, Ready, Set, Grow: Early Learning Matters, to push for full funding of the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program, and improve the quality of early care and education in the state.  Their advocacy efforts included hundreds of calls and e-mails to the Governor and legislators, a mail campaign through which over 1800 postcards were sent from parents and providers, art projects on early learning from local programs that were delivered to key legislators, and testimony by 26 advocates at public hearings on the budget.  In addition to the substantial increase for Wisconsin Shares, the budget also included an increase of $400,000 for child care scholarships that can be used to support Wisconsin’s infant-toddler credential. 

The final budget also included Governor Doyle’s plan for expanding Wisconsin’s children’s health insurance program, BadgerCare Plus.  Starting in February 2008, BadgerCare Plus will extend coverage to all children who are citizens, with subsidies for those in families below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.  Additionally, the budget extends health coverage to pregnant women between 185 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level, allowing more women to receive the prenatal care that is essential to the healthy birth and development of their babies. 

For more information on Wisconsin’s 2007-2009 budget, visit the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families at http://www.wccf.org/2007-09_statebudgetessentials.php.

Vermont Works Toward a Coordinated System for Young Children
October 29, 2007

Vermont’s Building Bright Futures Initiative is working to ensure that the state’s children are healthy and successful by building a system of coordinated and integrated services and funding for children birth to age six.  Established through an Executive Order by Governor Jim Douglas in June 2006, Building Bright Futures is governed by a State Council consisting of 19 members from the public and private sectors.  The State Council is charged with creating a comprehensive system of early childhood care, health and education, and advising state administrators and the Governor on early childhood policy.   In recent months, the State Council has made great strides by establishing 12 Regional Councils to develop regional plans to address early childhood program and funding coordination and integration.  Additionally, in September the State Council approved a primary school readiness indicator, with supporting indicators based on five domains of early childhood development, social-emotional development; approaches to learning; communication; cognitive development; and health and physical well-being.  These indicators will guide the development of regional plans to ensure that all children are ready for school when they enter kindergarten.

Based on the Early Childhood Councils that existed in the 12 regions throughout Vermont, the new Building Bright Futures Regional Councils will work at the community level to implement the State Council’s vision of a coordinated and integrated early childhood system. The Councils, each led by a Regional Director, will consist of members from both the public and private sectors, such as service providers, employers and parents.  The Regional Councils will guide a planning process resulting in regional action steps as well as recommendations of action to the State Council regarding policy and funding barriers to effective program and funding coordination and integration.  The regional plans will serve as a basis for a state plan to establish a coordinated and integrated early childhood system by addressing policy and funding issues. 

For more information on Building Bright Futures, visit: http://www.buildingbrightfutures.org/.


Texas Passes Child Welfare Reforms and Expands Nurse Home Visiting Program

October 1, 2007

The 80th Texas legislature demonstrated a strong commitment to improving child welfare in the state during the 2007 session by passing multiple reform bills and authorizing a substantial increase of funds for Child Protective Services and Early Childhood Intervention Services.  Among the measures that will impact infants and toddlers are an increase in funds to support state compliance with federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) laws, which will allow 15% more children under the age of three in the child welfare system to be screened for developmental delays, and a $7.9 million bill to expand the Nurse-Family Partnership home visiting program. The home visiting bill, cosponsored by state Senator Florence Shapiro (R-8) and Representative Jerry Madden (R-67), will bring prevention services to low-income, first-time parents throughout the state.  Governor Ricky Perry signed the bill into law on June 15th and it is effective as of September 1st.  

The Nurse-Family Partnership is a nurse-home visitation program that improves the health, well-being and self-sufficiency of low-income, first-time parents and their children.  Through regular home visits, trained nurses deliver services to families to improve pregnancy outcomes, child health and development, and maternal life course development.  The program is currently being implemented in 22 states and has been piloted in Texas by the Greater Dallas YWCA.   With the passage of the new legislation, Nurse-Family Partnership programs will be implemented in 11 new sites across the state, serving at least 2,000 families. 

The new programs will begin working with participating mothers by the 28th week of pregnancy and will continue through the child’s second year.  Both public and private agencies will be eligible to apply to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to be selected as one of the sites through a competitive grant process.  HHSC, in consultation with the Nurse-Family Partnership National Service Office, will issue a Request for Proposals this fall.  Both HHSC and Nurse-Family Partnership are actively conducting outreach to communities throughout Texas to prepare them for the grant opportunity.

Home visiting programs offer information, guidance, and support directly to families in their home environments, eliminating many of the scheduling, employment, and transportation barriers that might otherwise prevent families from taking advantage of necessary services.  Evaluations of some home visiting programs, such as the Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers and Healthy Families, demonstrate that they can improve parenting skills, foster increased parental self-confidence, and help lay the foundation for children’s later success in school.  Within the context of a comprehensive system of services that provide a prenatal through pre-kindergarten continuum, home visiting can be an effective service delivery method to intervene early in the life of a child at risk for poor development to help minimize the impacts of these risks. 

For more information on home visiting, read ZERO TO THREE’s policy fact sheet: Home Visiting: Supporting Babies and Families Where They Live.


Mississippi Public/Private Partnership Helps Programs Increase Quality
September 4, 2007

The Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute was recently awarded a grant from Mississippi Power to improve the quality of center-based care for young children in the company’s service areas that were affected by Hurricane Katrina.  The private investment will be used to create the new initiative, The Mississippi Power Early Learning Program, which will offer technical assistance to licensed child care centers to help them improve quality to prepare for the state’s new quality rating system, the Mississippi Child Care Quality Step System.  The initiative is funded with $450,000 over three years, and in the first year will provide services to a maximum of 20 child care centers in Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson counties on the Mississippi coast.

The Mississippi Power Early Learning Program will build on MSU Early Childhood Institute’s extensive assistance to early childhood programs affected by Hurricane Katrina that began in 2005.  The initiative will include individual technical assistance to participating child care centers, as well as professional development workshops conducted with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Child Care Resource and Referral Agency on topics such as age-appropriate learning activities, curriculum development, socio-emotional development, and early learning guidelines. The program will also provide five public awareness programs for interested families and providers at civic meetings in communities with participating centers.

The initiative’s work to improve the quality of care will help participating child care centers earn high quality ratings in the new Mississippi Child Care Quality Step System.  The quality rating system is linked to the state’s child care subsidies, and includes five components of quality improvement: program administration, professional qualifications of staff, child learning environment, family involvement, and program evaluation.  It is currently being piloted in nine counties through September 30, 2007, and will expand to the Golden Triangle, North Central, and Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development Districts during its second year.

For more information on the Mississippi Power Early Learning Program, visit http://www.earlychildhood.msstate.edu/news/7-6-07_MSpower.htm.
For more information on Mississippi Child Care Quality Step System, visit http://www.qualitystep.msstate.edu/.

 

Maine Weaves Together Components for an Infant Toddler System
August 20, 2007

The Infant Toddler Initiative Team in Maine is a unique collaboration designed to improve the services and supports available to Maine’s youngest children and their families.  The team, created in 2003 through a grant from the National Infant & Toddler Child Care Initiative, includes diverse representation from the state’s early care and education field (e.g., the University of Maine at Farmington, Maine Community College, non-profit partners, and government agencies).   Currently, the Infant Toddler Initiative Team is working to implement the components of a quality early care and education system for Maine, including Infant Toddler Guidelines, a quality rating system that includes infants and toddlers, and an infant toddler credential.  The team also raises public awareness about the needs of infants and toddlers through an annual awareness day in Augusta. 

The Infant Toddler Team recently published and disseminated Maine’s Infant Toddler Guidelines, which provide a research-based framework for new parents, early childhood professionals, and policymakers to better understand development and early learning for children birth through age three. The guidelines also offer suggestions about optimal environments for infants and toddlers and interactions that promote healthy development and learning.  To support the implementation of the guidelines throughout the state, the Infant Toddler Team developed a 30-hour training curriculum.  Using this curriculum, the Early Childhood Division of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services recently completed a “train the trainers” event, and early childhood professionals will begin to be trained on the guidelines this fall.  Additionally, the Infant Toddler guidelines have been fully integrated into the state’s new quality rating system that includes infants and toddlers.  The new system was piloted in five counties during spring 2007, and providers began to sign-up to participate through an online pilot this summer.  It is slated to be implemented statewide this fall. 

One of the next steps for the Infant Toddler Initiative Team will be the implementation of an infant toddler credential for Maine’s early childhood professionals.   The credential will have three tiers, with the first tier based on the infant and toddler trainings that are already being offered throughout the state.  By January 2008, providers will be able to earn the tier I credential through the professional development registry at Maine Roads to Quality, the state’s early care and education career development system.  The Infant Toddler Initiative Team is also working with Maine Community College to implement the tier II credential, which will be awarded to providers with an Associate’s Degree who take an additional four college courses related to infant toddler care and education.  Finally, the tier III credential will be available for providers who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in a related field and pursue more advanced professional development.

For more information about Maine’s Infant Toddler Guidelines, visit: http://www.maine.gov/education/fouryearold/documents/infantsandtoddlersguidelines.pdf.

Louisiana Passes School Readiness Tax Credit Package
August 6, 2007

Louisiana has passed an innovative school readiness tax credit bill which will assist families and child care providers with the costs associated with higher quality care for the state’s young children.  The bill, which closely ties the tax credits to the state’s child care Quality Rating System, passed the state legislature in June and was signed into law by Governor Kathleen Blanco on July 10th. 

The comprehensive tax package will support and increase quality child care through tax credits to parents, businesses, providers, and child care professionals.  Each of the four tax credits is refundable, which means the credit can be greater than an individual’s tax liability and may be received as a payment even if an individual does not owe any taxes.*  

The tax credit to parents will be made available to families with a child under the age of six who is enrolled in child care. It will be based upon the quality rating of the child care center that the child attends. The credit for one child ranges from $263 for a two star child care center, to $1,050 for a five star center.  A family may receive a maximum of $2,100 for two or more children enrolled in care.  The tax credit to business will be available to employers that support quality care in three ways: by constructing, renovating or expanding a facility; making payments to an eligible child care center; or by subsidizing child care for their employees.  This credit will also be tied to the quality rating of the child care center, and cannot exceed $5,000 per year. 

Additionally, the tax package will help care child providers offset the costs of improving their services, such as higher wages for trained staff.  The tax credit to providers is designed to increase access to quality care for low income children.  This credit is based on the quality rating of a provider’s center and on the number of children served by the center that are in Louisiana’s child care subsidy program.  The credit ranges from $750 per eligible child at a two star center to $1,500 per eligible child at a five star center.  Finally, the tax credit to child care professionals will be available to child care directors and staff based on increased levels of educational attainment to help address the issue of retaining quality staff.  This credit ranges from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the level of qualifications met.

The tax credit legislation was enacted largely due to a strong joint advocacy effort led by BrightStart, the state’s Early Childhood Comprehensive System grant initiative, and the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families.  In all, a large and diverse group of more than 24 children’s organizations, foundations, government watchdog entities, and lobbyists worked together to move the bill towards passage.

*The tax credit to parents is refundable for families earning less than $25,000.

STATE AND COMMUNITY POLICY ROUNDUP: PROGRESS ON INFANT-TODDLER ISSUES ACROSS THE UNITED STATES
July 23, 2007 

The ZERO TO THREE Policy Network works to keep members abreast of new and exciting infant-toddler legislation and initiatives happening across the country.  This article summarizes state and community policy activities during the first six months of 2007 and provides updates on the progress states and communities are making in their efforts to serve infants, toddlers and their families.
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Minnesota Passes Budget to Support Young Children
June 25, 2007

The Minnesota Legislature demonstrated a commitment to early care and education in the 2007 legislative session with the passage of a budget that supports young children and their families.   While the $38.6 million dedicated to early childhood amounts to only 1% of the overall state budget, the law includes significant gains for infants and toddlers, such as funding to support home visiting, family friend and neighbor care providers, quality child care, early learning, and parent education.  After initially vetoing the Health and Human Services and E-12 Education budget bills, Governor Tim Pawlenty recently signed into law revised bills that provide funding for 2008-2009.

The budget includes $8.8 million for home visiting programs targeted for low-income families to foster healthy beginnings, promote school readiness, prevent child abuse and neglect, and promote positive parenting, among other outcomes.  Funding for the initiative will flow to community health boards, which will be required to use a multidisciplinary, community-based approach to home visiting and begin the visits with families prenatally, where possible.  The state Department of Human Services will also be required to set aside funding to provide training and technical assistance to the home visitors, including training on early childhood development from birth to age five.  Funds for the initiative, taken from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal block grant, are also promised for 2010-2011.

Another large gain in the 2008-2009 budget includes $750,000 for a family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) competitive grant program, marking the first time the legislature has provided money for this type of care.  The grant program will fund community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, and Indian tribes working with FFN providers to connect them with community resources to support the families’ health, mental health and developmental needs.  The money may also be used to provide training, support and resources to the providers, as well as information on Minnesota’s early learning guidelines, the requirements to become a licensed family care provider, and culturally appropriate training.
 
In addition to the significant funds dedicated to the home visiting initiative and the new FFN grant program, the budget will benefit infants, toddlers and their families by: restoring funding for Early Childhood Family Education (a parental education program), Head Start, and Early Head Start back to 2003 levels; reducing parent co-pays for child care; improving child care quality and facilities; and improving access to professional development for child care providers. 

For more information on Minnesota’s early childhood budget gains, visit the Ready 4 K website at http://www.ready4k.org/.

New York Gives Home-Based Child Care Providers the Right to Unionize
June 11, 2007

Freshman Governor Eliot Spitzer signed an historical executive order on May 8th that gives an estimated 60,000 home-based child care providers the right to unionize.  The executive order allows all licensed and registered family child care providers to organize, as well as family, friend, and neighbor care providers serving families whose children are receiving child care subsidies.  New York is the eighth state in the country to give this right to home-based providers, joining Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. 

The drive to unionize these providers in New York has been ongoing for the past two years, largely pushed by groups such as the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).  CSEA, which organizes many state employees, has been working to organize home-based providers in multiple counties statewide, while UFT and ACORN have worked to organize subsidized child care providers in New York City. (See NWLC’s report, “Getting organized: Unionizing home-based child care providers.”)  Additionally, the state legislature passed legislation in the spring of 2006 that allowed home-based providers to organize and collectively bargain with the state.  This bill was vetoed by former governor George Pataki, on the basis that providers would be considered state employees and therefore afforded the same benefits.  The executive order signed by Governor Spitzer clearly outlines that these providers are not considered public employees and will be able to organize and negotiate with the state.  Union elections are expected to take place this summer.

Based on the experiences of other states, the new unionization in New York creates the opportunity for home-based child care providers to negotiate for higher pay, health benefits and increased professional development opportunities, which may increase the number of providers who remain in the child care field. These implications will consequently impact the children and families being served. 

For more information on the unionization of home-based child care providers across the country, visit the National Women’s Law Center (http://www.nwlc.org/) and read their report, “Getting organized: Unionizing home-based child care providers.”


Washington Makes Young Children and Their Families a Priority
May 29, 2007

Washington State is making strides for infants and toddlers during this legislative session.  In early May, Governor Chris Gregoire signed paid family leave legislation into law, making Washington the second state in the country, in addition to California, to ensure that workers receive paid leave to care for newborn and newly adopted children.  Additionally, the final state budget for 2007-2009 includes increased investments to support the healthy development of infants and toddlers, and their families.

The broad-based Washington Family Leave Coalition, led by the Economic Opportunity Institute, has been working since the late 1980s to promote paid family and sick leave in the state.  During the 2007 legislative session, they worked closely with Senator Karen Keiser (D-33), Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36), and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-3), to champion the paid family leave bill through the state legislature.  The new law provides up to five weeks of paid family leave per year and a weekly stipend of $250 for workers to care for a newborn baby or newly adopted child.  Additionally, the law requires that employers with more than 25 employees hold workers’ jobs while they are on leave.  While the Senate version of the legislation funded the program through a payroll tax and included paid leave to care for seriously ill family members, the legislation that was passed into law did not determine how the program would be funded and omitted leave for seriously ill family members.  A task force consisting of a bipartisan group of legislators, representatives from the business, labor, and family leave communities, as well as a governor’s appointee, will be formed and given six months to look at financing options.  Family leave benefits for Washington’s workforce will start in October 2009, covering all employees and all employers, as well as self-employed who elect to participate.

Also in early May, the state legislature passed its final budget for 2007 through 2009 and again showed a commitment to family support, as well as early learning.  The budget includes funds for parent-support workshops, voluntary home visiting for pregnant mothers and new parents, incentives for higher education and wages for child care workers, and a new voluntary quality rating system for child care programs, to be piloted in at least four counties.  Additionally, the state budget includes funds to fulfill a new collective bargaining agreement with family child care workers, as well as parity for licensed child care centers not included in the agreement, to include rate increases for those providers caring for subsidized low-income children, and higher payments for infant care.

For more information on the paid family leave law, visit http://www.eoionline.org/
For more information on the 2007-2009 state budget, visit http://www.childrensalliance.org/

Ohio Brings State Agencies Together in New Early Childhood Cabinet
May 14, 2007

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland recently fulfilled a campaign promise by establishing a new Early Childhood Cabinet that will bring together key state agencies working with children, from prenatal through age six.  The announcement of the new cabinet is a follow-up to Governor Strickland’s State of the State address in which he highlighted early education and child care programs, and is evidence of the new governor’s commitment to Ohio’s youngest children.

The establishment of the new cabinet acknowledges the need for a consistent system of care for Ohio’s children, so that they can receive the services they need to be healthy and safe, and to have positive early learning experiences.  The new cabinet is charged with setting and coordinating state policy and programs for young children, and aims to lessen the challenges families face when seeking services from multiple agencies.  The Early Childhood Cabinet will be comprised of leaders from six state agencies:  Job and Family Services, Education, Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health, and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.  Governor Strickland has appointed Alicia Leatherman, the former Executive Director of Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association, as the Early Care and Education Director.  The cabinet held their first meeting on May 9th with the goal of reviewing the vision for Ohio’s children, the mission of the Cabinet and the elements of the early childhood system in Ohio.

Governor Strickland is committed to engaging a range of stakeholders in the decision-making process from the very beginning.  The cabinet will build upon existing infant-toddler initiatives in the state, including Build Ohio, Groundwork, the School Readiness Solutions Group, and the Ohio Family and Children First Council.  These organizations and programs are making great strides in improving and coordinating services for Ohio’s infants and toddlers, providing a solid foundation for the cabinet to begin its work. The cabinet will also build upon recommendations from a team of early childhood stakeholders convened to serve as a resource for early care and education during Governor Strickland’s transition into his first term. 

Indiana Takes Local Quality Rating System Statewide
April 30, 2007

The administration of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has announced plans to create a statewide quality rating system for child care.  The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and the state’s Bureau of Child Care is planning to implement a quality rating system, which will be based on the local Paths to QUALITY system.  This decision comes after the state legislature’s 2006 increase in child care funding for low-income families, indicating that the state is focusing on the quality of care available, in addition to accessibility. 

To develop their plan for a statewide quality rating system, the state convened a meeting of stakeholders and examined the models which already existed right in their own backyard.  Following an in-depth investigation, they discovered a model program, Paths to QUALITY, and decided to expand it.  Paths to QUALITY was created by the Child Care and Early Education Partnership, a group of local organizations that advocate for quality child care, and is currently being implemented by the Early Childhood Alliance in six northeastern counties.  The four-tiered voluntary rating system aims not only to ensure that parents can make informed decisions about their child’s care, but also to provide professional development incentives and opportunity for child care programs.  The rating system also includes an innovative one-on-one mentoring program for providers working towards increasing their quality of care. 

The statewide Paths to QUALITY system will be launched in January 2008 and will be funded through a public/private partnership, including an estimated $14 million from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).  The quality rating system will be administered by the Indiana Bureau of Child Care, and training for participating programs will be provided through the Indiana Association of Child Care Resource and Referral.  The state hopes that 50% of child care centers and 25% of home-based care providers will participate in the new system during the first year.  Soon after, the state will launch an educational campaign informing parents and communities about the importance of quality care and assessment.  Additionally, the state has plans to increase the coordination of services for young children from birth through kindergarten by aligning the quality rating system with Foundations for Education, Indiana’s birth-to-five framework that promotes quality early childhood experiences.

Learn more about Paths to QUALITY at http://www.pathstoquality.org/.
Learn more about the Early Childhood Alliance at http://www.ecalliance.org/.

Wyoming Passes Legislation to Implement Quality Care System
By Deanna Frey, Wyoming Children’s Action Alliance
April 16, 2007

In early 2007, the Wyoming Legislature approved legislation to implement a quality care system to improve the lives and futures for Wyoming children and families.  This legislation built upon both the recommendations of the Wyoming Children and Families Initiative, launched by Governor Dave Freudenthal and the Wyoming state legislature in 2004, as well as two comprehensive studies that examined the quality of child care across the state, the capacity in care facilities, and Wyoming’s anticipated need for child care in the next ten years.  The passage of the quality child care system legislation followed two years of consistent and coordinated advocacy efforts by citizens across the state, which played a critical role in garnering support for the initiative. 

Specifically, the proposed quality child care system provides for:

* An increase in child care subsidy payments to families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level at the 75th percentile of the 2006 market rate;
* An additional payment of $1.40 per hour subsidy payment for families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level for infant care (children birth through twelve months);
* An additional payment of $1.00 per hour subsidy payment for families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level for toddler care (children twelve months to twenty four months);
* A professional development scholarship program for child care providers who provide care to low income families;
* A family strengthening program;
* Technical assistance to child care providers; and
* A parent education/public awareness program.

The system, which will be implemented beginning in July 2007, will support low-income working families in the state through subsidy payments, supplemental subsidy payments for families who have infants and toddlers, and through the opportunity to participate in family strengthening programs.  Child care providers will be given the opportunity to increase their skills and knowledge through a substantial training and educational scholarship program.  In addition, child care homes and centers will receive support to improve the learning environment through technical assistance.

The passage of this legislation was a success for advocates and a significant step forward for Wyoming’s children and families.  However, noticeably missing from this legislation is a quality rating system that would ensure families have the information they need to locate a high quality child care program for their children.  Advocates across the state will spend the coming year continuing to develop a proposal for this quality rating system that can be presented to the legislature in the 2008 session.

Arkansas Makes Child Maltreatment Prevention Central to
Quality Care

April 2, 2007

As one of seven states taking part in the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Strengthening Families Initiative, Arkansas is working to increase the integration of child abuse and neglect prevention in the state’s early childhood system.  One innovative way in which Arkansas has done this is by including consideration of child abuse and neglect prevention strategies, called “protective factors”, as part of their quality rating system.  Recognizing that high quality care must include key aspects of family support in order to help reduce the risk of child maltreatment, Arkansas leaders offer trainings on the use of the Strengthening Families self-assessment tool, which helps programs measure how they are implementing strategies specific to strengthening families and helping prevent child abuse and neglect.  By including the Strengthening Families self-assessment tool as a key part of their child care quality rating system, Arkansas is taking a step toward ensuring that family strengthening and child abuse and neglect prevention are central to quality care.

Combining funding from the Alliance for Children’s Trust Funds, the Arkansas Children’s Trust Fund, and the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, Arkansas is working with ZERO TO THREE to develop an online training module that supports child care center directors in using the Strengthening Families self-assessment tool.  The online training is based on ZERO TO THREE’s Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: Parent-Provider Partnerships in Child Care curriculum (PCAN).  This curriculum prepares trainers to guide child care professionals in adopting proactive strategies in their programs to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. 

To further expand Arkansas’s readiness to support child care programs in building their capacity to play a role in prevention of child maltreatment, in early 2007 the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education also supported the training of a core team in attending a DC-based PCAN training of trainers.  Participants in this training have formed the foundation cohort for an infant/toddler specialist network throughout the state. 

Arkansas will continue to build this specialist network by joining eleven other states in the new State Partnerships for Prevention: Reducing the Risk of Maltreatment of Very Young Children project at ZERO TO THREE.  Through this project up to 30 additional trainers in Arkansas will learn to use the PCAN curriculum.  These trainers will then work with child care providers throughout Arkansas to train them on the role they play in the prevention of child maltreatment.

For more information on the Strengthening Families Initiative, visit http://www.cssp.org/doris_duke/index.html.
For more information on the PCAN curriculum, visit www.zerotothree.org/pcanbook.
For information about PCAN training for trainers, and other ZERO TO THREE trainings, visit www.zerotothree.org and click Training. 
 

Pennsylvania Launches Office of Child Development and Early Learning
January 8, 2007

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell recently announced  the creation of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL).  This office brings programs involved with early learning and child development, previously located in the departments of Education and Public Welfare, together in one office.  Programs will include Head Start, pre-kindergarten programs, early intervention (Part C programs and preschool early intervention programs), child care, family support, and similar programs.

This innovative Office of Child Development and Early Learning will function as an office on the organization charts of both the Department of Education and the Department of Public Welfare.  The structure will encourage collaboration and create a consistent system of services for Pennsylvania’s children and families.  In particular, shared governance should enhance service coordination and ease the challenges faced by families seeking access to multiple services.

This strategy recognizes that families seek the support of a wide range of government agencies in raising young children and helping them become ready for school.  Staff of the newly created office will be working over the next six months, with the input of stakeholder groups, to integrate programs and come to full operation.

State Policy Roundup: Progress on Infant-Toddler Policy Across the United States
December 11, 2006
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Do you want to know about promising state and community initiatives that support the healthy development of infants, toddlers and their families?  If so, read this article now, which summarizes the new and exciting infant-toddler legislation and campaigns happening across the country.  The article describes these state and community efforts and provides updates on the progress they are making in their efforts to serve infants, toddlers and their families.

Washington DC, Creates Task Force to Promote Early Childhood Agenda
November 27, 2006

The District of Columbia is committed to ensuring that a comprehensive agenda be implemented to improve the lives of infants and toddlers.  On March 15, 2006, the District of Columbia’s Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Early Childhood Development created the Task Force on Strategic Planning for Infant and Toddler Development.  The effort is led by The Children’s Project founder Joan Lombardi (Task Force Chair) and Barbara Ferguson Kamara (Administrator, District of Columbia Early Care and Education Administration) and will provide incoming Mayor Adrian Fenty with recommendations on how to improve supports and services for infants and toddlers in the District.

The task force has convened twice this year to document the needs of families in the District, map the services that are available for families in need, and research programs and initiatives for infants and toddlers. The primary recommendations of the task force focus on the concepts of good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences. Draft recommendations have gone to the task force with the goal of submitting final recommendations to the Mayor’s office before the end of the year. We will provide more details about the final recommendations when the report is complete.

North Carolina Focuses on New Trainings and Technical Assistance Programs for Early Childhood Care & Education
November 13, 2006

North Carolina is making a new commitment to improving the quality of care and the breadth of knowledge for Technical Assistance (TA) professionals in the early childhood arena. A multi-agency collaborative of stakeholders is working together to implement a comprehensive set of trainings for TA providers. Also, a group of TA providers have implemented the “Quality Circle.”  The Quality Circle is a partnership between North Carolina and South Carolina to develop an association for technical assistance providers to share information, network with one another, and stay up-to-date on state issues and events.

Various stakeholders, including North Carolina’s Division of Child Development, the Office of School Readiness, and the North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC), are sponsoring a set of courses for TA providers to better prepare them to assist early care and education professionals transitioning to North Carolina’s revised two-component star rating system. As a part of this preparation, the Division of Child Development (DCD) is sponsoring trainings that include a series of intensive Environment Rating Scales with an assessment system for certifying that the participants can use the scale with at least 75% reliability. Furthermore, DCD and NCPC are providing an introductory course and a more intensive course to the Partnerships for Inclusion on-site consultation model to help providers gain effective consultation skills.

This series will also include training on the Program Administrative Scales; an assessment instrument used for center directors and family child care providers that are interested in improving their business management skills.  The state is providing additional training on the use of Foundations -- North Carolina’s early learning standards. As various organizations and departments move forward in their planning for the coming months, this series of trainings will be evaluated to determine if these are the kinds of skills that technical assistance providers need to hold or acquire in order to be most effective.  The state has learned a great deal through the implementation of the technical assistance program, and is moving forward in the pilot training process in an effort to further enrich the quality of early childhood experiences for young children.

Oklahoma Pilots Public-Private Collaboration to Expand Early Learning Opportunities for Young Children
October 30, 2006

During the 2006 session, the Oklahoma state legislature appropriated funds to the Department of Education for an innovative new public-private early childhood pilot program. This one-year pilot program makes Oklahoma one of the few states collaborating with the private sector to provide comprehensive, quality early learning services for young children. The state committed up to $5 million in funding that requires a 2:1 match of $10 million from the private sector. The pilot program will enhance the quality of care for over 500 children, and provide additional slots for nearly 150 young children in the state.

The grant contract was awarded to the Community Action Project of Tulsa County, and Smart Start Oklahoma is providing project coordination.  Through efforts led by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, other philanthropic donors committed to equal opportunity for low-income families are rounding out the budget for the pilot. Grants will be awarded to programs in both rural and urban locations to provide full-day, full-year care for children birth to three years of age from low-income families.

To ensure that programs receiving funding provide high quality early learning experiences that are developmentally appropriate for young children, grantees who participate in the pilot must meet Early Head Start performance standards and begin the process for NAEYC accreditation. Furthermore, there must be a lead teacher with a bachelor’s degree for every two classrooms, assistant teachers with an associate’s degree, and teacher aides with a Child Development Associate (CDA) degree. There also must be a family support specialist for every 50 families.  While most of the programs initially applying for funding are Early Head Start grantees currently meeting performance standards, the program hopes to include other child care providers in the pilot as well.

Tennessee Continues to Make Strides in Promoting the Quality of Care for Infants and Toddlers
October 2, 2006

Tennessee continues to move forward with its commitment to serving the needs of infants and toddlers by ensuring that providers across the state have access to training and technical assistance that promotes developmentally appropriate environments for young children. Since the late 1990s, the state has been pioneering systems for providing quality early learning experiences for infants and toddlers through the Tennessee Child Care Resource and Referral Network and the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance. Now public and private sector champions for young children are working together to further strengthen the state’s system of services.

In recent months, the state has created a state-level infant-toddler champion position within the Department of Human Services. This person serves as a liaison for various stakeholders in early learning and is charged with convening representatives within numerous arenas to help promote a coordinated system. While this work is only in the beginning phases of implementation, the long-term goal for the work of the infant-toddler champion is to heighten the awareness of Tennessee’s state-level commissioners about the importance of issues that affect the development of young children with early care and education settings. Furthermore, the person in this role will merge departmental interests in young children, and create a collaborative, cohesive system.

The Tennessee Child Care Resource and Referral Network, which is managed by Signal Centers, Inc, continues to expand the scope and range of their infant-toddler specialists in Tennessee. The state, which currently has eight full-time and one quarter time specialist, is laying the foundation to increase to eleven full-time specialists, which will allow one specialist to serve each of the eleven child care resource and referral agencies. One of the major strengths of the infant-toddler specialist system in Tennessee is its emphasis on the quality rating system for child care providers. Tennessee is the only state in the country that mandates annual assessment of all providers through the Environment Rating Scale.

As a result, all infant-toddler specialists are required to have completed, or be actively working towards, PITC certification and complete a national Creative Curriculum For Infants And Toddlers training. This model of certification has allowed the resource and referral agencies to develop a train the trainer model, in which providers can get comprehensive training and technical assistance on how to improve the ITERS-R scores for the early care and education settings. In addition, Signal Centers has recently launched a pilot program in northeastern Tennessee in which the local resource and referral agency will work with the infant-toddler specialist to help child care providers maintain their quality rating status by targeting areas where they are low scoring on the ITERS-R assessment.

Partnership Is Key to Connecticut’s Commitment to Early Childhood
September 5, 2006

Connecticut is continuing to move forward with an agenda that demonstrates support for the development of young children. In recent years, policymakers and stakeholders have worked to build a comprehensive early childhood system in Connecticut under the umbrella of Connecticut’s Early Childhood Partners, a coalition of various state agencies, community organizations and direct service providers. The basic framework for these system building efforts is derived from the concept that families, communities, and schools must be supported by the state through policy, resource allocation, and public accountability. As a result, Connecticut has made a commitment to establish itself as a partner with various stakeholders to identify priority needs and develop statewide investment plans and strategies.

The Early Childhood Partners seek to support the development of strong local collaborative structures, to develop comprehensive service systems for families and young children and to organize state level programs and resources to support this work. As a part of these efforts earlier this year Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Early Childhood Research and Policy Council, which will include a diverse body of leaders from business, education, philanthropy, and government. The council was charged with a range of tasks designed to complement and support the work of the state’s Early Childhood Education Cabinet, convened last year to form a strategic plan to ensure that every child in Connecticut enters school ready to learn.

While the work of the Early Childhood Partners is ongoing, the most recent information disseminated reflects commitments to young children as a part of their policy agenda. The state’s implementation plan currently includes recommendations for the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for infants and toddlers; expansion of eligibility categories in their birth-to-3 program to include mild developmental delays and environmental risks; and the creation of birth-to-five councils for planning and monitoring early childhood services. Over the next few months, the Early Childhood Research and Policy Council will review various policy recommendations, which will be integrated into the evolving work plan, and recommendations will be made to Governor Rell with the intention of presenting a final plan at a Governor’s Summit on Early Childhood Investment before the end of the year.

Michigan’s Budget Demonstrates a Commitment to Young Children
August 21, 2006

Last week Michigan’s governor, Jennifer Granholm, approved the state budget passed by the state legislature in late July. The final budget for fiscal year 2007 contained additional funding for programs that benefit young children. The budget includes approximately $1.6 million in new funding for the Intermediate School Districts Parent Involvement Grants. These competitive grants will focus on expanding high quality early childhood services, with particular attention to programs that address early learning and parenting. Furthermore, the legislature appropriated $1 million for the local Great Start Collaboratives, which are statewide groups aimed at coordinating public and private efforts to improve the early childhood systems.

The final budget also includes a $1.5 million increase in funding to the Department of Education’s School Aid contribution to the 0-3 Secondary Prevention program. The 0-3 Secondary Prevention program is administered by the Children’s Trust Fund and provides funding to communities in order to prevent the maltreatment of very young children. Services provided under the program are designed to foster positive parenting skills, improve parent-child interaction, increase local capacity to serve families at-risk, and support healthy family environments that discourage alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.
Children's Trust Fund Fact Sheet [ 119 KB Icon_pdf ]

In addition, $400,000 was appropriated for an expansion of the Nurse Family Partnership program, in an effort to curb problems of infant mortality in the state. The Nurse Family Partnership is a nurse home visitation program aimed at improving the health, well-being and self-sufficiency of low-income, first-time parents and their children.

Massachusetts Budget Increases Funds for Infants & Toddlers
August 7, 2006

Last week, the Massachusetts legislature finalized its budget, which created important funding opportunities for programs that support young children and their families. The budget included an additional $100,000 for the Department of Early Education and Care to develop core competencies for those working on early education programs. Additionally, the budget included a $3 million scholarship fund for early childhood educators in the state to further build the quality of the early childhood field.

The budget also included an increase of $1 million in Head Start funding, which goes towards providing funding for the 32 Head Start grantees in the state. Among those grantees are 12 programs that serve infants and toddlers through Early Head Start. Currently, the legislative language prevents grantees who have not previously received funding from the state to apply for additional funds.

State Policy Roundup: Progress on Infant-Toddler Issues Across the United States
July 24, 2006
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During the last six months, the ZERO TO THREE Policy Network has worked to keep members abreast of new and exciting infant-toddler legislation and campaigns happening across the country. This article summarizes these efforts and provides updates on the progress states are making in their efforts to serve infants, toddlers and their families. Read this article now! 

Kansas Makes Substantial Gains for Early Head Start
July 10, 2006

Kansas is demonstrating its leadership when it comes to investing in early childhood, particularly through its commitment to Early Head Start (EHS). There are currently 13 Early Head Start programs in 32 Kansas counties which provide services to more than 800 children and their families each year. Services are delivered through home visits, center-based child care and family child care homes. 

Last month, the Kansas legislature approved the Early Head Start state budget for fiscal year 2007, and once again made a substantial commitment to young children.  The new budget included a $1.8 million increase for Kansas Early Head Start, based on recommendations from the governor's budget proposal.  As a result of the additional funding, Early Head Start grantees in Kansas will have access to funds that allow them to serve an additional 192 infants and toddlers.

Consequently, the state’s Early Head Start waiting list will decrease by nearly 25 percent, leaving approximately 200 children on waiting lists for the 13 Kansas EHS programs. Unfortunately, the expansion will not provide funding for any additional counties, meaning that there are still seventy counties in the state that have absolutely no EHS services.

California First 5 Commissions Advocate for Early Childhood/Family Mental Health Systems
June 26, 2006

California’s county-level First 5 commissions receive funds raised through a tobacco tax initiative. The funds are dedicated to promoting child development prenatally through age 5. The county commissions have funded a wide range of projects to support the development of young children, including programs focusing on health, school readiness, family support, and children’s social-emotional health.

Nine of these California County First 5 Commissions (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, San Francisco, Solano, Sonoma, and Santa Clara) and their community partners have recently formed a learning community on early childhood/family mental health services. The commissions came together in April with each county team sharing accomplishments, barriers, and results they expect to achieve. Small groups discussed issues of funding, collaboration, training and system innovation.

Among the many successes of the individual commissions has been their ability to garner additional funding for early childhood mental health services, especially by using EPSDT funds. Also, the commissions have worked with a diverse body of service providers to increase collaboration among child welfare, family court, family support, substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health services. Developing shared definitions of services and a common language across multiple disciplines was very important to a successful collaboration. Furthermore, the commissions have worked toward developing training programs, mentoring programs and fellowships to increase the number of well-qualified mental health professionals serving infants and their families.

Moving forward, the First 5 Commissions will continue to advocate for infants and toddlers by developing a more in-depth understanding of the local, state and national framework, and using that knowledge to build capacity for early childhood mental health. This would include the potential development of an evidence base to support the delivery of mental health consultation for very young children, as well as aligning the billing codes to allow reimbursement for dyadic intervention and screening and treatment of high risk young children. In addition, the commissions developed advocacy goals so to further their mission of engaging community support for infant mental health programs.

Colorado Legislature Supports Additional Technical Assistance for Early Childhood Programs
May 30, 2006

During the past few months, Colorado has demonstrated a new commitment to the needs of young children and their families. Most recently, the state House and Senate passed the Early Childhood Councils Act (HB06-1397) converting Colorado’s consolidated child care pilot agencies into early childhood councils. The bill enables the early childhood councils to serve all 64 counties as funds permit over time. Prior to the Early Childhood Councils Act, the consolidated child care pilot site agencies only served 30 of Colorado’s 64 counties.

Initial funding for the councils includes an allocation of $2 million dollars from Colorado’s General Fund; however, the bill also creates the Early Childhood Cash Fund, which will draw from funding appropriated by the General Assembly, gifts, grants, or donations and early childhood funds. Meanwhile, the councils may apply for existing school readiness and childcare quality improvement grant funding, which gives them access to a pot of funds totaling nearly $1 million.

The bill funds the needed coordination of early childhood stakeholders at the local level in order to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of early childhood services in early care and education, health care, mental health and family support. The legislation also allocates funds for a comprehensive evaluation of the work being done by the early childhood councils, as well as how young children and their families benefit from the coordinated services. Funding is also provided for technical assistance to the councils and quality initiatives for early childhood programs.

Additionally, the bill establishes an application process, outlines council membership and specifies the duties of the councils. An early childhood council planning team would be created to work in collaboration with the Department of Human Services in overseeing the activities of the councils, as well as to provide support services and some technical assistance.

Governor Bill Owens has yet to sign or veto this legislation; however, if he does not do so by June 7th, the bill will become law automatically.

Illinois Praised for Huge Birth to Five Commitments
May 15, 2006

Earlier this month the Illinois General Assembly passed their state budget, which included a number of incredible victories for children ages birth to five in the state. Among them was the $45 million expansion of the Early Childhood Block Grant. This expansion creates Preschool for All, an early childhood education initiative serving all three and four-year olds in the state.  Additionally, due to the set-aside mechanism in the block grant, the measure provides significant additional support for infants, toddlers and their families. This set-aside puts 11 cents of every preschool dollar towards providing services for at-risk infants and toddlers.

The plan outlined in the legislation was based on the recommendations of the Illinois Early Learning Council. The legislation, proposed earlier this year by Governor Rod Blagojevich (See New York Times article, passed the Illinois House unanimously, while garnering a strong vote in Illinois Senate (47-10-1).  The measure immediately adds $45 million in birth-to-five funding to the state budget, and phases in continued expansion over a five-year period.

Furthermore, substantial gains were made in early intervention and children’s mental health. The state distributed an additional $3 million for early intervention services for at-risk infants and toddlers. These funds will go a long way towards helping to identify and treat those infants and toddlers identified as having developmental delays.  The budget also includes an additional $5 million for mental health services for children birth to 18. The money is divided into two parts, with $3 million in funding going to the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health budget for coordinated comprehensive services, and $2 million allocated to the state’s Board of Education to support school-based mental health services.

First Things First in Arizona
May 1, 2006

First Things First, a broad-based coalition of Arizonans, has come together to encourage the passage of the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Initiative. The initiative will be placed on the 2006 ballot and will work with local communities to ensure that all families and children have voluntary access to high quality early learning and health screenings that will provide the foundations for future success. The initiative would be financed by an increased tax on tobacco products, which it is believed will produce at least $150 million in statewide revenue. Already more than $1.6 million has been contributed to move the initiative forward and help ensure that children are developing appropriately in the earliest years of life.

The Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Initiative, crafted by a former member of the state Board of Education, would establish an Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board. The Board would consist of nine members appointed by the governor, each serving staggered, six- year terms. The board would be charged with parceling out funds to address unmet needs for children birth to five, with some funds being specifically earmarked for children in poverty. Also, under the proposal, a new state board would form regional councils, each to determine the needs in their own communities and then review applications by public and private organizations for funding to fill those needs.

The intent of the initiative is not only to address the child care needs of young children, but also to provide health screenings for infants, educate parents about early childhood formation and teach pediatricians how recognize developmental problems in children.
According to First Things First, the initiative establishes a governance model that must include broad-based representation from all segments of our community, including faith-based, private, and public early child care and development experts. In addition, the initiative would establish a delivery system rooted in local communities and ensures that the large majority of these dollars are dedicated to programs and that only 10% will be applied to administrative costs.

Breaking News: Nebraska Early Childhood Endowment Fund Established By Law
April 17, 2006

In follow-up to our March 6th state policy update, we are pleased to update you on the progress made in Nebraska’s efforts to support young children. Nebraska’s state legislature and Governor Dave Heineman made a new commitment to early childhood by passing a bill to create the Nebraska Early Childhood Endowment Fund (LB1256).

The statute (LB1256) will allow the state to establish the public-private endowment partnership and receive about $2 million to begin funding birth to three services for children who are at-risk. The bill, passed by an overwhelming majority of the legislature and signed by the Governor last week, sends a resounding message of support for early childhood in the state.

However, the movement to create a comprehensive system of services for young children in Nebraska is far from over as early childhood advocates move forward their early childhood campaign. The campaign efforts will move towards passing a constitutional amendment to expand the definition of the public education system to include early childhood education. These efforts will enable access to the Education Lands Fund to establish a $40M early childhood endowment with earnings going towards funding early childhood.

Ohio Early Childhood Field Pushes Innovative Agenda for Infants and Toddlers
April 3, 2006

There is growing momentum in the child development field to establish new mechanisms of enhancing public will and promote policies that support young children and their families. In that vain, state advocates across the country are creating innovative campaigns to promote their early childhood agenda. Among those initiatives is the Ohio Early Care and Education Campaign (OECEC), a campaign established in 2004 to build on Ohio’s existing early care and education investments. Understanding that greater and more appropriate investment in Ohio’s youngest children will result in better outcomes for children, their families, the economy, and the state, the OECEC convened a committee to develop and advance a state budget agenda that reflects this priority.

Led by the efforts of The Center for Community Solutions and Voices for Children of Greater Cleveland, the campaign’s goal is to promote increased state investment in early care and education in the 2006 gubernatorial campaign and in the state budget. To achieve this goal, the campaign conducted several research efforts, including a canvass of Ohio voters about their opinions regarding the care and education of children birth to 6 and three instant-response dial sessions with voters from diverse parts of the state to test campaign messages. After completing these research efforts, the OECEC research team fielded a comprehensive statewide survey of 800 registered Ohio voters to confirm, quantify, and further explore their findings.

In addition, the campaign conducted personal interviews with 100 Ohio legislators in order to test what public messages resonated most with them. These interviews explored other arguments that would work best with decision makers in relation to securing funding in the state’s budget for programs that benefit young children. This work resulted in the identification of more than a dozen potential champions for young children’s issues within the Ohio General Assembly.

With these research results supporting their efforts, the campaign could work toward positively addressing issues that affect children from birth to age six in Ohio. Among the initiatives being explored as a part of this campaign is universal, voluntary assessment, screening, and direct service for social and emotional problems for children ages birth to six years in Ohio. The campaign is also supporting increased utilization of appropriate health services and supports by all children, birth to age six, and their families.

Fact Sheet about the Ohio campaign [ 2.18 MB Icon_pdf ]

Washington State Makes Important Strides Toward Providing Comprehensive Services for Young Children
March 20, 2006

Advocates in Washington State have been working for years to make gains for infants and toddlers. Their work has paid off over the course of the past year, as everything has come together and the state has been able to move forward a series of innovative policies that show promise in making substantial gains for young children. With bipartisan support, and a governor who has shown great leadership in advancing children’s issues, Washington has passed several important pieces of legislation that increase the capacity of the state to provide sound early childhood services.

Among the legislation passed was a bill to create the Department of Early Learning for the state of Washington. Like most states, Washington’s early childhood services were housed in various agencies, which made it difficult to provide coordinated comprehensive services. The creation of the Department of Early Learning empowers the state to move all of its early childhood services under one department, allowing them to integrate services better and systemize early learning in the state.

Additionally, legislation was passed to create Thrive by Five, a public-private partnership for early childhood services. Thrive by Five will serve as a governing body for early learning services, which will set policy and fundraise for additional services. The partnership is still in the planning stages, but the committee for the initiative is hoping that they will be able to channel funds to local communities to create model early learning centers in the near future.

These efforts were the result of recommendations from an early learning steering committee of Washington Learns. Washington Learns is an initiative created by Governor Gregoire which represents wide and diverse interests as it relates children and their development, including those of business, government, the education community, philanthropy, the legislature and the public.

Nebraska Pioneers Public-Private Funding for Early Childhood Services
March 6, 2006

Nebraska is on the path to pioneering a new type of funding mechanism to support programs for infants and toddlers, especially those who are deemed at-risk. In recent years various stakeholders in the early childhood community have come together to create a continuum of services for children from birth to five years-old. Nebraska already has a relatively expansive pre-kindergarten system that serves three- and four-year olds, but they are looking for ways to round that system out, recognizing the importance of the first three years of life. Various parties have come together to form the Nebraska Early Childhood Coalition, consisting of a body of professionals in the field who are committed to helping Nebraska’s youngest citizens. As a part of the coalition’s efforts during the past few months, Nebraska’s public and private sectors have been working together to usher in a new era of investment in early childhood development.

As a result of the work of the coalition and private sector interests, Nebraska State Senator Kermit Brashear introduced a bill to create the Nebraska Early Childhood Endowment Fund (LB1256). The bill creates a public-private endowment fund, the earnings of which will support services to at-risk families with infants and toddlers. The proposed initial state investment will be $40 million with a private sector match of $20 million over the next five years. The private sector, which includes support from the Buffet Early Childhood Fund, has already pledged $5 million upon passage of the bill.

The bill creates a board of trustees for the endowment, comprised of term-limited public and private representatives, identified in detail in the legislation, and who are appointed by the Governor. Amongst many things, the Board’s primary responsibilities will include administration and monitoring of all Early Childhood Endowment grants and the grant making process.

This legislation holds great promise for making a significant first step in developing a sound funding structure for supporting programs serving the at-risk birth-to-three population in Nebraska. As the Speaker of the Legislature, Senator Brashear has made the Early Childhood Endowment Fund his priority bill, which ensures that the bill will get the appropriate attention to move it forward during this legislative session. The bill is currently being addressed by the legislature’s Education Committee, whose members have already expressed support for the bill and are investigating various alternatives for how they might fund the endowment.

Pennsylvania Governor's Budget Promotes Early Childhood
February 21, 2006

As the federal deficit grows, and support for domestic poverty programs continues to dwindle, states are being forced to contend with difficult decisions about how to supplement diminishing federal support. And yet, in this environment, Pennsylvania's governor, Edward Rendell, has made it his ongoing priority to maintain and expand programs that provide early childhood services.

In recent years Governor Rendell has emphasized collaboration in the state between the Department of Education and the Department of Public Welfare, which is reflected in his new budget. 
Download Budget In Brief [ 581 KB Icon_pdf ]

Released earlier this month, the budget proposal demonstrates new commitments to early intervention and in-home services for young children that are attentive to the needs of the whole child. The governor's new budget proposal would leverage existing state funds, in order to make $1.5 million in federal funds available for the Nurse-Family Partnership--a program for first-time, low-income mothers in which a public health nurse provides home visits to mothers every one to two weeks throughout their pregnancy, and continuing until the child is two years of age. The nurse home visitors focus simultaneously on the mother's personal health and development, environmental health, and quality of care giving for the infant or toddler. They work to involve family members and friends in the program and help families use other community resources when needed. The new funds will allow Pennsylvania to serve at least 500 additional families.

Early intervention in Pennsylvania consists of services and supports designed to help families with children with developmental delays. Early intervention builds upon the natural learning occurring in those first few years. Governor Rendell's budget proposes an additional $27 million to provide early intervention services that will build upon the natural learning occurring in those first few years. His proposal will allow for the extension of services to an additional 5,000 young children.

Governor Rendell's administration has been working diligently to educate stakeholders in the early childhood arena about the intricacies of the new budget proposal, and in the coming months the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hold hearings to review state agencies' funding requests. Subsequently, the legislature will draft amendments and negotiate allocations before adopting their own version of the budget. For the next four months advocates, providers, and state policymakers will all be working together to ensure that Pennsylvania continues to make groundbreaking strides for its youngest children.

New York’s Strategy to Promote Infant Mental Health & Well-Being
February 6, 2006

The early years of life lay the foundation for a child’s development today and during the course of his or her life.  During these early years, the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth, and children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn and reason.  Social and emotional skills are a vital component of a child’s development.  In fact, research has demonstrated that mental health problems can be identified in the early years of life and that these behaviors, if identified early, are modifiable. The research also tells us that failure to recognize and treat mental health problems in its earliest stages can have long-standing, devastating effects.

Governor Pataki’s recent approval of New York’s Achieving the Promise for New York’s Children and Families Initiative demonstrates New York’s commitment to addressing problems of early childhood and children’s mental health.  If the budget is approved, this initiative would make the state one of the forerunners in assessing mental health services for children and families and taking a proactive approach to addressing their needs.  The proposal for this initiative takes into account the recommendations of a statewide action plan to address the comprehensive mental health needs of New York’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers by recognizing the mental health needs of children under the age of 5.  The plan was developed by an advisory group formed in 2003, called the New York City Early Childhood Mental Health Strategic Work Group. The work group supports a cross system plan to promote overall early childhood mental health wellness, effectively prevent emotional and social illness, and provide targeted treatment for children and their families displaying mental health problems.  It is a multidisciplinary group of experts from the fields of early intervention, mental health, preschool special education, child care, child welfare and the judicial and academic systems.

Achieving the Promise for New York Children and Families is a four-pronged approach to developing a system that would provide improved mental health care for New York’s youngest children, while being cognizant of the diverse cultural needs of the community. Services are provided through Child and Family Clinic-Plus, and Evidence Based Treatment Dissemination Center, expansion of the Home and Community Based Waiver Program, and Telepsychiatry for children in rural communities.

If passed by the state legislature, the initiative would invest in Child and Family Clinic-Plus, a mental wellness health clinic that will identify social and emotional problems early in life.  The Evidence Based Treatment Dissemination Center would create a sustained clinical training model in evidence-based treatment protocols and in specialized consultation that would support the organizational changes necessary to transform the way in which mental health services are delivered.  The expansion of the Home and Community Based Waiver Program will increase the state’s capacity to serve additional children each year.  The waiver gives children and their families access to an array of services, provided in the most integrated community setting possible. The scope and focus of the program guarantees that children who are at risk of hospitalization are able to remain at home with their families.  The initiative would also utilize telepsychiatry, the use of electronic communication and information technologies to provide or support clinical psychiatric care at a distance, possible in rural areas of the state.

With support from mental health practitioners and advocates, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, Sharon Carpinello, has shaped a comprehensive children’s mental health agenda that includes mental health services for young children under the age of 5. The push to include the mental health needs of young children and families in New York is a ground-breaking model for other states who are trying to raise the visibility of early childhood mental health.

Smart Beginnings: Virginia’s New Commitment to Early Childhood
January 23, 2006

The state of Virginia has made a new commitment to early childhood, engaging members of the public and private sectors to create a range of coordinated state and local early childhood services that will meet the needs of the whole child by addressing social, physical, and emotional growth, as well as intellectual development.
 
The new initiative, Virginia’s Early Childhood Foundation, focuses on the importance of development from birth to 5 years of age. The program focuses on issues of infrastructure, communication, innovation, evaluation and accountability and being attentive to the varying social, emotional, physical, cultural, and intellectual needs of young children and their families.

In May 2005, Gov. Mark Warner called on members of both the public and private sectors to come together at an Early Childhood Summit and begin a dialogue about how to create a comprehensive, coordinated system of state and local, public and private resources so that every child in Virginia entered school happy, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and life. This diverse body of leaders from across the state came together as the Virginia Early Learning Council, embracing the idea that quality early learning not only benefits the child, but also plays a significant role in cultivating a competitive workforce and promoting economic growth and development.

The council laid out some fundamental goals that it believes is necessary to achieve the best outcomes for young children. The council’s goals reach far beyond addressing the issue of school readiness. This new commitment to birth to 5 as a crucial stage in child development highlights a new understanding that learning begins at birth, and that there is a responsibility to meet the needs of the whole child by addressing social, physical, emotional growth, and intellectual development. Recommendations included educating parents and engaging direct-service providers, providing access to health care and engaging Virginia’s citizens in the various cultural settings of education. Based on these recommendations, Governor Warner launched the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to address issues of infrastructure, communication, innovation, evaluation, and accountability.
Learn About the Virginia Early Learning Council [ 314 KB Icon_pdf ]

As a part of the initiative, the state also launched the Smart Beginnings website, which will serve as a resource to parents and other stakeholders in the early childhood arena to keep abreast of programs and initiatives that are furthering the early childhood agenda in the state. To read more about Smart Beginnings and the Virginia Early Learning Council’s goals and objectives, visit the Smart Beginnings’ website.

Successful Start: Rhode Island's Early Childhood Systems Plan
January 9, 2006

Rhode Island is leading the way in building bridges among state systems on behalf of very young children. They are developing a systemic approach to early childhood services, thereby reducing achievement gaps for children entering the K-12 education system. The program, Successful Start, is a collaborative effort among Rhode Island stakeholders in the early childhood field. Successful Start aims to coordinate programs and develop more effective policies that will fill in some of the gaps in services for very young children.

Successful Start consists of four distinct parts-parent education and family support, early care and education, medical homes and social-emotional development. By addressing this holistic body of issues, Rhode Island hopes to positively impact the development of all very young children in their state. The program is housed in the state's Department of Health in the Family Health division and is comprised of over 200 early childhood leaders. These leaders include all of the state's administrators of early childhood programs, child care providers, community based agencies, health care and mental health professionals, advocates and parents. The first, two-year phase of the initiative focused on the development of the plan and coordinating the efforts of all the various interested parties. Now in its second phase, the project is beginning the implementation process. To download a copy of the Successful Start Plan and learn more about their collaborative process, visit the Rhode Island Department of Health website.


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