While significant federal early learning initiatives have been proposed recently by the Obama Administration, today’s briefing on early learning highlighted how some states and cities are leading the way with innovative approaches to comprehensive early childhood initiatives.
The briefing (webcast available), hosted by the First Five Years Fund and The Pew Charitable Trusts, featured three examples of systemic approaches to delivering birth to five services. Elliot Regenstein of the Ounce of Prevention Fund moderated the panel, and Libby Doggett, Director of Pew’s home visiting campaign, delivered closing remarks.
Dr. Bette Hyde, Director of the Washington State Department of Early Learning, emphasized the importance of building an early learning system. After noting research evidence on the benefits of early learning, Dr. Hyde described Washington’s approach, noting the components of a system foundation the state has, including a 10-year early learning plan. She also explained the continuum of early learning services the state has, starting with infants and supporting continuity into the K-3 elementary years. Infants are served by home visiting and infant/toddler child care consultation services, and preschoolers are served by the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. At kindergarten entry, the WaKIDS kindergarten assessment includes three components: input from the family, a whole child assessment, and collaboration between the kindergarten teacher and the early learning provider. For additional detail, Dr. Hyde’s presentation slides are available.
Dr. Tammy Mann, President of the Campagna Center in Alexandria, Virginia, spoke next. Dr. Mann described the range of services her agency offers, focusing on its Early Head Start (EHS) services. The Campagna Center’s EHS program employs a diverse delivery model, providing services using several different approaches: center-based services, home-based services, and via a partnership with family child care providers. The family child care providers are employees of the agency, serve only EHS families, meet higher qualifications, and are provided coaching and outreach. The Center’s approach to providing center-based services and partnering with child care providers illustrates an approach that may be mirrored in the Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships provision of the Administration’s early learning proposal.
Madeline McClure, Executive Director of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, and final panelist, spoke about Texas’ home visiting initiatives. She provided a good overview of home visitation services and features of the major models. She presented research findings on the impressive outcomes from quality home visiting services, and the high return on investment possible with these programs. Texas provides home visiting services using a combination of federal and state funds. (For further details, Ms. McClure’s presentation slides are available). Ms. McClure noted the bipartisan support in Texas for home visiting and the maintained investments despite budget challenges. The compelling return on investment evidence has helped child abuse prevention advocates make the case and garner bipartisan support in this politically conservative state.