Across the country, states and communities are leading efforts to advance research-based solutions to support infants, toddlers, and their families.
Learn how experts and advocates inside and outside state and local government are building, strengthening, implementing, and tracking effective prenatal-to-three policies and programs.
Explore our case studies and innovation briefs to see what's working in areas like yours.
High-quality child care provided by responsive and consistent adult caregivers is vital during children's earliest years, as it has been shown to have direct educational and socioemotional benefits for children. Unfortunately, high-quality child care is expensive and hard to find, particularly for parents of infants and toddlers.Many low-income working families are eligible for public programs that help them pay for early care and education, including child care subsidies.
When the state of Oklahoma created what would become the Oklahoma Early Childhood Program (OECP) for low-income families across the state, Tulsa's existing Community Action Project of Tulsa County (CAP Tulsa) quickly responded with a proposal that would match public funds with private donations.
When Jane Kretzmann and Jim Nicholie retired in 2014, they saw an opportunity to take the knowledge and expertise they had gathered about early childhood education during their careers to a whole new level.
A 2014 study conducted by the Onondaga County Citizen’s League found that only half of the county’s five-year-olds were kindergarten ready. In response, the Onondaga’s Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) was created in 2015, and a partnership with the Syracuse-based Allyn Family Foundation was formed to build a coalition of local businesses, philanthropies, libraries, nonprofits, and other public sector partners dedicated to early childhood.
In 2012, Boone County leaders decided not to dedicate funds for additional children’s services even after research indicated a need for them. In response, advocates from the community went door-to-door to gain voter support to pass the Putting Kids First ballot initiative, a quarter-cent sales tax increase to create a dedicated fund for services to support children.
Vermont employers struggle to fill job vacancies because of an aging population and the very low unemployment rate of two percent. These demographic factors affect the availability of high-quality child care for Vermont’s families, an industry that already struggles with issues of affordability, low availability, low wages for teachers, and low reimbursement rates from the state for subsidies. Let’s Grow Kids, a statewide movement to secure affordable access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers, is working to address these issues.
Local early childhood advocates introduced the students to “Partners for a Healthy Baby,” a research-based home-visitor training curriculum developed by Dr. Mimi Graham at Florida State University, which is centered on strengthening protective factors of families prenatally to 36 months. Graham granted permission for the group to adapt her program for 10th graders.
In 2018, Oregon’s state-appointed Early Learning Council asked their partners at Oregon State University to study the supply of child care slots for infants and toddlers across the state. A January 2019 report found that every county in Oregon, except one, qualified as a “child care desert.” Furthermore, when public subsidy slots were excluded from total state availability counts, the child care supply dwindled significantly. The study demonstrated two things: First, the situation for infant and toddler child care in Oregon was as dire as advocates had long suspected, and second, public investment did positively change both the supply and quality of early child care in the state.
This issue brief highlights three different programs that provide prenatal care and/or support, exploring what happens when this care is reimagined as a broader, holistic system of supports throughout pregnancy in order to improve birth outcomes and ensure optimal health for parents and infants. The approaches of each of these programs have been shown to improve infant health outcomes, particularly among communities at higher risk for poor maternal and infant health outcomes.
In 2006, the Nebraska State Legislature committed $40 million in land trust funds to an endowment to provide high-quality early care and education for at-risk infants and toddlers. The state also asked private donors to raise $20 million for the endowment within five years.
In 2002, Miami-Dade County voters authorized a local property tax to establish The Children’s Trust to fund programs for children and families. Using new data and perspective built over sixteen years of managing the funds, The Children’s Trust refocused the county’s strategic efforts in 2018 to target those most in need within the birth to five age range: infants and toddlers.
Start Strong PA, a coalition of early childhood advocates, launched a multi-year, statewide initiative in January 2019 to secure new investments for infants and toddlers. The group collected data and engaged the business community and providers to inform its efforts. After a 2% net increase in child care funding in 2019 due to federal investments, the coalition brought forward a bold ask of $280 million, split evenly between state and federal funds, for high-quality infant and toddler child care. Start Strong PA will continue to support a bold approach for infants and toddlers.
In 2017, Pierce County, Washington faced the highest demand for foster care placement in the entire state—higher even than King County (home to Seattle), which has twice the population of Pierce County. The rate of entry into foster care in Pierce County in 2016 was 4.81 children per 1,000 children, compared with the statewide average of 3.75 children per 1,000 children. Of the 1,000 children under age 18 who entered the foster care system in the county, 25% were babies in their first year of life. Furthermore, data showed that Pierce County had higher infant mortality and maternal mortality rates than the state average, and only 43% of eligible children in Pierce County were receiving early intervention services.
No matter a person's background or where they live, the birth of a baby is a momentous occasion that brings many challenges. All families need support in the days, weeks, and months following a birth. As new mothers are still recovering from childbirth, they also face the challenge of caring for a newborn at a time when financial, mental, and emotional resources are most limited.During this important transition for parents and infants, additional community and social supports can help families adjust to their new lives and promote healthy child development in the process.
Early childhood educators are faced with the common career challenge of low compensation and costly higher education. That's why providing educators incentives to pursue higher education and stay in the early education system is critical to building a strong early education workforce. Over the last 30 years, North Carolina has emerged as a national leader in early childhood education, due in part to its efforts to develop a highly supported infant-toddler teacher workforce. Using a research-driven, evidence-based approach to inform policy decisions and program investments, the state has continually improved its early childhood workforce system—addressing the challenges of teacher turnover and wage disparities, improving existing programs based on extensive data collection, and bringing successful programs to scale statewide. Today, 50 percent of infant-toddler teachers in North Carolina have a two- or four-year degree, and the turnover rate among early childhood teachers has plummeted from 50 percent in many centers to 18 percent statewide.
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Bridgeport Prospers and community partners are implementing a multi-year strategy to increase the number of infants and toddlers on track for success in school and life by age three. This strategy focuses on building an ecosystem of supports rather than focusing on one single intervention and is grounded in the neuroscience of early development—which demonstrates the developmental importance of the first three years of a child’s life and the negative effects that toxic stress can have on young brains. While still in the early stages, this initiative holds promise for strong short- and long-term results because its strategy is grounded on the use of data, financial flexibility and innovation, strategic planning and communication, workforce professional development, and continuous quality improvement.
Developmental screenings are an important tool to ensure infants and toddlers are on track for healthy development. When screenings detect issues early, the right supports can address problems and set young children on a path for lifelong success. Recognizing the need for a coordinated system of early childhood screenings and referrals, Tarrant County, Texas, is bringing together a broad group of stakeholders to build an initiative to increase access to, and timely implementation of, early developmental screenings and align appropriate prenatal, early childhood, and maternal health services to better meet families’ needs. While the effort is still in the early stages, county leadership is expecting promising, data-driven results.
Illinois has been paving the way for the success of their youngest citizens since the 1980s by prioritizing funding for infants, toddlers, and their families with funding set-aside as part of their state pre-K legislation. In Illinois, a robust set of services for infants and toddlers are directly tied to pre-K legislation and funding, ensuring that young children in need are supported by the stateâs school system even before they reach the classroom.
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