Now is the time to take action and be a champion for infants and toddlers in your state or community.
NCIT is working across the country to build programs and policies that work to ensure children are on track for success in school and in life by age three. To accomplish this goal, it’s essential that:
- Infants are born healthy and continue to thrive
- Parents have what they need to support their child’s healthy development
- Families have access to affordable, high-quality child care options
Working for Change
Elected officials and policymakers, civic, business, and community leaders, service providers, and educators are all pivotal to ensuring that every family has the supports they need to nurture not only their children’s healthy physical development, but also their healthy social and emotional development, from the very beginning.
This work involves multiple systems coming together—health care, child care, and different types of family support—and there are challenges and barriers to ensuring that all families, particularly those with high need, get the supports and services that are most beneficial.
NCIT supports evidence-based national, state, and local policy and program solutions that:
Increase the number of families with children prenatal-to-age-three who are connected to essential health, development and social emotional support services.
Increase the number of low-income infants and toddlers receiving affordable, high-quality child care.
Working together, these policies can provide parents with a full range of supportive programs they may need to create a strong foundation for healthy development and learning.
With a solid understanding of the current policy and programmatic needs in your community or state, you can successfully bring together advocates, policymakers, parents, and professionals to take action for change.
Guiding Principles for Action
For initiatives of all shapes and sizes—whether impacting states or communities, developing legislative or regulatory efforts, building and strengthening programs, or reaching diverse families with a range of needs—consider the following principles for an impactful strategy:
Achieving positive outcomes for all children requires investing in those who are often left behind and giving them what they need to build a strong foundation for success in school and life. Disparities are often the result of groups being left out of the policy-making process, being treated unfairly because of institutional policies and practices, and not having a voice in decisions about how resources are allocated. Initiative leaders should reflect the full experience and diversity of the people they are serving, and targeted efforts and investments can be made to address inequities resulting from unfair institutional policies or practices.
Locating, collecting, and analyzing data will help identify disparities and uncover risk factors known to have a negative impact on child outcomes, such as poverty, homelessness, child abuse, and neglect. Collecting data to assess the state of infants and toddlers in your state or community is important to inform your planning and strategy processes early on, and it will help establish a baseline that can be used to track the progress of your initiative over time.
NCIT developed a robust system of national, state, and local metrics to measure progress toward the goal of healthy development for all children by age three. While there are many important indicators of a child’s well-being, the indicators in the Measurements Framework have been specifically identified as ones that are critical to assessing children’s healthy development at age three, and they should be used as a roadmap for building a prenatal-to-three system in your state or community that can deliver high-quality, effective services at scale.
Building and sustaining political will is a critical aspect of any state policy or community agenda. Support from a broad group of stakeholders brings a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and voices that help promote buy-in and make a compelling case for change. Contributions of experts and champions from all sectors can fortify the political and public will to take action.
Building supports that work for families with young children requires understanding their needs. To gain their perspective, parents can and should be at the policy table. Parents are critical members of any task force or leadership group and can add a grounded voice to policy and program design discussions.
Elected officials and policymakers can affect positive change in systems and circumstances that support infants, toddlers, and families. Identifying and engaging with decision-makers and those who have budget authority will help you identify which stakeholders can be most helpful in making progress toward a specific goal. Consider that changes to local policies, practices, and funding may be subject to state laws or regulations. Partners involved in specific program areas may have knowledge about federal or state funding opportunities or the timing for commenting on proposed state plans or other pending policy statements. In addition, joining in a coalition with your counterparts in other jurisdictions can create the critical mass needed to push for policy change.
Underlying a robust community support system for families with infants and toddlers is an infrastructure that enables families to get the right services at the right time. Data integration and sharing, coordinated planning and financing, supports for continuous quality improvement, a system of coordinated family intake and referral services, building and maintaining political will and engagement, and workforce development are essential for an effective, outcomes-focused early childhood system. Creating and sustaining these core infrastructure components can be a multi-year effort and may necessitate public action and funding at the local or state level.
Build a State or Community Effort
With the guiding principles for action in mind, select the roadmap that's right for you and find key steps and considerations for developing and expanding policies and programs that support infants, toddlers, and their families in your area.
In the Roadmaps for Action, you'll find information and resources needed to lay the groundwork for change, build a robust plan for action, implement the plan, measure results, and sustain momentum. We'll be adding new resources over time, so be sure to check back periodically for the latest tools.