Informed by community data, work with your leadership team to define a vision for your efforts, develop short-, medium-, and long-term goals, identify funding, build political will, and select outcomes and indicators to track your efforts against.
Define Your Vision
Launching a prenatal-to-three plan in your community requires a strong vision that all actions can drive toward and that stakeholders can support. Identifying a specific community-wide vision can help galvanize community activity toward achieving needed change.
Your vision should be inspirational, clear, memorable, and concise to make it easier to communicate to the stakeholders and your entire community. Focus efforts and draw learnings from models that are working in other communities like yours.
Once finalized, share your vision widely with team members, funders, agency leads, parents, and others who are currently or will potentially be involved with your efforts.
- What is our aspiration for infants, toddlers, and their families in our community? What outcomes do we want our early childhood system to provide?
- What problem(s) are we seeking to solve?
- What would the ideal early childhood system look like, and how would it function?
- How would a fully realized vision produce specific, improved outcomes for pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and their families?
- How can our system be culturally responsive, flexible, and results-focused? What are the policies, programs, and best practices that we want to explore and implement?
- What system enhancements do we want to focus on?
- How can we distill our vision into a statement? (e.g. “Our community seeks to eliminate any racial, ethnic, or income gaps in number and percentage of infants born healthy.”)
- How does your team’s common vision for healthy, supported infants and their families reflect a commitment to racial equity and social justice?
- What opportunities exist to advance equity in policy, programs, and practice?
Use this strategy chart to build consensus and alignment on your vision for action within your organization, leadership team, or among stakeholders. Work together to develop detailed answers under each bucket.
To promote systems of care effectively, leaders need a purposeful vision that clearly identifies where the system is going. This brief describes what a shared vision is and why it is important, the critical role of leadership in promoting a shared vision, essential characteristics of successful leaders, and key steps in developing and communicating a shared vision.
Develop SMART Goals and Outcomes Aligned to the NCIT Measurements Framework
After your vision is defined and community sights are set on specific results, work with your leadership team and stakeholders to identify specific goal outcomes that support your vision for infants, toddlers, and families in your community as well as for the programs and policies that you are developing or expanding.
Develop goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, ambitious yet achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Consider the following as you develop your goals:
- Specific: Is the goal clearly defined? Does it address the who, what, where, when, why, and how?
- Measurable: Can progress be measured against our goal, and are target numbers identified?
- Ambitious Yet Achievable: Are targets set based on your expertise and knowledge of the community?
- Relevant: Does it align with your vision and the outcomes you seek?
- Time-Bound: Have you assigned an informed, realistic timeline to achieve your goal?
Map short-term and intermediate goals and partial victories that can be accomplished as you work toward a long-term vision. Consider how the work will create concrete improvements in people’s lives.
As you’re considering the achievability of your goals, be mindful of overextending your team and stakeholders. Creating too many competing priorities can reduce the effectiveness of your initiative. One powerful goal that improves outcomes for infants and toddlers in a significant way in your community is much better than 10 goals that chip away at the issue.
Use the NCIT Measurements Framework —a national system of metrics that are comparable and reliable across states and communities—to measure progress toward your goals. The framework determines the best indicators to track outcomes over time, allowing you to chart progress and identify successes and challenges in healthy beginnings, supported families, and high-quality child care and early learning.
All indicators are research-based and sensitive to interventions, and 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 by age three, and they should be used as a roadmap for building a prenatal-to-three system in your community that can deliver high-quality, effective services at scale.
The NCIT action planning tools can help you set clear goals for progress, identify outcomes that support your goals, and find the right indicators to measure progress toward your desired outcomes.
- What are the most pressing issues facing infants, toddlers, and their families in our community? What is the problem we are trying to solve?
- What impact are we hoping to make?
- What are the changes we seek to achieve for children and families, programs and policies, and systems and infrastructure?
- Is that change something we can measure?
- What baseline data can show us where we started, progress, and results? Are there milestones along the way?
- What metrics will we use to measure the change?
- How will we know if we are getting the outcomes we seek? What will be the short-term and long-term differences for our youngest residents?
This tool for state and community leaders is a resource to help improve the capacity of childhood systems, including guidance on recruiting and engaging stakeholders, defining and coordinating a leadership team, financing initiatives strategically, enhancing and aligning standards, creating support and improvement strategies, and ensuring accountability for results.
The Data Guidebook details the NCIT measurements system, or Outcomes Framework, and contains detailed recommendations for using the right outcomes and indicators, and their data sources, to measure the success of policies and programs in your state or community.
The NCIT Logic Model has been designed to support your coordinated community effort, helping to align your community’s goals with the indicators defined in the Prenatal-to-Three Outcomes Framework. This guide talks through the flow of the Outcomes Framework and provides prompts to consider as you build your action plan.
During 2017, New York State Medicaid brought together a cross-section of over 200 stakeholders from education, child development, child welfare, pediatrics, and mental health to develop recommendations for how Medicaid could improve outcomes for the youngest New Yorkers, aged zero to three years, nearly sixty percent of whom are covered by Medicaid. This overview details the ten recommendations from this working group.
All Our Kin is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that trains, supports, and sustains family child care providers to ensure that children and families have the foundation they need to succeed in school and in life. This overview provides a description of the nonprofit's nationally recognized model for supporting family child care providers in exercising and fully reaching their potential.
To ensure sustained funding streams that support services for families from prenatal to age three, it is essential that supporting policies and procedures are in place to ensure efficient use of funds as well as avoid unintended impediments to financing strategies.
As you’re building a plan, make sure the following key steps are built into your activities:
- Create a Planning and Financing Committee that meets monthly
- Create a budget, and secure budget approval
- Develop shared metrics for success
- Pursue new and innovative funding opportunities
Use this tool "Where Does Your Child Care Dollar Go?" from the Center for American Progress to assess the true cost of high-quality child care in your state.
Shared Services is a new approach to early care and education management and leadership that centralizes key functions to save dollars, strengthen management capacity, improve early learning and ensure sustainable, high-quality programs. This brief provides an overview of the Shared Services model as well as steps for engaging in a shared service alliance.
Fact sheet on how funders can support comprehensive financing of services for vulnerable children and families.
Build Political Will and Support from Stakeholders
Building and sustaining political will around your vision is a critical aspect of any 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. Elected officials at all levels, parents, and the public are increasingly aware of the importance of supporting infants, toddlers, and families as the evidence becomes clear that investing in our youngest children is critical to the long-term health of our communities.
The contributions of experts and champions from all sectors can fortify the political and public will to take action. Think broadly about the service systems your efforts focus on and build your coalition to explore and support outcomes in these areas.
As you build a coalition, remember that parents and families are central to identifying needed changes to programs, policies, and systems that support infants and toddlers, which is why they should be at the policy table from the beginning. As community leaders and experts in their own lived experiences, parents are critical members of any task force or leadership group.
Consider outreach to the following stakeholders:
- Elected officials and policymakers are often in the position to realign investments and drive resources toward evidence-based practices. They want to invest in policies and programs that will better their community’s health and economic outcomes.
- Local community foundations and philanthropies have a growing awareness of the need to invest in infants and toddlers to support outcomes in many areas, including health and education. The return on investment for grantmaking organizations is clear.
- Existing childhood initiatives should expand their focus to include young children. Many communities have initiatives focused on older children, including pre-kindergarten, cradle-to-career programs, and grade-level reading initiatives. Encourage existing programs to expand their offerings to support infants and toddlers.
- Early childhood coalitions in similar communities and at the state level can create the critical mass needed to push for policy change at the state level.
- Business leaders understand that a high-quality child care system can drive a community’s ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce, boosting economic development.
- Housing developers will be eager to link their investments in quality housing and neighborhood assets to support healthy child development.
- Your leadership team members each have their own networks of support that can generate political will to support your goals.
Any agenda to improve outcomes for young children and their families should also include the input and leadership of those who have influence and authority over policies and practices. Those who lead or fund county health clinics, public health departments, libraries, transportation systems, housing authorities, human services, and schools have a strong hand in changing policy and in allocating the resources that will improve outcomes for children.
As you build a broad group of allies, consider how your vision, goals, and plan of action will appeal to each group.
Whose problem are you trying to solve?
What do stakeholders gain if you win?
What risks are you asking them to take?
What power do they have to influence your goals?
Visit the “Make the Case” page to find resources to help you make the case for infants and toddlers and build support among stakeholders in your community.
- Which elected officials are most passionate about very young children? Which have experience and expertise in advancing an agenda focused on families or young children?
- Who is in a position of authority and influence to make the types of policy and funding changes most critical to improving those identified outcomes?
- Who has access to the data that can help you understand the current landscape and track progress toward these outcomes?
- What systems and leadership do you need to have on board to reach those outcomes?
- Who is in a position of authority and influence to recruit other critical stakeholders?
- Who can help shape policies and build the public and political will to implement needed changes?
- Which agencies and individuals have budget authority over core services for infants, toddlers, and their families?
- Which other jurisdictions in your state are actively improving policies and programs for infants and toddlers?
- Who are the potential legislative champions who can help address gaps in services, systems, or funds needed to ensure healthy development for all infants and toddlers at the state level?
- Is there a state coalition focused on infants and toddlers?
- Is there a coalition focused on cradle-to-career or early childhood programs? How can you bring an infants and toddlers focus to these groups?
- Who might be effective “unexpected messengers” whose engagement can help build understanding of the value of investing in infants and toddlers and their families?
- What stakeholders might need to be engaged periodically or kept informed to secure their support at the right time to achieve your goals?
- How can other organizations or coalitions focused on issues critical to healthy development, like housing and health care, engage with your prenatal to three agenda?
- How will parents take a leadership role?
- What barriers might parents face in participating in decision-making tables (e.g. child care, transportation, work schedules, language barriers)? What can you do to remove those barriers or compensate parents for the costs of volunteering their time?
- Who are the current parent leaders in your community? Do they represent the families you are most focused on? Do families trust them to speak on their behalf? Is there a need to recruit new parent leaders? How might you recruit parent leaders who reflect the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of your community?
- What capacity do you have to ensure that parent leaders are informed and have whatever support they need to participate as equal partners in the decision process? How can you ensure that input from parents is incorporated and acted upon and that parents are informed about how their input has made a difference? How prepared are you to hear from parents if what they say they want is different from what you offer?
- How can you support parents’ understanding of policy and data to ensure informed participation?
The Ripples of Transformation toolkit is designed to inspire, challenge, and support leaders in early childhood--primarily administrators and program staff--to embrace and move toward a vision of families as agents of change in their children’s lives, communities and early childhood systems. Drawing on the experiences shared in parent focus groups and interviews with agency staff, this toolkit takes a journey through social services offices, hospitals, community organizations, citywide and countywide collaborative initiatives, and it shows the ways program and agency leaders can form powerful partnerships with diverse families.
This Action Plan by the Mecklenburg County Early Childhood Education Executive Committee explores the county's ECE landscape, political will, funding, and paths forward for improving access to high-quality care and education.
In early 2019, Governor Kate Brown, state agencies, Early Learning Council members, and legislators unveiled Raise Up Oregon: A Statewide Early Learning System Plan, which provides a roadmap for how state and local communities can work together to ensure Oregon’s youngest children can enter school ready to learn.