Informed by data collected from across your state, develop short, medium, and long-term goals and select outcomes and indicators to track your efforts against. Then, identify funding opportunities and work to build political will and support from stakeholders.
Develop SMART Goals and Outcomes Aligned to the NCIT Measurements Framework
After your vision is defined and your sights are set on specific results, work with your leadership team and stakeholders to identify specific outcomes that support your vision for infants, toddlers and families in your state 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 state?
- 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 campaign will create concrete improvements in people’s lives, give people a sense of their own power, and alter the relationships of power in your state.
As you are 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 state is much better than ten 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 to chart progress and identify success 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 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.
- What are the most pressing issues facing infants, toddlers and their families in our state? 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 data can show us where we started (‘baseline data’), 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 results (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 2018 Ohio Early Childhood Race and Rural Equity Report is the most comprehensive early childhood report in Ohio history. Groundwork Ohio analyzed 26 child outcome metrics spanning a child’s life course from prenatal care to postsecondary attainment, including data spanning five state departments and utilizing resources from an additional three. After a review of over 200 pages of data and graphics, Groundwork Ohio determined that children who start behind usually stay behind.
The statewide Early Childhood Integrated Data System has begun implementation to facilitate data sharing and coordination across Utah's early childhood programs to evaluate long-term outcomes and improve the quality of programs. Learn more about their efforts in this case study.
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.
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 (such as making Early Head Start/Head Start programs collect copays from families below 100 percent of poverty in order to access state subsidy for child care).
Build Political Will and Support from Stakeholders
Building and sustaining political will around your vision is a critical aspect of any policy 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 states and communities and more families are relying on prenatal-to-age-three supports and child care when both parents are in the workforce.
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 plan to action and support outcomes in these areas.
As you build a vision and plan, 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.
Consider outreach to the following stakeholders as part of building will and support:
- State and local 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 state and community’s health and economic outcomes.
- State agency leaders from health, human services, child welfare, social services, education, transportation, housing, and other state agencies and organizations, including library systems often have influence and authority related to policies, practices, and funding and can have a strong hand in changing policy as well as allocating resources that will improve outcomes for children.
- Local and state 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 at the state and local 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.
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?
Similar calculations can also help you better understand your opponents.
- What will your victory cost them?
- What will they do to oppose you?
- How strong are they?
- 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?
- 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?
- Are there intersections between your plans and existing or available federal resources that need to be considered or that can be leveraged?
- 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?
State and community organizations:
- 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?
- How might you recruit parent leaders who reflect the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of your state?
- What capacity do you have to ensure that parent leaders are informed and have whatever support they need to participate as equal partners? 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?
High-quality child care is a wise investment in America’s future—strengthening business today while building the workforce we’ll depend on tomorrow and for decades to come. This brief provides details on the benefits of advancing high-quality childcare for the business community.
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.
This brief outlines the role of states in supporting low-income families through statewide two-generation initiatives including background on children and families in the U.S., service delivery coordination for low-income families, and a state policy framework for families.