Connecticut: Early Childhood Consultation Partnership

Mar 08, 2007

Connecticut\'s Early Childhood Consultation Partnership is an example of how a state can promote linkages to comprehensive services to support families and healthy development for infants and toddlers. This state example was originally written as part of Starting Off Right: Promoting Child Development from Birth in State Early Care and Education Initiatives and updated for the Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project.

Content:

Overview

In 2002, the Connecticut State Legislature created the Community Mental Health Strategy Board and charged it with allocating funds to enhance mental health services throughout the state. The board allocated money to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) and recommended mental health consultation for child care providers. Through a competitive selection process, DCF selected Advanced Behavioral Health (ABH), a non-profit behavioral health care company, to design and administer the Early Childhood Consultation Partnership (ECCP) program.

ECCP serves children from birth to age five in center-based child care programs. Approximately twenty to twenty five percent of classrooms served include infants and toddlers. ABH subcontracts with ten community-based, non-profit mental health agencies for twenty Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants to provide services statewide.

ECCP offers services on a continuum from individual child consultation to classroom consultation to entire center consultation. A consultant may direct services toward a particular child in need, or to help improve the socio-emotional environment of a classroom, or to enhance a center\'s overall existing system and policies related to positive behavioral guidance. Consultants provide services such as home and classroom observations; support of partnerships between teachers and families; action planning; technical assistance; family, teacher and director guidance; and referrals. Parents, providers, and directors may contact ECCP for consultation related to the appropriate level of service needed. Those requesting services often do so after learning about the service through word-of-mouth, through early childhood networks, or through the statewide "Help Me Grow" telephonic information line.

ECCP also works with parents and providers to accommodate children with unique care situations. Here, the services provided are not always associated with a child care center. Consultants work with families and caregivers of children in multiple child care settings to coordinate a strategy for healthy socio-emotional development across settings. They work with Licensed Family Child Care providers, extended family members such as grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and children in foster care. ECCP provides services to foster-care settings to reduce foster-home-placement disruptions. ECCP emphasizes partnerships among Foster Parents, DCF case workers, and other involved providers or parents.

The twenty mental health consultants subcontracted by ABH through the ECCP program are embedded in their community and coordinate with other early childhood stakeholders. Many of these consultants also sit on a variety of Early Childhood interest groups, such as Community School Readiness Boards, Head Start Collaborative Groups, Family Focus Partnership Groups, Systems of Care, Help Me Grow Breakfasts, Directors Forums, and other local community collaboratives. ECCP consultants also facilitate Community Based Mental Health Consultation Groups throughout the state, which are open to all early childhood providers. Membership includes, but is not limited to, teachers, directors, family child care providers, DCF case workers, and Birth to Three providers. The groups provide consultation, training, and networking opportunities for those working with young children.

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Goals and Impacts

One of Connecticut\'s primary goals is to improve the quality of early childhood programs and reduce the likelihood of suspensions and expulsions in child-care settings. ECCP has established, and actively engages in, a variety of activities to monitor its program\'s quality of care and improvement processes, including seeking community input. For example, during the planning process, key stakeholders were asked to identify data that should be collected on the ECCP program. Advanced Behavioral Health (ABH) has developed and implemented a centralized data and reporting system for child-care programs that ECCP serves. The system collects demographic information and pre- and post-tests results using standardized assessment tools to measure outcomes for children.

ECCP services have been independently reviewed and evaluated. A rigorous study utilizing a random assignment experimental design (43 classes receiving ECCP services with 42 wait-listed classes as control groups), was conducted by Walter Gilliam and colleagues at the Yale University Child Study Center in 2005 and 2006. Results indicated that children in center-based preschool classrooms receiving ECCP services showed significantly greater teacher-rated improvements in oppositional behaviors, hyperactivity, and overall externalizing behavior problems relative to children in control classes. Specific pathways by which the improvements occurred were not clear. The study was funded by the Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI) of Connecticut. Evaluation results are available at http://ziglercenter.yale.edu/publications/briefs.html and http://www.chdi.org/publications.php.

Dr. Gilliam is contracted by DCF, through a competitive application process, to begin another rigorous, random, assignment experimental design program evaluation in the fall of 2008. A component of this evaluation will focus on Infant and Toddler Classrooms and the evaluation will be redesigned to better identify the pathways by which the program effects occurred.

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Infants and Toddlers

While ECCP provides services to children from birth through five years, program staff recognizes the significant differences in their approaches to the infant/toddler population, as compared to the preschool population. The ECCP program emphasizes and addresses the need to further develop both the knowledge base and skill set of the consultants regarding infants and toddlers.

 

One approach to capacity building happens by way of the ECCP Infant/Toddler Subcommittee, which informs the entire ECCP program with training ideas and materials for the ECCP consultants, provides trainings for other community providers, and establishes goals and strategies specific to infants and toddlers and their classrooms and caregivers. By understanding the unique developmental and relational needs of infants and toddlers, the Infant/Toddler Subcommittee researches, formulates, and provides developmentally appropriate and accurate information, as well as effective strategies to support infant and toddler growth.

Another approach comes in the form of developing and providing high quality and practical application-based training for professionals in other disciplines. ECCP consultants have developed a workshop specifically for the DCF Training Academy, to support DCF social workers in understanding and addressing the needs of the infants and toddlers in their care. In addition, ECCP staff are trained and approved to deliver workshops incorporated in the Infant Toddler Social Emotional Training Strand of Connecticut Charts-A-Course, the statewide professional development system for early care and education and school-age care.

Lastly, when consultants design Action Plans for individual children and classrooms, they choose goals, objectives, and strategies that are designed for this age group and the unique needs of infant/toddler programs, staff, and their activities. Consultants have access to classroom and child resources that have been designed for infants and toddlers, rather than adjusting or modifying resources and strategies originally designed for preschool children.

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Funding

Initial funding for the Early Childhood Consultation Partnership (ECCP) came from funds allocated to the DCF by the State of Connecticut Community Mental Health Strategy Board. ECCP has been sustained by support from the legislature, along with the governor and other state agencies.

Funding for the program following the initial pilot year came from the Community Mental Health Strategy Board and several other sources, including two private foundations, the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI), the Connecticut Health Foundation (CHF), DCF, and the State Department of Education (SDE). Non-DCF funds provided temporary funding until ECCP was integrated into the DCF budget as a regular line item.

In 2004 and 2005, approximately four-fifths of the funding came from DCF and one-fifth came from the state Department of Education (SDE). As of 2006, ECCP had been fully incorporated as a line item in the DCF Budget. In fiscal years 2008 and 2009 DCF continues to fully fund the ECCP program. A new ECCP sub- component entitled Early Childhood Behavioral Consultation (ECBC), introduced in 2008, is co-funded by DCF and SDE.

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Relationship to Other State Child Care and Early Education Initiatives

Across state agencies, there has been increased support for ECCP because of growing recognition that socio-emotional development is key to the success of the state\'s pre-kindergarten School Readiness program.

DCF oversees the contract with Advanced Behavioral Health (ABH) to administer the Early Childhood Consultation Partnership (ECCP) program. In addition, DCF partners with SDE to provide ECCP services to children with special needs in community-based child-care centers. SDE funding can be used to address mental health issues at an intensive center level where a center Behavioral Health Team is developed to address individual child, family, classroom and center needs in order to support education settings of special needs children.

ECCP services are accessible to all licensed child care programs, regardless of how the child care program is funded. ECCP prioritizes centers that serve typically underserved populations. An ECCP consultant is assigned to five of Connecticut\'s major cities.

Stakeholders from the Head Start State Collaboration Office were part of the initial ECCP planning process. ECCP collaborates with local Head Start programs, which are already required to provide mental health screenings and referrals to children in their program. Through this collaboration, ECCP provides Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Services and trainings to Head Start and Early Head Start Programs based on the ECCP model. In addition, ECCP participates in DCF-Head Start Partnership meetings, serving as a resource on early childhood mental health.

ECCP coordinates with Connecticut\'s Accreditation Facilitation Project (AFP). Consultants from both programs work together to coordinate mental health services with the program improvement work that is guided by the AFP in the context of NAEYC Accreditation. This coordination enhances the overall quality of care provided at a child care center.

CT Charts-A-Course and ECCP work together to deliver trainings to early care and education workers. Trainings are part of the ECCP Classroom Service: teachers choose trainings that are provided through CT Charts-A-Course and delivered by the ECCP consultant. Center staff earn credits that move them along the career ladder. All ECCP consultants are approved to provide TAB (Trainer Approval Board) trainings through this program.

ECCP also coordinates with the Child Development Info-line that connects providers and parents with early childhood resources such as Help Me Grow. ECCP attends the Help Me Grow Community Networking Breakfasts and is a referral and training resource for communities in need of these services.

At the state level, an Early Childhood Partners Group advises the state planning process for early childhood care and education. ECCP is recognized as one of the statewide resources for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation and participates in various subcommittees. Connecticut\'s Early Childhood Cabinet is focused specifically on these concerns. There is a growing recognition of the importance of social and emotional readiness for K-12 among policy makers in many areas.

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Additional Opportunities and Challenges

Connecticut has the potential to expand initiatives to better serve infants and toddlers, primarily because there is broad-based support from key state leaders, including the Governor and members of the state legislature. A pilot project, through the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI) is supporting an effort to develop an interdisciplinary consultation model that includes infants and toddlers as well as children of other ages. This work has helped to highlight consultation to child care as one of the primary goals of the Governor\'s Early Childhood Cabinet.

Program funding for ECCP to provide services for children birth through five is provided through behavioral health dollars from DCF\'s Early Intervention Prevention Unit. . The inclusion of infants and toddlers in this funding is essential not only to designing program components specific for this population, but in the delivery of the same high-quality services from infants and toddlers to preschool without disruption or a reduced focus.

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Advice for Other States

  • Encourage strong partnerships through collaboration and coordination among all the relevant state agencies and early childhood stakeholders throughout the state.
  • Seek out support from foundations and state leaders and legislators who will champion the initiative.
  • Centralize program management and data collection, and disseminate standardized outcomes to inform policy makers.
  • Remember the child behind the data; use anecdotal evidence to win continued support from stakeholders and lawmakers.

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Additional State Information

Advanced Behavioral Health

ECCP Summary

Diagram of ECCP Model

 

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Source

Initial interview with Liz Bicio, LCSW, Early Childhood Consultation Partnership Program Manager at Advanced Behavioral Health, on November 15, 2005 and updated October 16, 2008.

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