Community Needs and Strategies: New Haven Plans for Supporting Young Children

Sep 24, 2009

By Elizabeth Hoffmann

The New Haven, Connecticut, Early Childhood Council recently released a comprehensive plan that brings together public and private partners in the community to make a difference for kids.

The council's Early Childhood Plan will guide the city's work on early childhood for the next five years. The plan looks comprehensively at the needs of young children in the city, establishes indicators to measure progress, and proposes strategies and action steps to get there.

The council has engaged an impressive set of partners to work across systems, including public schools; community-based early care and education (including centers, family child care, and family, friend, and neighbor caregivers); Head Start; child welfare; physical, mental, and oral health care providers; a local university; philanthropy; and non-profit organizations. Finance, governance, and accountability are key features of the plan that span all these groups.

Instead of focusing on just one sector, the plan looks across three areas: Early Care and Education (both increasing quality and access), Family Engagement, and Child Health. To make changes for children, the plan lays out several specific strategies and offers specific indicators that the city can use to measure progress. Additionally, for each strategy, the plan lists financial resources available and assigns responsibility to public and/or private or non-profit entities. Through the use of data and research, the plan also demonstrates how chosen early indicators tie to children's future learning and development, while quantifying the baseline of how New Haven children are faring today.

New Haven has a supportive mayor and city council and can build on previous success. With funds from the state's School Readiness initiative for preschool-age children, 11 new early care sites have opened since 1997. Between 2001 and 2008, the percentage of accredited early care and education programs grew from 35 percent to 63 percent. The City's Infant-Toddler program has also been moved to improved facilities.

This initiative demonstrates that New Haven is committed to improving outcomes and going further for vulnerable children.

CLASP looks forward to continuing to watch this initiative. 

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