In Focus: Infants and Toddlers

Feb 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

ESEA Reauthorization Provides Opportunity to Bolster Support for Vulnerable Young Children and Disadvantaged Youth

By Christina Walker and Kisha Bird

Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law established in 1965 to provide funding to primary and secondary education. To inform their crucial debate, CLASP has released recommendations focused on young children and early childhood education, as well as academic success and college readiness for disadvantaged youth.

ESEA emphasizes equal access to high-quality programs to give every child a fair chance at success in school and life. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently appealed for the reauthorization of ESEA, which has not been updated since No Child Left Behind in 2001. And last Monday, President Obama released his FY 2016 budget proposal, which included bold initiatives to support our nation’s most vulnerable families, including an increased investment in ESEA.

Young children experience the highest incidence of poverty, with young adults close behind. Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. Children and youth who are poor or from low-income communities have far worse education and employment outcomes in adulthood. High-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households. But despite growing consensus on the importance of the early years, lack of public investment leaves many young children without access to high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, public and community-based preschool programs, and child care programs.

Youth and young adults are suffering, too. Many school districts are failing to provide high-quality education that keeps students engaged. For every 10 students that begin 9th grade, 2 fail to graduate from high school 4 years later. It’s critical that we strengthen the education system to ensure all students graduate and are prepared for postsecondary opportunities and careers.

ESEA has the potential to improve access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and ensure youth succeed academically and are ready for college and careers. CLASP recommends the following priorities be included in an ESEA reauthorization:

  • Provide a dedicated federal funding stream for early childhood education.
  • Improve early childhood services for children birth through school entry.
  • Ensure college and career readiness for all students by addressing disparities in school systems, particularly those with high-minority populations.
  • Fund dropout prevention and recovery strategies and interventions, including multiple education pathways and options for struggling and out-of-school youth.
  • Promote collaboration with other systems and sectors, such as human services and workforce systems and community based organizations, in order to better serve poor and low-income students.
  • Encourage states to invest in accountability and data systems that inform planning and programming around dropout prevention and recovery. 

A reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. Young children and disadvantaged youth are two key populations that deserve more attention in ESEA.

Read CLASP’s ESEA recommendations>>>

Feb 11, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

New CLASP Report Highlights the Impact of the MIECHV Program in States and Tribal Communities

By Christina Walker and Stephanie Schmit

A new CLASP report, An Investment in Our Future: How Federal Home Visiting Funding Provides Critical Support for Parents and Children, written in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, highlights how the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program funding has played a central role in expanding home visiting services to vulnerable families - including in hard-to-reach rural areas and tribal communities. Research shows that home visiting can lead to improved outcomes, such as better maternal and child health, increased school readiness, and the prevention of child injuries, abuse, and neglect. MIECHV is set to expire at the end of March without further Congressional action. 

Based on interviews with 20 states and 2 tribal organizations, An Investment in Our Future shows how federal MIECHV funding is being used to expand home visiting services to reach more families while also building the infrastructure to support well-coordinated and effective home visiting programs. Early successes from MIECHV include:

  • Expansion of evidence-based home visiting to serve and retain more vulnerable children and families in high-risk communities and keep them engaged in the programs.
  • Establishment of formal referral and intake systems within home visiting communities and across services that support children and families, ensuring they receive the best services to meet their needs.
  • Provision of systemic training, technical assistance, and professional development to support the home visiting workforce.
  • Creation of data collection systems, allowing grantees to analyze, evaluate, and report on data to demonstrate achieved child and family outcomes and improve program quality.
  • Coordination among home visiting and other early childhood programs as well as the creation of centralized intake systems, which are collaborative approaches to engaging, recruiting, and enrolling families in home visiting programs across programs and organizations.
  • Use of promising practices and other innovations to better serve at-risk populations with unmet needs.

Twenty-two in-depth state and tribal MIECHV grantee profiles are also available. The profiles describe how grantees are evaluating the direct impact of home visiting and expanding and improving services for vulnerable communities.

MIECHV grantees have built home visiting systems that reach some of the most vulnerable children and families in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 25 tribal communities, and many U.S. territories. Continuing this investment and ensuring its sustainability will allow states and tribal grantees to continue expanding services to new communities and other underserved populations, as well as sustain the positive outcomes achieved thus far.  Congress should ensure that funding for the MIECHV program continues.  Failure to do so would result in reduced services and the dismantling of the statewide systems-building progress for families in communities in every state.

Visit www.clasp.org/miechv to read the full report, Executive Summary, and state and tribal profiles.

Dec 22, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

By Hannah Matthews

There’s no question that 2014 was a monumental year for early childhood policy.  After a tumultuous end of 2013 brought about in part by a partial federal government shutdown, 2014 began with Congress approving a more than $1 billion increase in federal investments in child care and early education, including $500 million to support Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) partnerships to increase the supply of high-quality infant-toddler care and $250 million for Preschool Development Grants to advance high-quality state pre-kindergarten programs. While applicants prepared submissions during the year, CLASP worked with states in particular to understand the importance of better state subsidy policies to support successful partnerships.

Following the significant budgetary win, the even-more momentous CCDBG reauthorization began with passage in the Senate in March and concluded with the President’s signature in November. After 18 years, significant changes were made to the child care subsidy program to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care and make the subsidy system work better for low-income children and families. The bipartisan reauthorization had strong support in the House and Senate. We are gratified that CLASP’s voice has been important to the conversation, with many ideas that we promoted about continuity of child care assistance included in the final law, and our Executive Director having testified at a House hearing on the reauthorization. The final FY 2015 spending bill agreed to earlier this month increased CCDBG funding by $75 million. While this was an important message of support for the Congressional reauthorization, it still leaves states with large budget gaps in order to implement provisions of the new law.

And finally, on the heels of a new law and new early childhood investments, CLASP was excited to be a part of the White House’s Early Education Summit to bring much-needed attention to the importance of investment in child care and early education. At the Summit, recipients of the Preschool Development Grants and EHS-CC partnership grant competitions were announced, sending the resources committed last January to states and local communities. 

With these tremendous accomplishments, this year brought sobering moments as well. In February, CLASP first reported the slow decline in the number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care, and in October we reported, based on FY 2013 data, the number had reached a 15-year low. The program has not served so few children since 1997. Federal and state spending on child care assistance fell to a 10-year low. In September, the US Census Bureau released annual poverty data showing that while overall child poverty fell, an unacceptably high number of children, in particular young children and Black and Hispanic children, continue to experience the profound impacts of being consigned to a childhood in poverty.

Taken together, it’s clear that 2015 will be a year with challenges ahead, but great opportunity and potential as well. The work yet undone motivates us to do more in the coming year. Look for more resources from CLASP as we turn our attention to CCDBG implementation, including the need for significant new resources to cover implementation costs and to stem the tide on the decline of children getting help. Also in 2014, we’ve made efforts to seize opportunities with the greatest potential to improve the lives of poor children and families. In doing so, we brought attention –and worked towards solutions – on several important issues including maternal depression and job schedule challenges. We will continue to find the opportunities ripe for positive change in 2015. CLASP wishes you the best for a happy holiday season and the promise of good things to come for young children.

In case you missed them, here are some selected publications from the CLASP Child Care and Early Education team in 2014:

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