The Progress, Problems, And Promise Of Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems
Sep 20, 2007
In an analysis of state Maternal and Child Health Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS), the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) found that much progress has been made in creating comprehensive systems of early childhood services but challenges remain. NCCP examined state strategies to promote systems integration as well as governance and structural mechanisms or governing bodies to support and sustain systems integration. The investigation, State of the States' ECCS Initiatives, revealed that all 48 states that received ECCS grants had a birth to five focus and 45 states formally established cross-sector stakeholder groups that included health, mental health, early care and education, parent education, and family support services. Nearly half (24) of these states included private sector partners in their stakeholder groups. Professional Associations, advocacy groups and parent organizations were among the most common private partners while national initiatives and philanthropy groups were among the least. Despite the development of cross-sector stakeholder groups by the vast majority of states only 22 had strong approaches to integrating separate programs, systems, and funding streams, and only 33 engaged parent leaders. Challenges to creating more effective ECCS initiatives highlighted by the study include:
- States must give more equal emphasis to all components of the system
- New interagency agreements, staff configurations, and fiscal arrangements must be developed.
In maintaining their focus on state ECCS initiatives, NCCP also published Reducing Disparities Beginning in Early Childhood to highlight how ECCS initiatives could be used to reduce many of the risk factors experienced in early childhood that disparately affect low-income and minority children. These risk factors include mental health and developmental problems, exposure to family violence, unequal treatment and access to services and low levels of school readiness. The paper cites that these and other risk factors can negatively impact the overall health, education, and economic status of young children and lead to long-term negative life outcomes. The authors assert that ECCS initiatives can be used to help address many of these issues by employing strategies that promote an understanding of the issues, use data and monitoring to guide planning, improve child and family services, and improve community supports. Specific recommendations include:
- Link early childhood systems development efforts to programs aimed at undoing racism and eliminating poverty.
- Integrate cross-cultural and cultural/linguistic competency training into early childhood education and health workforce training.