Learning From State Experiences With Building Comprehensive Prenatal-To-Five Early Childhood Systems
Dec 14, 2007
From the first day of life through entry into school, young children are developing foundations built into the architecture of the brain - which will have an impact on their development and success later in life. Although children develop holistically from the pre-natal period to age five, the federal, state and local government agencies and programs that exist to help them and their families along the way are often spread across multiple state agencies, with different funding streams, and rules.
A new report coauthored by ZERO TO THREE and Pre[k]Now examines five states efforts to build cohesive, comprehensive early childhood systems, suggests a set of cross-cutting components necessary for success, profiles the five states experiences (California, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania), and makes recommendations for state policymakers. The two groups, whose work focuses on different age groups of the prenatal-to-five spectrum, together call for a time when this nation supports the healthy development of all children within their states and communities by providing comprehensive, coordinated, well-funded systems of high-quality, prenatal-to-five services that foster success in school and life. Model state early childhood systems should address physical and mental health, family support, and early care and education needs of young children and their families.
Now is an important time to take heed of the call for a birth to five approach. The newly signed Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 requires states to have State Advisory Councils on Early Education and Care in order to determine needs across programs serving children birth to age of school entry and to develop recommendations for coordination and collaboration between early childhood programs at the state and local level, and other tasks. If funding becomes available, the bill authorizes new federal incentive grants to promote the development and expansion of state early education systems. This provision may act as a catalyst for new and existing efforts of state policymakers to improve their early childhood systems. The new report joins other resources that can be helpful to move this important work forward.