New CLASP, ZERO TO THREE Profiles Outline State Early Head Start Initiatives
The federal Early Head Start (EHS) program was created in 1994 to address the comprehensive needs of children under age 3 in low-income families and vulnerable low-income pregnant women. Research shows that EHS positively impacts children's cognitive, language, and social-emotional development; family self-sufficiency; and parental support of child development. To help states identify strategies for reaching more families with EHS, CLASP and ZERO TO THREE (ZTT) recently released Expanding Access to Early Head Start: State Initiatives for Infants and Toddlers at Risk. The report highlights how states are using innovative funding, policies, and partnerships to expand the critically important EHS program and better meet the needs of more low-income children and pregnant women.
The report shows that 23 states are using at least one of four approaches to build on the federally funded EHS program:
- Nine states have initiatives that extend the day or year of existing EHS services.
- Nineteen states have initiatives that expand the capacity of EHS programs to increase the number of children and pregnant women served.
- Two states provide resources and assistance to child care providers.
- Six states support partnerships between EHS and center-based and/or family child care providers.
In conjunction with the report, CLASP and ZTT have developed nine state profiles to further detail the initiatives in some of the states. The profiles serve as guides for states interested in learning more about state investments in EHS, or that want to work toward setting up an initiative of their own. In brief:
- The Illinois Prevention Initiative provides grants to home-based and center-based programs to expand access to the EHS model as well as other birth to 3 models. The goal is to serve additional children birth to age 3 and help grantees increase program quality.
- The Illinois Child Care Collaboration Program promotes collaboration between child care and other early care and education providers, including EHS, by creating policies to ease blending of funds to extend the day or year of existing services.
- Kansas Early Head Start (KEHS) provides comprehensive services following federal Head Start Program Performance Standards for pregnant women and eligible families with children from birth to age 4.
- Maine has two initiatives that build on EHS. Since 2001, the Fund for a Healthy Maine has provided tobacco settlement money to existing Head Start and EHS programs to expand the number of children who receive full-day, full-year services. Additionally, Maine has provided state general revenue funds to all Head Start programs to add additional slots, some of which may be used for EHS.
- Since 2000, Maryland has provided state supplemental funds to Head Start and EHS programs to improve access. Local EHS programs may use funds, through child care partnerships, to extend the EHS day or year.
- Minnesota provides supplemental state funding to existing federal Head Start and EHS grantees to increase their capacity to serve additional infants, toddlers, and pregnant women.
- Missouri's Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership Project expands access to EHS services for children birth to age 3 by developing partnerships between federal Head Start, EHS contractors, and child care providers.
- Since 1999, Nebraska's Early Head Start Infant/Toddler Quality Initiative has supported EHS and community child care partnerships to improve the quality and professionalism of infant and toddler care. EHS programs apply to receive funding to establish partnerships with center-based or home-based child care.
- The Oklahoma Early Childhood Program uses public and private funds to enhance and expand high quality early care and education opportunities for children birth through age 3.
All babies need good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences to foster their intellectual, social, and emotional development. Unfortunately, far too few young children receive the supports they need to build a strong foundation for future growth. By expanding investments in Early Head Start, states can go a long way in giving children the solid foundation they need to thrive.