Early Childhood Education Update - August 2010

August 05, 2010 | Child Care & Early Education

In this issue:

CLASP RELEASES FACT SHEETS ON HEAD START AND EARLY HEAD START PROGRAMS IN 2009

CLASP has released new two new fact sheets: Head Start Participants, Families, and Staff in 2009 and Early Head Start Participants, Families, and Staff in 2009. The fact sheets provide a snapshot of the characteristics of children enrolled in the programs and the services provided to them during the 2008-2009 program year. The fact sheets are based on data from the Program Information Report (PIR), which all Head Start and Early Head Start programs are required to complete on an annual basis. In 2009, the Head Start preschool program served more than 900,000 young children through nearly 1,800 grantees nationwide. This is about 11,000 fewer children than were served in 2008. The Early Head Start program served more than 83,000 children under age 3 and about 9,600 pregnant women through 727 grantees/delegates. This is about 1,500 fewer infants and toddlers and about 500 fewer pregnant women than were served in 2008. Eight percent of all funded Head Start slots were in Early Head Start. Nationally, less than half of eligible children were served by Head Start preschool services, while 3 percent of eligible children were served by Early Head Start. Additional information on participants, programs, families, and staff can be found in the fact sheets.

NEW REPORT EXAMINES LINKS BETWEEN LIFELONG HEALTH AND EARLY CHILDHOOD

The Center on the Developing Child, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs have jointly released a paper, The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood. The new paper presents a framework for understanding the importance of the early years in paving the way for lifelong health and well-being. The framework is comprised of four components:

  • Biology of health - The biology of health describes how environments and experiences affect biological processes and interact with genetic predispositions.
  • Foundations of health - The foundations of health describes key factors that impact the physical and mental well-being of a child.
  • Caregiver and community capacity - Caregiver and community capacity describes the ability of family, early childhood professionals, and others to promote a healthy foundation among young children.
  • Policy and program levers for innovation - Policy and program levers describes the role that policymakers can play in supporting caregivers and communities to promote healthy child development.

The foundations for lifelong health begin with the well-being of a mother before pregnancy and continue to develop through early childhood. To build a strong, healthy foundation, young children need stable, responsive relationships; safe, supportive environments; and appropriate nutrition. Positive early experiences help to strengthen a child's biological system, while exposure to adverse experiences or events can lead children to develop diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, that last into adulthood. A strong healthy foundation is also critical for learning and brain development. To promote healthy child development, the paper presents considerations for improving policies and programs that support children's health needs, including nutrition, mental health, and primary health care needs.

RESOURCES ON HOME VISITATION: SELF-ASSESSMENT TOOL AND RESEARCH ON WHAT WORKS

Several new resources are available to assist states in applying for home visiting funds allocated in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. These resources are:

  • HHS Awards Initial Funding for Home Visiting Program: On July 21, 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced awards totaling $88 million in initial funding to 49 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories for the new Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. Of these initial awards, $500,000 is available immediately to each state and territory to support their work conducting the required needs assessment. HHS will be publishing a second Funding Opportunity Announcement with additional details for conducting the needs assessment. Further information on funding and CLASP resources on home visiting are available on CLASP's home visiting webpage.
  • Home Visitation Self-Assessment Tool - ZERO TO THREE has created a home visitation self-assessment tool to assist states in preparing for the grant fund application process. The tool includes a set of questions to help states evaluate strengths and weaknesses in their existing state services, programs, and resources in order to identify steps for moving forward. In the tool, states are guided through addressing three major issues: defining the home visiting program, assessing the program's capacity, and prioritizing areas for improvement. Within this framework, the tool focuses on assessing specific topics, such as program standards, data monitoring, and professional development.
  • What Works for Home Visiting Programs: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions - Child Trends has released a new fact sheet that highlights best practices for effective home visiting programs. Drawing on findings from 66 studies, the fact sheet identifies what works, what yields mixed results, and what does not work for home visitation based on ten child outcome areas. The fact sheet organizes the findings by ages of children served. Twenty-five of the reviewed studies evaluate programs serving infants and toddlers, while 16 evaluate programs serving preschool-age children. A detailed table of home visiting programs is included with the fact sheet. The table summarizes each of the programs' effectiveness in addressing the ten child outcome areas.

2010 UPDATE ON INDICATORS OF CHILD WELL-BEING

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a group of 22 federal agencies that collect or use data on children and families, has updated its database of 40 indicators of child well-being. The database covers seven outcome areas of well-being: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. Every other year, the forum produces a comprehensive report on the state of children; a brief featuring key findings from the outcome areas is released during the interim years. The next full report is set to be released in 2011. This year's interim brief, America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, highlights changes in several areas of well-being. Among them:

  • Health insurance coverage: In 2008, 90 percent of children were covered by health insurance at some point during the year, an increase from the previous year.
  • Preterm births: The percentage of preterm births decreased from 2007 to 2008 (12.7 to 12.3 percent).
  • Working families: In 2008, 75 percent of children had at least one parent who was employed full-time, year round, which is the lowest percentage since 1996.
  • Poverty level: 19 percent of children lived in poverty, the highest level since 1998.
  • Food insecurity: The share of children who lived in food insecure households increased from 17 in 2007 to 22 percent in 2008.

FEDERAL SPENDING ON PROGRAMS SERVING CHILDREN

Two new reports examine federal spending on programs serving children and families. The two reports are:

  • Children's Budget 2010 - This annual report from First Focus tracks federal appropriations levels for programs serving children over the past five years (2006-2010). More than 180 children's programs, ranging from child health to education, receive federal funding. Over the past five years, the report finds that federal spending on children has increased by 15 percent, primarily due to increased mandatory spending in the last two years. Economic stimulus funds have provided a significant boost in the last two years; spending on children would account for less than 8 percent of the total federal budget without these funds. Among the report's findings on young children, spending on the Child Care and Development Block Grant has decreased by 4.8 percent over the past five years, while spending on Head Start has decreased by 1.6 percent.
  • Kids' Share 2010: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2009 - This fourth annual report produced jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute provides an analysis of federal spending on programs and tax policies supporting children and their families. In 2009, federal expenditures on children and families were $334 billion out of a total $3.5 trillion in outlays. The report finds that since 1960, the portion of the federal budget spent on children has decreased by more than 25 percent, while spending on non-child entitlement programs has more than doubled. The report predicts that there will be an overall decline in spending on children over the next decade.

IMPROVING ACCESS TO TREATMENT SERVICES IN EPSDT

The National Academy for State Health Policy has released a new policy brief, Managing the "T" in EPSDT Services. The Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) Program is a component of Medicaid that entitles children to a wide range of health prevention and treatment benefits, including medical, mental, and developmental services. Although policymakers and other stakeholders have a general understanding of the requirements regarding EPSDT well-child visits (i.e., screening visits), many are not as familiar with the requirements on treatment coverage. States are responsible for making important policy and implementation decisions, such as provider qualifications, payment levels, and benefit definitions. The brief provides an overview of what treatment is covered by EPSDT and general barriers to accessing EPSDT benefits. The brief then examines states' management of EPSDT treatment coverage for children and details strategies that states have effectively used to improve access to these services. These strategies are:

  • Collect and report data to support treatment referrals,
  • Focus on quality improvement,
  • Identify children with special health care needs,
  • Maximize the medical home and case management/care coordination,
  • Communicate with families and providers, and
  • Adopt improved policies and procedures.

MUNICIPAL GUIDE ON SUPPORTING FAMILY, FRIEND, AND NEIGHBOR CARE

A new guide, Promoting School Readiness By Improving Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care, from the National League of Cities illustrates various ways in which city leaders can support family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care where many young children are cared for. According to the brief, FFN care is the most common type of child care arrangement for low-income, working parents with children under age six. By supporting this form of care, cities can increase the number of young children, especially disadvantaged children, who are prepared and ready for school. The brief presents examples of city initiatives and programs that support FFN caregivers. In particular, FFN care efforts in five cities are profiled: Atlanta (GA), Denver (CO), Des Moines (IA), Nashville (TN), Providence (RI), and San Antonito (TX). Among these cities, actions have been taken to connect FFN caregivers to community resources, establish peer networks and supports, and provide training and professional development opportunities. The brief describes four overall strategies that cities can use to support FFN care based on the experiences of the five profiled cities:

  • Build partnerships to identify and support FFN caregivers,
  • Create culturally-appropriate and accessible materials, activities, and gathering places for FFN caregivers,
  • Use data to improve programs over times, and
  • Build public support.

NEXT STEPS FOR REDUCING POVERTY AND ECONOMIC DISTRESS AFTER ARRA

Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have been a critical support to states and have helped lessen the impact of the economic recession on children and families. The ARRA funds, however, will expire sooner than the effects of the recession are projected to end. A new Urban Institute brief, Reducing Poverty and Economic Distress after ARRA: Next Steps for Short-Term Recovery and Long-Term Economic Security, offers short- and long-term actions that the federal government can take to sustain and build on antipoverty efforts after the ARRA funds are gone. Among the strategies, the brief calls for long-term investments in high-quality early childhood programs. High-quality programs, such as Early Head Start, serve only a small portion of eligible children given the high costs of implementing the programs. Although high-quality early care and education require significant investments, research has shown significant payoffs from these programs. The brief recommends that initial investments made by ARRA in programs, such as Head Start, child care assistance, and education funding, be expanded over the next years. In addition, the brief suggests that further research be conducted on approaches, such as geographic targeting, that would expand early childhood services in disadvantaged communities.    

SUPPORTING CHILDREN'S HEALTH: THE IMPACTS OF ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS AND STANDARDS FOR PREVENTING CHILDHOOD OBESITY IN CHILD CARE

Two new resources focus on programs and policies that support children's health and physical well-being. These resources are:

  • Healthy Families in Hard Times: Children's HealthWatch has released a brief that highlights the adverse impacts that multiple hardships, in particular food, housing, and energy insecurity, can have on young children's health and development. Children's HealthWatch conducted research, which found that economic hardships can have adverse effects on children, such as poor health, increased hospitalizations, iron deficiency anemia, and increased risk of developmental delays. However, providing multiple supports to families, such as food assistance and housing subsidies, can significantly mitigate these effects and improve children's health. The brief recommends stronger investments in nutrition programs and expanded access to public assistance and housing/energy assistance programs.
  • Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs: The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education have jointly produced a guide on recommended standards and practices to promote healthy eating and exercise in child care settings. The organizations selected these standards from the report, Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs. The guide focuses on three areas of health and well-being: improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, and limiting screen time. For each recommended standard, a detailed description is given on how to implement the standard as well as the rationale for the importance of the standard. The guide also provides links to additional resources and information to further assist states in promoting healthy eating and physical activity.

UPDATE ON THE UNIONIZATION OF HOME-BASED CHILD CARE WORKERS

The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) recently released a report, Getting Organized: Unionizing Home-Based Child Care Providers 2010 Update. The report is a follow-up to a paper that NWLC released in 2007 that examined emerging efforts to unionize home-based child care providers- i.e., regulated family child care (FCC) providers and unregulated family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care providers who receive public funds. In the 2007 paper, NWLC identified seven states (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin) where unions had obtained the right to advocate on behalf of home-based providers for improved compensation and working conditions. Among these states, contracts were drawn out and signed in only three of them, while funding was allocated as agreed upon in the contract by only one state legislature.

In this latest report, NWLC tracks the progress that the three states have made since 2007 to fund and implement the contracts, while providing an update on developments in the remaining states that had not negotiated contracts at that time. Additionally, the report profiles seven new states (Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) that have since permitted home-based providers to unionize and includes details on the status of negotiations. In some of these states, contract provisions have been negotiated and agreed upon. The report also examines three other states where unionization attempts have failed.  

RECRUITING, TRAINING, AND RETAINING A QUALIFIED CHILD CARE WORKFORCE IN WISCONSIN

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association have released a new policy brief, the second in a series exploring career pathways and links to early childhood higher education. The brief, Attracting, Supporting, and Retaining a Qualified Workforce, examines the difficulties of maintaining a qualified child care workforce in Wisconsin and across the nation. Research evidence indicates that retaining qualified staff is a major challenge for many child care programs, especially for programs serving low-income children. The brief discusses several key barriers to retaining qualified workers, which are low compensation, lack of professional development support, and high turnover. In Wisconsin, the average annual salary for a child care teacher in 2009 was about $23,000. Although research evidence indicates that most programs in the state offer some type of staff development, the brief observes that only a few connect professional development with financial support or compensation, such as salary increases to credit-based professional development. The state average turnover rate among child care workers is 39 percent, which is higher than the national average. Among child care programs that serve a high share (50 percent or more) of children in the subsidy systems, the brief finds that staff are even more likely to earn lower salaries, have a lower degree of education, and have higher turnover than the state average. To address these challenges, the brief offers ideas to improve compensation and financial support to child care workers and create links between compensation and professional development.

THE COST OF RAISING A FAMILY IN CALIFORNIA

A new report, Making Ends Meet: How Much Does It Cost To Raise a Family in California?, by the California Budget Project estimates the amount of income that a family or single adult needs to sustain a standard of living in California that does not require support from public assistance programs. The federal poverty level (FPL) is a commonly used benchmark for measuring a family's economic conditions. However, the FPL does not take into account expenses, such as child care, which can take up a significant share of a household budget for working families. In the report, family budget estimates for four types of households are presented: a single adult, a single working parent with two children, a two-parent family with two children and one working parent, and two working parents with two children. The report calculates the cost of living for these households using a variety of factors, including the need for child care, housing and utilities, transportation, food, health care, payroll and income taxes, and miscellaneous expenses. For a single working parent with two children, the report estimates that a monthly budget of $5,353, or about an hourly wage of $30.88, is needed to meet basic expenses. The two largest expenses for the household are housing/utilities (23.6 percent) and child care (20.6 percent). The report similarly estimates that housing/utilities and child care are the two largest expenses for households with two working parents with two children. To account for differences in cost of living across the state, the report also provides budget estimates by county.

 

CLASP's Early Childhood Education Update is a monthly roundup of news, legislative developments, research, and other developments of interest to the early care and education community. This update is part of CLASP's project, funded by The Joyce Foundation, to provide technical assistance to early childhood policymakers and advocates in Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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