Early Childhood Education Update - July 2010
July 06, 2010 | Child Care & Early Education
In this issue:
- HHS Releases Funding Announcement for Home Visiting Program
- The Links Between Poverty Status at Birth, Persistent Childhood Poverty, and Adult Outcomes
- A Review of State Early Learning Guidelines and Assessments in Kindergarten
- The Value of Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care in Maine
- New Child Outcomes Data on Pennsylvania's Early Childhood Programs
- Supporting Low-Income Parents of Young Children in Palm Beach County, Florida
- Improving Health and Nutrition Standards in Delaware Child Care Programs
- Supporting the Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Toddlers
- Public Investments in Early Childhood Systems
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a Funding Opportunity Announcement for the early childhood home visiting program included as part of health care reform. The announcement provides the timeline for additional information to be released over the summer that will be critical to states as they apply for and implement the new program. Importantly, the new announcement makes clear that the home visiting program is a formula-based grant program and that all states with approved applications will receive funds. Appendix B provides a breakdown of the approximate funding level for each state.
States should note that though funds are made available to all states, they still must complete the required needs assessment and the initial application is due July 9, 2010. Additionally, their final applications, which will be due in early FY 2011, will have to be approved by the Secretary as meeting the criteria of effectiveness for home visiting models.
- HHS' funding announcement can be found on the department's website.
- CLASP has various resources on the home visitation program, including details on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
- Child Trends has recently released a guide to assist states with the grant application, in particular the needs assessment component. States are required to conduct a needs assessment as one of the initial steps of the application process. The guide, Home Visitation Application Process: A Guide for Planning State Needs Assessments, offers step-by-step assistance on developing and implementing a needs assessment plan, identifying at-risk populations, and selecting and measuring benchmarks. In addition, the guide identifies various sources and types of data that states can use in their needs assessments. A timeline is provided for when this component of the application needs to be completed.
A new Urban Institute brief, Childhood Poverty Persistence: Facts and Consequences, explores the links between poverty status at birth, persistent childhood poverty, and adult outcomes. The study used Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) data from 1968 through 2005 to examine the occurrence and duration of poverty among all children and by race, from birth through age 17. The authors analyzed key child poverty data, including the number of years and proportion of children who lived in persistent poverty (defined as living at least half of their childhood in poverty), the frequency in which children cycled in and out of poverty, and the relationship between poverty status at birth and adult outcomes. Researchers tracked the progress of these children at ages 25 to 30, examining adult outcomes such as poverty status, educational attainment, and employment. The study's results indicate that being poor at birth and persistent childhood poverty are strong predictors of adult outcomes. Moreover, there are significant racial disparities in childhood poverty. Among the study's findings:
- Poverty status at birth: Children born in poor families are significantly more likely to live in persistent poverty than children born in higher-income families. Approximately 40-60 percent of children in the former group go on to live in poverty throughout their childhoods compared to 5-9 percent of children in the latter group. By race, about 30 percent of white children and nearly 70 percent of black children born in poor households continue to live in poverty for at least half of their childhood.
- Persistent childhood poverty: Children who are poor for multiple years tend to cycle in and out of poverty rather than experience one uninterrupted period of poverty. The longer a child lives in poverty, the worse their adult outcomes. For instance, more than 30 percent of persistently poor children continue to be persistently poor in early adulthood compared to only 1 percent of non-poor children.
- Adult outcomes: Among white men not born in poverty, 73 percent are consistently employed between ages 25-30. White men born in poverty are somewhat more likely to be consistently employed as young adults-88 percent. But for black men, 69 percent for those not born in poverty are consistently employed and only 36 percent for those born in poverty.
Child Trends has added a new policy brief, A Review of School Readiness Practices in the States: Early Learning Guidelines and Assessments, to its Early Childhood Highlights series. The brief describes the development and current use of state early learning guidelines (ELGs) and school readiness assessments in kindergarten. Similar to K-12 curriculum standards, ELGs outline for early care and education providers the knowledge and skills that young children need in order to have a successful start in kindergarten. All states and the District of Columbia have developed ELGs for preschool-age children (ages 3-5), while 24 states have established or are in the process of establishing ELGs for infants and toddlers (ages 0-3). The use of ELGs is voluntary in the majority of states, although some state pre-kindergarten programs require their use. In addition, most preschool ELGs reflect the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework in that they focus on at least some of the following developmental areas: language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, and physical health and development. The report finds that state ELGs vary in the level of emphasis placed on the different developmental areas. For instance, some ELGs place more emphasis on math and literacy than other areas, such as social-emotional development. All states and the District of Columbia include at least guidelines on language and literacy.
Examining the use of assessments, the brief finds that while more than half of states conduct assessments of children in kindergarten, only seven states use this data to analyze school readiness on a statewide rather than individual level. A few of these states, such as Maryland, use this school readiness data to track children's level of school readiness over the long term. The brief presents a set of policy considerations for utilizing ELGs and assessments to promote school readiness. These considerations include addressing nonacademic factors affecting school readiness, aligning ELGs with K-12 standards, and ensuring that families, schools, and communities are supported.
A new issue brief from Maine Children's Alliance and Maine KIDS COUNT highlights the role that family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care can play in supporting working families. The brief, The Value of Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care in Maine, examines the use of FFN care by families as well as the needs of FFN caregivers. In Maine, more than 55,000 young children (birth through age 5) and nearly 80,000 school-age children (ages 6-12) live in households where all parents are employed. Yet, there are only 2,395 licensed child care providers and about 40,100 available slots across the state. FFN care helps fill in gaps where there is need for child care. The brief finds that families choose FFN care for a variety of reasons. For instance, some families, especially those with infants and toddlers, cite a greater degree of trust in relative care than formal care arrangements. Relative care also offers greater flexibility. In rural areas, child care slots may be limited, and available child care hours may not fit the schedules of parents who work outside of normal business hours. The brief finds that among many low-income families who do not receive child care subsidies, FFN care is more affordable than formal child care arrangements. In Maine, more than 65,000 families are eligible for child care subsidies, but less than 16,000 families actually receive assistance. Families receiving child care subsidies may use them for FFN care. Among subsidized children in FFN care, 49 percent are school-age children; 30 percent are infants and toddlers; and 21 percent are preschool-age.
Among FFN caregivers, about 48 percent are caring for a related child; 38 percent are caring for a friend/neighbor child; and 14 percent are caring for both. Most FFN caregivers accepting subsidies live in the same low-income communities as the children for whom they are caring. In addition, most FFN caregivers who are related to the child in their care are grandparents. Based on a survey of FFN caregivers, the brief finds that caregivers are particularly interested in learning more about the issues of discipline, sleeping, toilet training, school readiness, and behavioral management. To address the needs of FFN caregivers, the brief presents nine recommendations developed by the state's Department of Health and Human Services and highlights key lessons learned from the experiences of other states. The brief notes that funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are being used to support FFN care activities in Maine.
The Pennsylvania Build Initiative and the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning have released new child outcomes data on three early childhood programs:
- Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts: More than 11,500 three and four year old children in 62 counties participate in the state's public pre-kindergarten program, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts. New outcomes data finds more than 70 percent of children who attended the program in 2009-2010 showed age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills by the end of the school year. Among a number of school districts, students who attended the pre-kindergarten program showed comparable or higher levels of school readiness when measured against children who did not attend the program. A survey of 2,700 parents indicates that there is also a high level of parent satisfaction with the qualifications and skills of the pre-kindergarten teachers.
- Keystone STARS: Almost 4,500 child care programs participate in Keystone STARS, the state's quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). The QRIS is based on a four-star system; four stars represent the highest level of quality. New outcomes data reveal that in 2009-2010, more than 65 percent of preschoolers who attended 3- and 4-star programs showed age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills by the end of the school year. In 2008-2009, the number of 3- and 4-star rated programs increased by almost one-third, while about one-third of programs improved their quality rating by at least one star level.
- Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program: Pennsylvania's Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) provides supplemental funding to existing Head Start programs to increase the number of children served or to extend the length of day or program year. Three- and four year old children in households with incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty line may participate. New outcomes data reveal that in 2009-2010, more than 5,500 children benefited from HSSAP in 53 counties. Additionally, more than 65 percent of children in HSSAP showed age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills by the end of the year.
In 2004, Chapin Hall began a 6-year longitudinal study on an initiative in Palm Beach County, Florida that aimed to promote the healthy growth and development of children from birth to age eight. The main goals of the initiative were to increase the number of healthy births, reduce child abuse and neglect, and improve school readiness in four low-income communities. The study was commissioned by the Children's Services Council (CSC), one of the leaders of the initiative. CSC and its partners designed a prevention and early intervention system that included Maternal Child Health Partnership (MCHP) services, early care and education, school behavioral health programs, and afterschool programs. Chapin Hall has released a fourth-year report, Supporting Low-Income Parents of Young Children: The Palm Beach County Family Study Fourth Annual Report, tracking the initiative's progress. In this latest evaluation, Chapin Hall provides an update on families and children participating in the initiative. The report presents the latest data on:
- Family characteristics
- Health, health care, and child development
- Parenting practices and beliefs
- Child care arrangements
- Informal and community support
- Use of formal services (e.g., MCHP, health care, food assistance)
- Overall service use, maternal functioning, and child development outcomes
Among the report's major findings, foreign-born children appear to be at a greater disadvantage than U.S.-born children. For instance, foreign-born children in the study were more likely to be at or below the poverty level. In addition, some groups of foreign-born mothers reported significantly higher levels of maternal depression and parenting stress or showed lower levels of parenting skills. Data also suggest that children of foreign-born Hispanic mothers may be lagging behind in their development compared to other children. Foreign-born mothers, however, were more likely to receive MCHP treatment services than other mothers. The report offers considerations for improving the services and supports that foreign-born mothers receive, such as developing culturally appropriate approaches to address their particular needs.
In 2007, Delaware's Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) began revising the state's child care licensing rules to improve the nutrition and health standards in child care programs. Among actions taken, OCCL required that all licensed facilities meet the state's guidelines and standards for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) on nutrition, physical activity, and screen time limits. In 2008, the state's Department of Education developed new nutrition guidelines for CACFP, which were officially implemented in 2010. A new report from the Altarum Institute examines the problems that child care providers have experienced in implementing the new guidelines and the approaches that they have taken to resolve some of these issues. The Altarum Institute convened focus groups of child care center directors, child care home providers, and parents of children in centers to learn about the experiences of providers as well as parent perceptions of the changes. Results from the focus groups are presented in a report, Challenges and Opportunities Related to the Implementation of Child Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies in Delaware. Among the report's findings:
- Parent and provider perceptions: Overall, parents and providers had positive views of the state's nutrition and physical activity standards and generally understood the rationale behind them. However, the rationales behind some guidelines, such as provisions on milk, were not fully understood.
- Meal planning and food preparation: Among food service-related challenges, meal planning and food preparation were the most commonly cited problems. Specific problems included developing appealing menus and offering variety, cooking from scratch, and modifying recipes to meet guidelines.
- Food shopping: Most providers cited problems in finding foods from their usual suppliers that met guidelines. Providers had difficulties knowing which products were allowable, where they were sold, and whether they were available year-round.
- Food costs: The greatest problem for providers was the higher cost of purchasing healthy foods. Although most providers supported the new standards and guidelines, implementing the new policies put a strain on providers' limited budgets.
- Screen time and physical activity: Providers generally found the screen time limitations easy to implement. However, many providers cited challenges to meeting physical activity requirements. Challenges included limited outdoor space, limited resources to purchase equipment, and lack of staff understanding and motivation.
The report describes various steps that providers have taken to address the challenges of complying with the new guidelines and standards. In addition, the report offers recommendations for states to improve child nutrition and physical activity standards in child care settings.
SUPPORTING THE SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF INFANTS AND TODDLERS
The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) conducted a comprehensive 50-state survey of early intervention services and released a report on the survey last year. A new policy brief from NCCP builds on this research and identifies strategies that states can take to utilize effectively the Part C Early Intervention Program, which serves children under age 3 with developmental delays and disabilities. The Part C program also provides services and resources to support the social-emotional development of infants and toddlers. In the new brief, Promoting the Social-Emotional Well-Being of Infants and Toddlers in Early Intervention Programs, the NCCP presents key findings from four case studies conducted in Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Dona Ana, New Mexico; and Southeast Kansas. Based on the findings, the brief identifies four components critical to implementing successfully the Part C program:
- Screening, evaluation, eligibility: The four communities used valid, reliable, and appropriate screening tools for identifying children in need of early intervention services. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire-Social Emotional were the most frequently used screening tools.
- Core competencies and training for early intervention professionals: New Mexico and Kansas used the Michigan -Association for Infant Mental Health (AIMH) Michigan-AIMH competencies and endorsement system, a system used by many states, to establish core competencies for early intervention professionals working with infants and toddlers and to inform provider training. Massachusetts and California have developed their own guidelines for preparing the early intervention workforce.
- Interagency collaborations: The communities held regular, cross-agency meetings to improve services and family engagement. For instance, in Dona Ana County, providers in the community-based Healthy Start, Early Head Start, and Early Intervention programs met on a regular basis to identify families in need of immediate assessments and multiple services across agencies.
- Funding: The communities used multiple funding streams, such as Title V, Medicaid, and Part C, to the support early intervention programs. Economic recovery funds have also been used to provide one-time support.
The brief offers recommendations for effectively utilizing the Part C program to support the social-emotional well-being of infants and toddlers. Among them, the three overarching recommendations are to establish policies and practices to increase participation in early intervention programs, ensure the early intervention workforce have the skills and training necessary to identify and support very young children in need of services, and promote inter-agency partnerships and funding collaborations.
PUBLIC INVESTMENTS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD SYSTEMS
The Child and Family Policy Center and Voices for America's Children have released a third edition of the report, Early Learning Left Out: Building an Early Learning Childhood System to Secure America's Future. The updated report provides an estimate of the level of public investments in early childhood, birth through age five, from federal, state, and local school district sources using data from FY 2007. Major early childhood funding sources, such as Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, child and dependent care tax credits, and state preschool programs, are analyzed. The report compares these investments to those for school-age children. Funding sources for school-age services that are analyzed include K-12 public education, before- and after-school child care subsidies, and federal youth training programs. Overall, the report finds that less than four percent of investments in education and development serve children from birth through age three. Yet, the early years are a critical period of growth and development: 85 percent of brain development occurs during this time. The report finds that public investments for infants and toddlers are the lowest compared to preschool-age children and school-age children. For every dollar spent on a school-age child, about 25 cents are spent on a preschool-age child and only about 6.4 cents are spent on infants and toddlers. Among the various funding streams, federal sources make up the largest portion of investments for preschool-age children and infants/toddlers. The report makes the case that early childhood programs result in significant long-term cost-savings. Four early childhood programs (Chicago Child-Parent Centers, Perry Preschool, Elmira Prenatal/Early Infancy Project, and Abecedarian) are highlighted as model programs. The report estimates that for every dollar invested in these programs, there is a return of at least $4.