Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
Mar 08, 2007 | Child Care and Early Education
Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is an example of how a state can combine agencies to create coordinated governance for children from birth through age five. This state example was originally written as part of the Starting Off Right: Promoting Child Development from Birth in State Early Care and Education Initiatives. See also the Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project.
- Goals and Objectives
- Relationship to Other State Child Care and Early Education Initiatives
- Additional Opportunities and Challenges
- Advice for Other States
- Additional State Information
Georgia has taken steps to increase coordination of state policies focused on children birth to three, based on the state's nationally recognized efforts to expand access to state pre-kindergarten. Georgia is one of few states with a statewide pre-kindergarten program that is free and open to all four-year-old children. Georgia Pre-K increased support for early learning and has enjoyed popular success and positive results. More recently, state early care and education policymakers reviewed current child development research and determined a need to focus more attention on children birth to five. Governor Sonny Perdue took on this charge and proposed creating a higher level department to coordinate early care and learning in the state. His proposal received legislative support, and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (Bright from the Start) was created in 2004.
Bright from the Start is headed by a commissioner and a board of directors. The department was created by merging the former Office of School Readiness, which administered Georgia Pre-K ; the child care licensing division from the Department of Human Resources (DHR); the Even Start Program from the Department of Education; and the Georgia Child Care Council. DHR is still the lead state agency for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and retains responsibility for the child care subsidy program, while Bright from the Start manages the state pre-kindergarten program, federal child nutrition programs, all child care licensing, and the quality and infant/toddler set-asides of the federal CCDBG. The department funds and oversees the grants to the child care resource and referral agencies and administers quality improvement grants. Bright from the Start also houses the federally funded Head Start State Collaboration Office.
The commissioner of Bright from the Start collaborates and interacts regularly with leaders from federal and state government and from the private, non-profit, and corporate sectors. The commissioner is also a member of the First Lady's Children's Cabinet, the Alliance of Education Agency Heads, the Governor's Workforce Investment Board, and the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, thus underscoring the critical role of early care and education in the overall well-being of the state's economic, workforce, social, and educational systems.
Bright from the Start's mission is that the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning delivers exemplary early care and education programs that improve the quality of early learning experiences, increase school readiness, and improve overall school performance. Bright from the Start's vision is that the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning will increase the number of Georgia's children and families who have access to quality early care and learning programs, and more of Georgia's early care and learning programs will achieve and maintain higher, measurable, research-based standards.
Bright from the Start's strategic plan includes four goals toward which the department is working:
- To establish comprehensive quality standards in early care and education;
- To provide for a system of professional development for providers and staff;
- To improve and expand organizational information; and
- To improve organizational effectiveness in Human Resource Management, Financial Resource Management, and Asset Resource Management.
To these ends, Bright from the Start has completed or is working on the following:
1. In conjunction with other early childhood professionals, developing the Georgia Early Learning Standards for children from birth through age three. These standards, which are aligned with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten standards, were released in February 2006;
2. Developing a statewide birth-to-five professional development system, in collaboration with the state university system;
3. Creating a technical assistance credentialing program;
4. Building community support for early learning and, ultimately, creating local "one-stop shops" with comprehensive information and resources for parents and caregivers of children birth to five (an initiative that has emerged from the state's Maternal and Child Health Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems [ECCS] grant);
5. Reviewing the state's use of the quality and infant/toddler set-asides to ensure they are being used most effectively to support research-based initiatives;
6. Expanding support services to after-school programs;
7. Coordinating a committee of early childhood professionals to develop a quality improvement system by first identifying indicators of quality;
8. Identifying quantifiable measures to determine success in meeting goals and objectives and to monitor the department's continuous quality improvement efforts.
Funding is derived from the following sources: the state lottery, general state funds, the federal child care block grant set-asides (to enhance the quality and accessibility of child care), federal nutrition programs, and federal Head Start State Collaboration funds.
Bright from the Start leads the state's efforts in providing early child care and education services to Georgia's children and their families. In order to meet its mission and vision, the department serves Georgia's children in collaboration with other state and private, nonprofit organizations. The Department of Human Resources (DHR) manages child care subsidy programs, including setting eligibility, co-payments, and reimbursement rates. DHR contracts with Bright from the Start, however, to administer the state's child care quality initiatives, including managing the state's contract with the child care resource and referral agencies. Bright from the Start and DHR work together on the state Child Care and Development Block Grant plan.
Because Bright from the Start houses the Head Start State Collaboration office, the department works closely with the regional Head Start office and with local Head Start programs to identify collaborations to increase the capacity to serve Georgia's neediest children. Bright from the Start worked closely with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to create a birth to five teaching certificate and is collaborating with teacher training programs in the state's colleges and universities to develop courses aimed at teachers serving children birth to five. Bright from the Start is also working with the Department of Technical and Adult Education to enhance early childhood education courses taught at the state's technical colleges and to ensure articulation of coursework for students who go from the technical college system to the University System of Georgia.
The department works closely with the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) to ensure a seamless transition as students move from Georgia's Pre-K program to Kindergarten and beyond. Currently Bright from the Start and the Department of Education are collaborating to enhance the alignment of efforts from pre-K through Grade 3. Bright from the Start's Inclusion Coordinator works closely with the Department of Education's Division of Exceptional Students to ensure that pre-K children with special needs receive appropriate services.
The Inclusion Coordinator also works with the child care resource and referral agencies, the Division of Public Health, Babies Can't Wait, and the Parent Leadership Coalition (directed by Parent to Parent of Georgia) to help meet the needs of children with special needs in child care and in prekindergarten programs.
Bright from the Start representatives serve on community boards and committees seeking to promote early care and education services in local areas. The department works regularly with several local private and corporate foundations, with private advocacy groups, and with statewide child care and early education professional organizations.
- Bright from the Start sees opportunities to change the culture in early care and education in Georgia and to focus on creating a continuum of care for children birth to five that promotes the well-being of the children and families.
- Bright from the Start sees opportunities to support parents and educate the public and policymakers on the critical importance of quality child care and early education and to change the perception of child care from one of custodial care to education.
- Bright from the Start recognizes the challenge of coordinating the efforts of different state agencies-because each is dealing with its own funding issues, mandates, and priorities.
- Bright from the Start acknowledges the challenge of developing a strategic plan that includes many varying initiatives; blends multiple cultures from various departments; and blends technology, data systems, standards, and accountability.
- Bright from the Start recognizes the challenge of identifying and blending funding and other resources to maximize efficiency and minimize duplication to benefit ALL children in Georgia.
- Bright from the Start sees opportunities to support parents in the day-to-day cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development of their children.
- Cultivate and secure the commitment of political leaders and policymakers.
- Identify and ensure dedicated funding source(s).
- Involve representatives of key early care and education stakeholders in advisory groups and/or focus groups (service providers, parents, advocacy groups, other government agencies/ departments, foundations, etc.).
- Emphasize early childhood education, not just child care.
- Provide family support services, especially for at-risk families.
- Cultivate meaningful collaborations with other public/private entities and stakeholders.
- Implement a uniform and open financial and reporting system for all providers.
- Determine and require high standards, and support those standards with quality training/professional development for all staff.
- Develop and implement methods for collecting data and measuring effectiveness of efforts.
- Bright from the Start main website
- Georgia Pre-K
- Georgia Standards of Care
- Head Start Collaboration Office
Interviews with Marsha H. Moore, Former Commissioner, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, on November 30, 2005 and January 9, 2007. Current Commissioner: Holly A. Robinson, Ed.D. Updated September 29, 2008.