Engaging in Program Development
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

Engaging in Program Development

These resources and tools support collaborative work to enhance birth to eight programs, support programs in evidence-based and evidence-informed implementation, and advance high quality instruction and effective learning experiences for all children.


  1. Building Connections: Assessment – This assessment tool focuses on the connections in place between the state and local levels to support early childhood systems building. As local collaborations work to advance state vision and goals in their community based systems change and programming efforts, reflecting on the connections with the state systems may be useful in understanding how linked the local work is and areas where state connection is necessary to advance the work.
  2. PAUSE Workbook – This workbook contains education and resource tools to support the collaboration and partnering organizations to infuse diversity and equity into every aspect of the work. The content is a research-based model that brings together a variety of innovative practices to facilitate diversity and equity work in program development.
  3. Programming Assessment Dual Language – This assessment tool supports programs in considering their dual language approach from all angles of program functioning. Used through a collaborative approach, the information gathered with the assessment supports collaboration leaders in understanding areas to focus program development and capacity building.
  4. Strengthening Families Assessment Tool – This tool supports early childhood system leaders to identify where their status in implementing systems of programs, services and practices that incorporate protective factors as an integral part of early childhood systems and suggests ways to improve their practice. This tool was adapted from the full Strengthening Families assessment tools.
  5. Regional Assessment of Programming and Unmet Needs – This tool informs about assessment concepts from program planning and need assessment to quality assurance supports to program standards, professional development, collaboration and sustainability. This tool has been tailored to home visiting programming, but can be easily adapted to assessment across program types.
  6. Programming Inventory – This chart provides a tool for mapping programming, including capacity, funding, staffing and challenges, to support the collaboration in identifying both community needs and service gaps as well as potential partners and resources in crafting a new service provision system.
  7. Program Self-Assessment: Assess Current Program Components - This assessment supports communities in considering their programming in relationship to components of researchbased/evidence-based models.
  8. Regional Self-Assessment of Program Needs and Unmet Needs – This assessment tool is based on home visiting programming but could be adapted for use in assessing how any local programming is meeting need, the components of the work and where the gaps in services are.
  9. Evidence-Based and Evidence-Informed GuidanceNorth Carolina and Virginia have developed state guides that emphasize specific evidence-based and evidence-informed program models. The North Carolina resource compiles the evidence for programs that can be funded with Smart Start resources including early care and education, quality initiatives, child care subsidy, family support, early literacy, and health initiatives. It also provides the evidence for program coordination, evaluation, and outreach, common across nearly all partnerships. The Virginia resource is a directory of program types to guide investment and decision‐making in Smart Beginnings communities and to support the quality and capacity of local services. Programs covered include parent education, home visiting, early care and education, health and developmental screening, and language and literacy.
  10. Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practices – This guide, while targeted at principals, has information on pre-K-3 learning which can be adapted and applied to many leaders within a collaborative approach. The guide begins with information on characteristics of quality programming and moves to connect principals to additional tools, including resources and ideas that can be used in faculty and parent meetings as well as other meetings of the learning community.
  11. Data Drives School Community Collaboration – This resource, under the collective impact approach, created by Strive, was designed to help leaders implement complex data partnerships, with seven key lessons about how to begin and grow a data-driven initiative with schools in the community.
  12. Parent Leadership on the Great Start Collaboratives – This toolkit focuses on the robust engagement of parents in all levels of the Great Start Collaboratives and includes support for why and how to engage parents.
  13. Determining Family Access - A tool to help museums and libraries assess the level of access for families with various needs and capacity.
  14. A Checklist for Facilitating Family Engagement - A checklist for determining the family engagement in museums, libraries and early learning systems.
  15. Observation Tool: Parent-Child Interactions – A checklist to support observing how well programs are facilitating parent-child interactions and engaging families in programming.
  16. Tool for Aligning State Early Learning Standards with Exhibits and Community Activities – This tool supports museums in identifying the early learning standards represented in their exhibits and community activities. Partnerships can use this as a model adapting it to their state’s early learning standards.
  17. Smart Start Outcomes Measurement Tools Resource Guide – This resource provides information on a variety of measurement options to support collaboration in the tracking of common outcomes, across the delivery of program services to children and families.
  18. Confidentiality Guide: Administration for Children and Families  – This resource supports programs in the sharing of information and data which advances collaboration and coordination. This resource was created to support state and local efforts by bringing greater clarity to the rules governing confidentiality in ACF and certain related programs, by providing examples of how confidentiality requirements can be addressed and met in a manner fully consistent with governing laws and underlying policies