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Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

BUILD Initiative Blog

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It seems simple enough. For good health: eat well, exercise, take your vitamins. For a successful relationship: listen more than you speak, assume good intent, be there. For a successful career: make good on your commitments, be trustworthy, work hard in what you’re passionate about. And yet, some of the most obvious, accepted approaches for success seem out of reach. If it were so simple, we would all be fit, in happy relationships, and working in our dream jobs. Just because we know how to do something doesn’t mean it comes naturally.

As we look forward to QRIS 2019: Expanding Reach, Enhancing Impact, Advancing Equity, we are reminded of the plea made by the plenary speaker at the 2018 conference. Honoring BUILD’s dedication of last year’s conference to those working to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities, Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot addressed her plenary to the researchers, practitioners, scholars, activists, policy makers, and advocates focused on the promise of equal educational opportunity for all of our children.

In our early childhood education program, connecting families to available community resources is one of the most important things we do. I consider it an essential responsibility in my role as a preschool teacher. But building that bridge is often complicated and frustrating. In my classroom, we are fortunate to have a diverse population of children and families, with at least 10 primary languages spoken. We need to support these families and recognize that our systems are not well organized to be easily accessible to them.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), jointly with the Department of Education (ED) (the Departments), awarded one-year Preschool Development Grants Birth to Five (PDG B-5) to 43 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands in the final days of 2018. The new Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five program provides states with an historic opportunity to design and implement an early care and education system that gives equitable access to high-quality programs for all children and families.

2018 was a year with some big opportunities for state early childhood systems builders and young children while it was also a year of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Through it all, BUILD maintained its focus on advancing early childhood systems across the country, including through new federal initiatives; advancing racial and health equity; supporting the efforts of leaders in partner states; working with many more states on building robust early learning quality improvement systems; and increasing access and quality in programs and services for infants, toddlers, and their families.

We know that the first 1,000 days of children’s lives are the most crucial to their development. Evidence also tells us that children on Medicaid have better health and life outcomes. With health equity as a goal, New York State has taken steps to ensure that its Medicaid program is working with health, education, and other system stakeholders to maximize outcomes and deliver results for the children we serve.

What brought us to Equity and Social Justice Work? We may have taken different routes to get there but we both arrived at equity and social justice work with a strong desire to create the change we see as needed. We joined forces, through our participation in BUILD's Equity Leaders Action Network, to create a pilot fellowship for participants who were interested in leading efforts for equity and wanted to increase their knowledge, skills, and understanding of leadership and management relevant to today’s early childhood professional communities. In this blog, we reflect on the reasons why we created it, some of our experiences providing it, and the ways in which it still is resonating, long after it has ended.

Many mayors and city leaders are investing in early childhood, making it a key priority for their cities. They are using their bully pulpit to advocate for and build awareness. They are reaching out as strong partners in family engagement. They are leveraging city resources and finances and considering how city department policies and practices impact children and families.

The new Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program provides states with a historic opportunity to design and implement an early care and education system that gives equitable access to high-quality programs for all children and families. This federal funding allows states to engage in a thorough needs assessment, robust strategic planning process, and other activities intended to rally stakeholders around a common vision and goals for young children.

Disparities by race and ethnicity pervade child care and early education. According to our analysis of 2011-13 Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) data, fewer eligible Hispanic, American Indian, Native-Alaskan, and Asian children received CCDBG subsidies than the national average. Race also factors significantly in child care and early education suspensions; fewer than 20 percent of public preschoolers are Black but these children receive 42 percent of all first-time suspensions from those programs. Moreover, race affects compensation, as well. Early educators of color are often relegated to the lowest-paying positions in child care centers and are paid, on average, 84 cents for every dollar their white colleagues make.

Oregon is experiencing a true crisis in infant and toddler child care. The state lacks a supply of quality child care options for our youngest children. The data shows that every county in our state, except for one, is a child care desert for infant and toddler care. In these deserts, families experience long wait lists, limited choices of providers, and costs of care that rival the cost of college tuition, among other stressors. Our current system isn’t targeted, stable, or substantial enough to bring about a sustainable supply of high-quality infant and toddler care.

The journey to providing quality child care for babies begins by altering the way we think about it. We did that as a state, and a country, with regard to preschool. People came to understand that preschool provides education - an opportunity to get children started on a pathway to school success. Child care—and especially child care for infants and toddlers-- must be thought of in the same way. Child care is where babies are being educated outside of the family. That’s why quality is so important.

If You Love Children...

It’s not enough to be an early care and education professional because you love working with children. If you love children, you must leverage your view, your voice, and your visibility to improve the systems and quality of services for young children and families.

Our goal is to provide learning and peer exchange opportunities for the attending professionals that will support continuous improvement of their work back home. This year’s convening saw the highest participation rate ever: over 1,225 early childhood professionals from 47 states and 4 U.S. territories came together to share strategies, learn from each other, and hear about the latest research.

Rhode Island’s recently passed FY 2019 budget, signed on June 22, 2018, ensures that center-based child care programs for children under six in the Child Care Assistance Program will receive a rate increase, with significant increases for all quality levels and larger increases for higher quality programs as measured by the BrightStars Quality Rating and Improvement System. The budget establishes a tiered child care reimbursement rate structure in statute for infants and toddlers with high-quality programs paid at or above the federally recommended benchmark (75th percentile) to promote equal access to high-quality care. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT started this effort with a special focus on infants and toddlers but realized that we needed to promote tiered quality rates for all ages of children, given the needs in our community and knowing that the financial health and quality of child care providers depends on funding across all age groups. Fortunately, the expanded Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) money made it possible to go beyond our initial “state” ask to also include preschoolers and the budget established tiered quality rates for preschool age children as well as for infants and toddlers. We were not able to secure adequate funding to meet the federal benchmark for preschoolers this year, but we took a sizeable step forward. We plan to continue our work to promote equal access to quality child care for children from infancy through age twelve.

IECMHC builds the capacity of providers and families to understand the powerful influences of infant and toddler relationships, interactions, and environments on the development of babies. Infant-toddler well-being is promoted and mental health problems are prevented or reduced as a result of the consultant’s partnership with adults in young children’s lives. It can also promote emotional and other important skills for infants and young children.

Disadvantaged children who receive quality early childhood development have much better education, employment, social and health outcomes as adults. Fortunately, last year Congress increased funding for Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) that help states provide children from low-income families with access to early care and education. While it is tempting to increase access to as many disadvantaged children as possible, providing access to quality will deliver the best short- and long-term return on investment.

Almost four million babies are born in the United States every year. These infants require diapers, blankets, baby food, and countless other products, creating a large and profitable market for companies meeting this demand. However, the law of supply and demand fails to hold true for perhaps the most essential good for children, high-quality child care. Why does the child care supply fall so short and how can states close the gap and support families?

In 1990, a few state child care administrators started doing something similar. Using the same basic structure, they were rating the quality of programs and providing supports to programs for quality improvement. They made the ratings public with the goal of influencing consumers’ early care and education choices. Anne and others noticed this common structure across states and got involved in helping others to develop and revise the structure. It was such a powerful conceptual approach to making early care and education better that it spread organically among state leaders. In 2005, Anne wrote Stair Steps to Quality, which looked at the first ten states that adopted this approach. After that, the concept took off; today, every state but one has a QRIS or is in the process of creating one.

Teachers Face a Wage Penalty for Working with Infants and Toddlers Analysis of the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education, which represents the most recent comprehensive, national data on the ECE workforce, reveals shocking information. Among center-based infant and toddler teachers, 86 percent earned less than $15 an hour and more than one-half earned less than $10.10 an hour. At every level of education, infant and toddler teachers earn less than their counterparts who teach only preschool children: even among those with no college degree, infant and toddler teachers earn $1.05 less per hour.