BUILD Initiative Blog | THE BUILD INITIATIVE 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

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By Susan Hibbard, Executive Director, The BUILD Initiative

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. 

Maximizing Federal Initiatives

In 2018, one of BUILD’s primary program areas was maximizing federal initiatives. In the past, BUILD had supported leaders in over 30 states as they planned for and implemented the Early Learning Challenge, the Preschool Development Grants, and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. Documenting the states’ efforts through an E-Book, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families, and a paper focused on lessons related to state roles in the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, allowed BUILD to share some of the promising efforts underway and the lessons we were learning.

This past year, after Congress released the FY 2018 omnibus in March, which provided $5.226 billion in FY 2018 for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, a $2.37 billion increase, BUILD partnered with CLASP and ZTT to help state leaders maximize CCDBG funding, particularly highlighting the potential impact on infants, toddlers, and their families. We continued this federal/state focus by supporting state leaders’ planning and application preparation for the incredible systems-building opportunity represented by the Preschool Development Grants B-5. BUILD partnered with NIEER, the Alliance for Early Success, the Ounce, EdCounsel, The Policy Equity Group and many others to bring together more than 175 leaders from 39 states and the District of Columbia to an in-person technical assistance meeting in Chicago. State leaders were provided with an extensive collection of resource materials, many in response to specific requests, including  the PDG B-5 Third Party Agreements: Suggested Approach and Templates, which included an application guide, a needs assessment, and a needs assessment chart.

As the year drew to a close, leaders from 43 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands were notified that they received grants. The BUILD states were awarded a total of $49,345,457, with the District of Columbia and Ohio each receiving over $10 million. 

Although this was just one of BUILD’s programmatic efforts in 2018, it epitomized some of BUILD’s unique assets: our ability to quickly take advantage of opportunities; our success in partnering with many colleague organizations; our deep bench of technical assistance consultants; and our consistency in supporting many paths to achieving positive outcomes for young children and their families. 

This work also served as a reminder of the prerequisites to reaching our North Star: 

  • a multi-sector/multi-systems approach; 
  • a focus on data, racial and other disparities, and equity; 
  • the importance of the adults in young children’s lives, as well as the babies, toddlers, and preschoolers; 
  • the imperative of deeply understanding assets and needs from multiple perspectives, especially including the perspective of the intended beneficiaries of programs and services; and 
  • the need to approach each funding opportunity not as an isolated program driver but to support some aspects of the advances necessary to achieve a shared vision.

Focusing on Racial and Health Equity

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, but the ongoing devastation was not caused solely by nature but also by inadequate government attention and action that made the plight of Puerto Ricans little known or understood. The story of the US government treatment of Puerto Rico after the storm provides a parallel to the many ways that the plight of our country’s young children and their families and communities, especially children, families and communities of color, is misunderstood, understated, and often ignored. Thus, it was fitting that the last in-person meeting of the first cohort of fellows of BUILD’s Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN) was held in Puerto Rico in December 2018. The 28 ELAN fellows completed three years of work together to identify, address, and take action on inequities based on race, ethnicity, language, and culture and sought to promote equity in the areas of health, early learning, and/or family support, and influence state-level policy. 

BUILD also continued its work on health equity and better connecting early learning and health through a project called HOPE (Harnessing Opportunity for Positive, Equitable Early Childhood Development). The objective is to support state leaders to increase healthy child development and wellbeing by shifting programs and initiatives to increase access to opportunities for young children and families in vulnerable communities with significant disparities.

Promote optimal health and wellbeing for children prenatal to age five and prevent and mitigate early childhood adversities and improve adverse social settings. 

Shift or realign systems (policies, practices, programs, funding, governance, data, etc.) to increase access to opportunities for young children and families in communities with significant racial, ethnic, economic, health, and education disparities.

Engage community members with lived experience and create feedback loops to ensure ongoing communication among state and local policy makers, practitioners, community leaders, and families.

BUILD also planned and delivered a Leadership Institute for teams from the eight states. The Institute focused on advancing knowledge and skills in health and racial equity, beneficiary voice, cross-systems team development, and using qualitative and quantitative data to define an equity challenge.

Leadership Institute participants gained a deeper understanding of equity challenges; conducted Learning Journeys shadowing a leader in another area of the early childhood system; listened to beneficiary voice; analyzed early childhood structures; developed a Blueprint for Early Childhood Federal Policy; and prepared a Shared Interest Statement.  

New Jersey, Alabama, California, and Minnesota have been selected to receive a $200,000 grant award and additional support for the project’s third phase (11/18 – 4/20). Illinois and South Carolina have been selected as second-tier Technical Assistance States; they will receive support and invitations to the peer learning activities, but no grant.

Like the Equity Leaders Action Network, Project HOPE has helped the BUILD team develop resources and new insights that support our ongoing work with the partner states. In 2019, BUILD will continue its support of the HOPE grantees and ELAN co-directors, Sherri Killins Stewart and Aisha Ray, will now work with the fellows and other advisors to cull through the tools, readings, and exercises created by and for the ELAN to review the impact of each, make revisions, consider further ways to integrate these resources in all our program areas, and prepare for the second cohort of fellows. 

BUILD Partner States 

As always, in 2018 BUILD state services staff worked closely with leaders in the partner states supporting the development of their cross-systems teams, helping them understand each other’s roles and authority, and working on developing action agendas on items of shared interest.  We have been intensely supporting the District of Columbia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina and Washington. In December 2018, Texas joined the roster of BUILD Partner States.

Infants and Toddlers

BUILD has always emphasized the importance of maternal health, prenatal care and focus on infants, toddlers, and their families. In 2018, BUILD was able to work with many more state leaders as they developed and acted on their plans in these areas. 

BUILD supported the Pritzker Children’s Initiative funded states — North Carolina, Oregon, New York, and California — and looks forward to continuing and expanding this role in 2019. Working with partners Zero to Three and CLASP, BUILD organized a webinar and blog series on maximizing CCDBG for infants and toddlers, and created a Maximizing CCDBG for Infants and Toddlers Resource Page with archived blogs, webinars, and other resources created by many partners in the field.

Early Learning Quality Improvement and QRIS

Helping states develop and/or improve Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) was one of BUILD’s earliest areas of focus for tailored technical assistance and learning community activities because it holds such strong potential to integrate sectors and develop the early learning system. It remains a strong program area of our work. 

The 2018 QRIS National Meeting, Sparking Solutions and Sharing Systems Strategies, was held in July in San Diego, California. Over 1,225 early childhood professionals—the highest participation to date—from 47 states and 4 U.S. territories came together to share strategies, learn from each other, and hear about the latest research. This conference is part of BUILD’s 50-state Learning Community dedicated to advancing high-quality, equitable, culturally competent, affordable, and accessible early learning opportunities for each and every young child. 

In addition to the QRIS convening, Debi Mathias, the Director of BUILD’s QRIS National Learning Network, provided or brokered technical assistance to over a dozen states and answered specific questions using the Quality Compendium resource.  

The BUILD QRIS 3.0 Think Tanks were an opportunity for state teams from 15 different states and two regions in CA to benefit from the research, resources, and strategies in the context of each state’s vision and values for its QRIS. In this think tank, teams came together to self-assess their own QRIS, using a tool developed by BUILD, and identified one or two issues of high-priority focus. The think tank offered a deeper dive into the priority issues identified by the participants. An additional six states are moving through the self-assessment process in the coming year. 

In 2018, much of our work related to quality improvement in family child care, shared services, and a peer learning group (PLG).  The work of the PLG focused on effective technical assistance systems in QRIS and creating strategies to support programs through a continuous improvement approach.

2018 Webinar Series

BUILD hosted 101 webinars on a wide variety of early childhood topics in 2018.  Those webinars, and the resources and tools developed to support them, are a critical part of BUILD’s Learning Community that benefits all 50 states, the territories, and tribes. One example: the BUILD Initiative in partnership with the ECQA Center, hosted a series of webinars focused on Strategies for Building and Financing the Supply of High-Quality Child Care for children in underserved areas, infants and toddlers, children with disabilities, and children who receive care during nontraditional hours. These webinars were geared toward those interested in identifying gaps in the availability of child care in high-need communities, exploring rate strategies to finance child care at the state/territory and local levels, discussing the latest innovations with other states, and hearing about practical tools to support supply-building efforts.

Looking Ahead to 2019

The BUILD team is looking forward to supporting our Partner States, and all other states and territories, in meeting the needs of all young children and their families.  BUILD is already talking with organizational partners and state leaders about the planning and implementation supports they need and want. 

Thanks to all BUILD’s funders whose grantmaking does so much for young children, families, communities and states. 

  • Alliance for Early Success
  • Buffett Early Childhood Fund
  • Ford Family Foundation
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • George Gund Foundation
  • Irving Harris Foundation
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Maher Charitable Foundation
  • Robert R. McCormick Foundation 
  • Oregon Community Foundation
  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Perigee Fund
  • Pritzker Children’s Initiative
  • Raikes Foundation
  • Rainwater Charitable Foundation 

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