BUILD Initiative Blog | Birth To Three
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

BUILD Initiative Blog



Tarrant County is implementing the Help Me Grow system model within our community. We're implementing a region-wide approach across 18 counties in our major metropolitan area, which is about 14 million square miles. This fits in perfectly with our prenatal-to-three goals through our community innovation grant.

A big part of our strategy is focusing on prioritizing infant/toddler teachers for practice-based coaching, professional development, training, and other types of improvement supports for folks who are either unrated or approaching proficient in our state’s quality rating system, and who serve low-income infants and toddlers, to help them raise their standard.

The benefits of breastfeeding are remarkable. Save the Children tells us that it “increases a child’s chances of survival, boosts [the] immune system, and reduces the mother’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer. In addition, breast milk changes every day to meet a baby’s needs and releases a hormone that’s calming for both mother and child.” And yet, according to the CDC, 73.7 percent of Black infants are ever breastfed compared with 86.7 percent of White infants. It is due to this racial disparity, that has existed for over 40 years, that Black Breastfeeding Week was created.

Our plan uses infant mental health or the social-emotional well-being of young children as the frame around which we have built our goals for increasing and building quality services for very young children and their families. The thinking behind that is that infant mental health or infants’ social-emotional well-being is really the crux of all other aspects of their health, development, and well-being.

Nebraska’s early childhood partners are fully committed to ensuring more of our state’s most frequently underserved families have access to systems and resources necessary for the healthy development of our youngest children, beginning with supports in the prenatal period.

Ready, Set, Soar Ohio is a diverse statewide coalition of early childhood, education, health, advocacy, philanthropy, and business organizations, community leaders, policymakers, and families. This coalition is committed to ensuring that more pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and their families have access to the support they need to be ready, set, and soar to their full potential.

Our overarching goal is to make New York State a place where children and families feel comfortable and welcome to raise children. We want to re-direct investments into early child care, because we believe that the first three years of a child's life are the most impactful years. This means aligning resources and bringing the community together to prioritize the prenatal-to-three population.

Similarly, preventative health and population healthcare have gotten more attention, as have programs like 211 that connect families to resources. Again, we felt like we had developed these policy goals and strategies in a pre-COVID world, but found that in a COVID world, they were just as important, if not more so. Our challenge will be to help policymakers see the connections between our policy agenda and COVID. They've been very much focused on what's immediately related to COVID and are starting to think about the new normal, so our task is to show this is all related to COVID and the recovery.

Although everything has changed in the last few months, nothing has changed in terms of our commitment to what has to happen for babies. It really has allowed us to say, "If we had had all of these systems in place for our families, we would be in a much better place right now during the pandemic."

Susan Hibbard
BUILD Deputy Director

Ruth Trombka
Program Manager

More than a handful of times in the last few weeks, BUILD has received emails or calls that begin with “Maybe I’m missing something, but why are you talking about state-level systems when the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CCP) initiative is a federal to local funding opportunity?” We have rarely had a response more readily available: Because states have an obligation to our youngest children.

Marsha Basloe

Senior Advisor for Early Childhood, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development

Living in Massachusetts and New York, I am no stranger to cold weather in the winter. I fortunately ... did not weather the frigid cold unprepared! I wish that were true for everyone, especially families with young children. Recent temperatures in the Washington, D.C./Virginia area dipped to single digit numbers, and shelters were full to capacity.

Charles Bruner
Research and Evaluation Partner

The first two years of life ultimately are the most important ones to ensuring an individual’s health. During this time, the primary health care practitioner is the professional most likely to see and assess the child and in the position to identify and serve as first responder to conditions which jeopardize healthy development. Therefore, the primary health practitioner needs to be the observing eyes and ears for identifying conditions in the child, the family, and the family's environment that impact healthy development.

BUILD Initiative

The latest edition of Early Learning Left Out (ELLO), produced by the BUILD Initiative, analyzes the most recent available federal, state, and school district budget information to determine how much is invested today in young children and whether that is sufficient to meet the 1989 First National Education Goal that “all children start school ready to learn.” The data make abundantly clear that America is falling short.

Gerrit Westervelt
BUILD Initiative Executive Director

As system builders, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to examine the role that structural and historical racial, cultural and linguistic bias plays in differential outcomes for young children. We have to take a hard look at the systems we are busy building and ask ourselves how well each step we’re taking serves all children or each and every child, not just those fortunate enough to have easy access to high quality services.

Theresa Hawley
Executive Director
Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development

Ever wonder what it takes to move a program from good to great? I wonder about this all the time, as do my colleagues in Illinois. We are convinced that the reason we are not seeing larger, more sustained benefits from the majority of early learning programs for at-risk children is that programs are not implementing the level of instructional excellence that a great program provides.