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CDF Early Childhood News - April Edition


Update on Home Visiting

The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program is one of many reasons to celebrate and protect the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act), which was passed just over a year ago. The $1.5 billion Home Visiting Program guarantees funding for states to expand high-quality, evidence-based, voluntary early childhood home visiting services for at-risk families with young children. These in-home visits to pregnant women and families with young children are designed to improve maternal and prenatal health and to educate families on effective parenting skills and early childhood development. Home visiting also helps to reduce child abuse and neglect, promote school readiness and help families to improve their socioeconomic status. There is a critical “window of opportunity” right before birth and during the first few years of a child’s life to significantly impact later social/emotional and cognitive development in children and home visiting programs help to maximize this opportunity. Your states have already completed needs assessments and the deadline for final plans is approaching.

Sadly, as we approach that date and the “Week of the Young Child,” the Home Visiting Program and all of the new help for low income children and individuals in the Affordable Care Act are under attack. The FY 2012 budget proposal released last week by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan cuts lifelines and dismantles protections from Medicaid to repealing the Affordable Care Act (read CDF’s response to Chairman Ryan’s FY2012 budget proposal). From cradle to college, poor children would lose crucial supports from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to Pell grants. Now is the time to mobilize all who would benefit from these new investments. Two-thirds of the cuts in the Ryan Budget are in low income programs. As you work hard in your states to implement the new Home Visiting Program, please check CDF’s Budget Watch to take action now.

As states begin to delve into the details of accessing and distributing these dollars to evidence-based programs we thought we would use this month’s news column to highlight a few models and recent publications.

Sample Models

Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is an evidence-based community health program based on randomized, controlled trials. This program focuses on preventative interventions by partnering vulnerable mothers with a registered nurse during her pregnancy and continuing with on-going home visits through the child’s second birthday. By establishing this relationship early on in the pregnancy, these nurses are able to educate mothers on positive health and development skills.

Healthy Families America (HFA) is a national program model that provides voluntary home visiting services to pregnant mothers and families with newborn to preschool age children. HFA was launched by Prevent Child Abuse and is designed to help families get their children off to a healthy start by promoting positive parenting and enhancing child healthy and development outcomes, subsequently preventing child abuse, neglect and other poor childhood outcomes.

Nurse Family Partnership and Healthy Families America are only two of the home visiting programs identified by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as models that meet the evidence based criteria. Click here to learn more about these home visiting approaches and all the steps states must take over the next month to implement the program.

Click here for CDF’s summary of home visiting and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Home Visiting Publications

Recent policy briefs detail specific reform efforts designed to better serve families with young children. The Urban Institute’s Home Visiting and Maternal Depression: Seizing the Opportunities to Help Mothers and Young Children highlights the need for states to create more sophisticated avenues through which at-risk mothers are identified, specifically those mothers suffering from depression. Depression is a debilitating mental health condition that if left untreated jeopardizes the mother and child’s physical health and impedes healthy early childhood development. This policy issue calls particular attention to the positive impact cross coordination of data collection systems would have on not only identifying mothers in need of home visitation services, but also on linking these mothers to additional referral services. The continuum of care established by these efforts ensures that mothers are able to provide their young children with the early care they need to be successful in life.

The National Governors Association Center for Best Practice’s Maximizing the Impact of State Early Childhood Home Visitation Programs provides an overview of current state home visiting services. This brief emphasizes the need for improved planning and increased collaboration of program administrations to create common visions and goals for home visiting programs. Programs with fractured administrations are an inefficient use of limited resources and result in duplication of services on the one hand and the neglect of families in need of services on the other. Moreover, cohesive strategies improve program quality and effectiveness by creating uniform objectives that are appropriately aligned with the specific needs of the targeted population. This brief points out that though evidence-based models have positive outcomes, they are not a one size fits all remedy and more detailed attention must be paid to ensure strategies are truly helping at-risk families.

Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK)

States continue to battle funding decreases that are crippling the K-12 public education system. In some districts FDK programs are being reduced to half while in others it is being offered for only a portion of the week. The Children’s Defense Fund is building a campaign to increase awareness around inequitable access to FDK that many families and children face across the country. We will keep you updated as this campaign progresses, please email us your thoughts and experiences regarding this issue.

FDK Resources

PreK-3rd: Putting Full-Day Kindergarten in the Middle
This study by Kristie Kauerz presents evidence about the effectiveness of FDK in boosting children's cognitive learning and academic achievement, and makes federal, state, and district policy recommendations for moving FDK from the margins to the middle of the education reform debate.

State Kindergarten Statutes: State Profiles
This Education Commission of the States documents in detail specific profiles of kindergarten statutes in all 50 states.

Early Childhood in the States

Iowa Preschool: A Place in the Middle
Last month the Iowa Policy Project published the brief, Preschool: A Place in the Middle—Preschool and Its Importance to Middle-Income Families, detailing the negative impact the Governor’s proposed budget cut to early education funding would have on middle-income families. On average, preschool tuition in Iowa is $7,000 annually and the proposed 39 percent cut to funding would exclude numerous middle-income families with young children from receiving the financial assistance they depend on for preschool. Moreover, a recent plan passed by the House Education Committee caps the eligibility for financial assistance at an annual income of $67,000 for a family of four, and since aid is provided on a sliding scale, families earning close to this amount will also receive less funding. The inability of these families to pay for preschool programs will leave them without affordable care and education for their children and result in a significant decline in enrollment in the programs. This report concludes that more attention must be paid to these middle-income families, whose financial needs are often neglected, during discussions about the impact of preschool costs. The brief also highlights the benefits preschool attendance has on a child’s overall academic career as well as the significant returns on investment to society, including savings on remedial education and criminal justice. Read the full article here.

Maryland—Getting Ready: The 2010-2011 Maryland School Readiness Report
According to the report, Getting Ready: The 2010-2011 Maryland School Readiness Report, by the Maryland State Department of Education, 81% of kindergarteners in the state are entering school fully ready to learn. Using the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MSMR) to evaluate each child’s school readiness, “fully ready” students are identified in seven distinct components of learning. The results of the MMSR are then used by kindergarten teachers and local school districts to guide daily instruction and individualize learning. Kindergarten readiness has improved substantially for all of Maryland’s jurisdictions, all subgroups and all learning domains from 2001-2002, with overall school readiness jumping from 49% to 81%. These gains are attributed to a variety of early learning initiatives including:

  • Expanded access to public Pre-K programs;
  • The Governor’s Advisory Council on Early Care and Education;
  • Development of a Quality Rating and Improvement System;
  • Increases in the number of accredited and credentialed child care programs;
  • The Early Childhood Curriculum Project which offers guidance and tools for teachers and centers; and
  • The Healthy Beginnings Program.
Read the entire report here.

Early Childhood Resources and News

Budget Watch
Threats towards funding intensify for early childhood programs and dollars for services that impact children and low income families. Stay up-to-date with CDF Budget Watch.

On the Home Front: Early Care and Education a Top Priority for Military Families
This research brief published by The Pew Center on the States provides the results from an October 2010 survey of military family members with children age five and younger, including Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel or their spouses. The results all demonstrate the need for significant improvements in the early child care and education (ECE) programs available to our military families.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the future of education in the U.S.
“Our three- and four-year-olds don't have lobbyists, but if we want to close achievement gaps—if we're serious about giving every single child a chance to be successful—we have to enter kindergarten ready to learn and ready to read.”
— Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently told Black community and faith leaders during a recent visit at the Children's Defense Fund that he wishes parents would demand more from our country's education system. Watch the video in our multimedia gallery.

Closing the Vocabulary Gap in Chicago Preschools
PBS’s NewsHour visited a Chicago preschool to see what educators are doing to stop the achievement gap before it gets started.

Governors’ 2011 State of the State Addresses: Mentions of Early Education
The National Women’s Law Center highlights governors who mentioned early education in their 2011 State of the State Addresses and state legislatures that have proposed or already voted to slash spending for core supports to children and their families.

PreK-3rd: Raising the Educational Performance of English Language Learners (ELLs)
In the 6th installment of the PreK-3rd Policy to Action Brief from the Foundation for Child Development, the needs of ELLs are highlighted.

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