Washington, D.C. — A new report from the Center for American Progress urges better continuity and alignment of services that serve infants and toddlers—such as Early Head Start; the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children—in order to close school readiness and achievement gaps and set all children on the path to future success and health. Currently, many of the programs that provide critical services to infants and toddlers operate in isolation, are underfunded, and fail to meet the needs of all eligible families. Creating a continuum of services that are intentionally aligned to reach children for as long as possible can help ensure that early childhood services and programs effectively support all aspects of young children’s healthy development.
“The first few years of a child’s life are some of the most important to determining healthy development, both in and out of school. States and communities are taking the lead on better coordination of programs that serve infants and toddlers, but it’s clear that as a country, we have a long way to go,” said Katie Hamm, CAP Director of Early Childhood Policy and co-author of the report. “The federal government should take its cues from communities that are exploring innovative ways to deliver stable services to young children and their families.”
“We know that programs such as home visiting and nutrition assistance can help set the stage for future success. It’s up to Congress and current and future administrations to step up to the plate,” said Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Policy Analyst for CAP’s Early Childhood Policy team and co-author of the report. “Continuous funding—and additional resources—would be the first step in the right direction toward ensuring that more families are benefiting from interventions proven to work and proven to deliver long-lasting benefits.”
On a positive note, many communities across the United States are already working to ensure better coordination of services for very young and young children and seeing positive results. CAP’s report cites several unique approaches that cities and states are using to ensure better alignment of services, including creative financing, community focal points for service delivery, and continuity in programs and standards.
While some communities and states are working independently to improve the continuity and alignment of infant and toddler services, CAP’s report notes that there is more that the federal government—including Congress—can do to ensure that more children and families can benefit from these programs. These recommendations include an increase in federal resources, including long-term, stable, and continuous funding; making funding sources more flexible to support service alignment efforts; continuing to build momentum for private-sector investments; providing guidance for weaving together disparate funding; streamlining grant applications and reporting; and initiating a permanent cross-agency office at the federal level that would focus specifically on infants and toddlers.
Click here to read “Emerging State and Community Strategies to Improve Infant and Toddler Services” by Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath and Katie Hamm.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.6331.