Early Childhood Integrated Financing Toolkit
As community leaders consider their potential actions to support young children and their families, they should keep in mind the following:
The early years really matter.
From a child development standpoint, there’s no better opportunity to influence long-term outcomes.
It’s not just about early education and care.
All children have learning and developmental needs in their first five years – and they also need somewhere to be while their parents are working. Early education and care programs like Head Start, VPI, and child care are helping to meet those needs for many children. But all children also have a range of other needs that those programs don’t meet. That makes coordination across providers and sectors a critical priority.
Communities have a unique and essential role to play.
The U.S. and Virginia governments are funding early childhood services, which Virginia providers are delivering to Virginia families. But the organization and quality of that service delivery is stronger when communities step up and play a leadership role. Communities can make the system more coherent, and make it easier for families to be matched with the services they need. And where federal and state funding does not meet community needs, communities can step up and fill those gaps.
Communities succeed when they work collaboratively.
Because the work is multi-sector and requires building coherence, it’s important to work together. Communities can convene leaders from multiple sectors, and can facilitate the relationships needed to make the work successful. This requires strong leadership – but that leadership can come from a variety of sources within the community.
Be clear on the goals.
Community collaboratives won’t have the capacity to do everything that matters, so they should focus on some critical problems where they can really make a difference. In doing so they should use data to both define their scope of activity and track progress toward their desired outcomes.
Put families and children at the center.
The community’s priorities should be based on the needs of parents, and parents must be engaged and included in the design of the strategies to address those needs. Families should be able to access information in formats that they can easily understand, and processes should be in place to facilitate families’ knowledge about, access to, and navigation of services and programs. Parent leadership and engagement as problem-solvers is key to successfully designing an equitable and effective system. Providers should be supported to deliver high-quality services, with a focus on the interactions between adults and children.
Community voice matters at the state level.
State policy is constantly evolving, and for Virginia to get it right requires communities sharing their insights to inform policy development.