In the United States, more than 60% of all children from birth to age five spend time in the care of someone other than their parents. And child development research, neuroscience, and program evaluation affirm the long-lasting effects that high-quality early childhood experiences have on individual and societal outcomes, including school readiness and persistence, economic vitality, workforce preparation, and mental health. Early education and care services for young children are provided by a wide range of programs with different designs and purposes, including the federal Head Start program; state child care programs that represent a mix of federal and state funds and requirements (and parent co-pays); and state-funded preschool programs. These essential funding streams are part of a larger array of programs that include special education, health and mental health services, home visiting, nutrition, and more. Building comprehensive early childhood systems focuses on these early care and education services and all the other programs and services necessary for healthy child development and learning including family support, early intervention, and child health and mental health. States increasingly have sought to develop new governance structures that align authority and oversight of early childhood programs and services.
A state-level system of early childhood programs and services for children from birth to age five can exist under several different governance models. Governance “refers
to how (often multiple) programs and entities are managed to promote efficiency, excellence, and equity. It compromises the traditions, institutions and processes that determine how power is exercised, how the constituents are given voice, and how decisions are made on issues of mutual concern.” An effective model of governance should create coherence among policies and services, but current systems of early childhood governance typically are fragmented. Careful and deliberate assessment of a state’s early childhood governance structure is an integral step in reducing fragmentation, uneven quality, and inequity in programs and services.
Source: The Build Initiative