Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships Offer Immediate Impact

With a $100 million expansion of federally funded Early Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (Partnerships), an additional 5,100 infants and toddlers across the country will soon have access to comprehensive, high-quality early care and education services. Announced by the Office of Head Start on March 15, 2021, this investment provides an important pathway forward for strengthening the quality and capacity of early care and education services for working families with young children in under-resourced communities.

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Partnerships build the quality and capacity of child care centers, family child care homes, and early learning systems by infusing resources and implementing evidence-based best practices from Early Head Start to ensure children and families served in child care settings benefit from low teacher-child ratios and small class sizes, more highly qualified teachers, strong curriculum, family engagement activities, and linkages to health and other community services.

“Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership funding has been invaluable as we help grow a highly qualified Early Childhood Education workforce, making it possible for child care staff to receive financial assistance to obtain their Infant/Toddler Child Development Associate credential. The entire community thrives when we pay Early Educators a competitive wage. A highly educated early childhood workforce is one of the most important things our society can invest in to help strengthen our future for generations to come.” Melissa Manning, training & professional development coordinator, Sunbeam Family Services – Educare Oklahoma City

Thirteen Educare organizations administer Partnership grants across 12 states and the District of Columbia. Last spring, we shared an 8-part series highlighting the response of Partnerships across the Educare Network during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Partnerships provided ongoing financial support to their child care partners who experienced sharp revenue declines and increased expenses. Building upon their existing relationships, Educare schools and their child care partners responded quickly and creatively to provide continuity in educational opportunities for children and vital supports to families, offering a model for rebuilding and sustaining child care in the months to come.

We concluded our series last spring with key policy recommendations. At this pivotal moment as states make plans to use new child care and Head Start funds included in the American Rescue Plan to expand access to working families and stabilize child care programs, we continue to issue a call to action to enact recommendations that offer opportunities for maximum impact:

    • Implement policies that encourage greater flexibility in family eligibility determination processes for both child care subsidy and Early Head Start services.
    • Prioritize services for children and families experiencing disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, including young children and families in African American, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous communities.
    • Invest additional funding (state and federal) in state/local models that link Early Head Start and Head Start programs with child care providers to strengthen the quality of child care for all children, utilizing Partnerships as a model.

“Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships with local providers develops community for both now and the future. Supporting quality child care settings builds a stronger workforce through provider professional development and by supporting parents’ ability to work, knowing their child is receiving excellent care. Children are our future workforce, and their learning trajectory is ignited by high quality childcare.”  Tracye Fortin, chief operating officer, KVCAP Child & Family Services, executive director, Educare Central Maine

Rebuilding more equitable and accessible child care systems in states and communities is an urgent need. Last fall, our Alliance for Early Success partners released a child care policy roadmap, including key recommendations for addressing both immediate needs AND creating long-term impact through strategies that increase quality and equity in child care for all children. Partnerships, designed to both strengthen and sustain the capacity of child care providers, while bolstering the quality of child care over time, offer one such model for achieving these goals. Greater investment in Early Head Start and Partnerships create the opportunity.

About The Authors

Cynthia D. Jackson, executive director, Educare Learning Network

Ginger Ward, chief executive officer, Southwest Human Development, CEO of Educare Arizona, and co-chair, Educare Governance Council