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State Early Childhood Systems

ICF has expertise supporting states in building, integrating, and evaluating their early childhood systems and interrelated components.

In America, most states have a least four different agencies administering various aspects of their early care and education services for children from birth to age five and their families. States are engaged in efforts to improve these services through effective and coordinated service management and delivery, often referred to as “systems building.” State systems building includes an examination of the needs of children within the context of family and community and must recognize the multifaceted and interconnected functions, processes, and content areas that impact child and family outcomes.

Systems-building efforts are influenced by the political, fiscal, and public engagement context as well. While much has been written about models, approaches, and design of systems, the work remains complex, the processes dynamic, and the structural alignment ever-changing. Challenges for state policymakers and legislators in their systems-building efforts include:

  • Bridging the differences between child care, early learning, work supports, and parent empowerment
  • Aligning services and programs to ease family participation and improve outcomes
  • Prioritizing “at-risk” children versus serving all families
  • Linking quality improvement efforts with professional development systems and support

ICF approaches systems building as a way of thinking, rather than a series of step-by-step actions that lead to a single, static, guaranteed outcome. We understand that systems evolve over time through evaluation processes that examine operational objectives, performance measures, changes in the target population, and the impact of the system itself on child and family outcomes.

education state early childhood systesm