We asked AMCHP members: How has the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) helped build your state capacity to improve state infant and toddler child care quality?
By Bethany Geldmaker, PhD
Project Director Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant, Virginia Department of Health
The Commonwealth of Virginia has a number of state quality child care initiatives focusing on children birth to three. Initially funded in 2003, the Virginia ECCS grant builds on the state's systems integration work. The broad goal of Virginia ECCS is to build state capacity to foster professional development of the early childhood workforce that: 1) enhances knowledge and skills of the early childhood workforce and those who support them; 2) supports the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based practices; and 3) increases the size of the workforce skilled in supporting the social-emotional and physical development of young children (birth to three) in inclusive and natural environments.
The purpose of the current ECCS grant is to prevent and reduce the risk factors associated with adversity in early childhood environments, reinforce healthful behaviors by improving the quality and delivery of birth to three child care quality initiatives and increase community and state linkages that will support improved health and developmental trajectories by fostering safe and nurturing relationships. The project integrates Caring for Our Children 3 (CFOC3) standards into early childhood professional development initiatives to improve the quality and delivery of initiatives for children aged birth to three.
Three primary objectives provide focus and structure to the work: Objective 1: Increase community and state early childhood professional development linkages that will support improved health and developmental trajectories; Objective 2: Enhance the knowledge, skill, and competency of the early childhood workforce and those who support them; and Objective 3: Increase the size of the workforce skilled in supporting the social-emotional and physical development of young children (birth to three) in inclusive and natural environments.
The Early Childhood Mental Health Virginia Advisory Board (ECMHVAB) serves as the state ECCS Team. Project SEED (Social Emotional Education and Development) Virginia is a cooperative agreement between the Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Department of Health, and Virginia Commonwealth University's Partnership for People with Disabilities (PPD) on behalf of the ECMHVAB. Project SEED, under the leadership of ECMHVAB, supports a variety of child care professional development projects braiding funding from partner agencies and organizations. Projects include trainings, coaching and mentoring for Ages and Stages Screening (both ASQ-3 and ASQ-SE) and Positive Behavior Support (CSEFEL, Infant Mental Health Endorsement), all of which are linked to ECCS.
By Giovanna Rossi, Collective Action Strategies President; Gloria Bonner, ECCS Project Director, New Mexico Department of Health; and Janis Gonzales, MD, Title V Director/Family Health Bureau Chief & Medical Director, New Mexico Department of Health
To build capacity to expand developmental screenings, the New Mexico ECCS initiative provides trainings to community programs, such as home visiting and early care and learning, on the administration and scoring of the most commonly used developmental screening tools. During the first two years of the grant, 543 early childhood providers have been trained in using the Ages & Stages Questionnaire screening instruments in both urban and rural areas of the state.
An early care provider survey was developed and distributed to licensed and registered child care directors, home visitors/supervisors, head start and early head start directors. The survey captures and documents developmental and behavioral health screening and referral activities in current practice in early care and education settings for children age birth to five. The ECCS team will synthesize findings and discuss next steps as informed by these findings.
Also, formative research was conducted in order to gain insight into the values, barriers, and motivators of parents of young children and assess their informational needs regarding child development and child well-being. The research activities included written surveys with parents and professionals (childcare workers, early childhood educators, health providers) and Focus Group Interviews with parents of children zero to three in various communities around the state.
By Lindsay Usry
ECCS Coordinator, Tulane Institute of Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health
Current efforts of the Louisiana ECCS, in collaboration with various partner organizations, include: facilitation of the Young Child Wellness Collaborative, an action learning collaborative focused on early childhood adversity; development of the Louisiana Risk and Reach in Early Childhood report, which provides data about children under five and the programs that serve them; facilitation of the Early Childhood Policy Leadership Institute, a program to educate leaders about the importance of early childhood and to cultivate champions for young children; development of the Louisiana ACE Initiative and ACE Educator Program, a statewide effort to increase awareness of the impact of childhood trauma; and promotion of Vroom, an app developed by the Bezos Family Foundation that encourages positive "brain building" parent-child interactions. Importantly, ECCS funding has enabled Louisiana to maintain a staff position dedicated in part to monitoring for new opportunities to increase collaboration, improve quality, and infuse state efforts with expertise from infant mental health and other related fields. In the past year, this monitoring for and exploring of opportunities has led to the creation of the Louisiana ACE Educator Program as well as promotion of Vroom. Louisiana ECCS also is aligned closely with Louisiana LAUNCH and Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program.