The Center for American Progress has released a report, asking for more continuity pertaining to services for infants and toddlers in an effort to decrease readiness and achievement gaps.
The services in question include Early Head Start; the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. According to the report, many of the programs, which provide critical services to these children, are currently underfunded and are not meeting the needs of all families who are eligible. The report suggests that the creation of a continuum of services that are better connected to help children as long as they can would better aid such families in all aspects of a child's development.
"The first few years of a child's life are some of the most important to determining healthy development, both in and out of school. States and communities are taking the lead on better coordination of programs that serve infants and toddlers, but it's clear that as a country, we have a long way to go," said Katie Hamm, CAP Director of Early Childhood Policy and co-author of the report. "The federal government should take its cues from communities that are exploring innovative ways to deliver stable services to young children and their families."
A number of communities across the country are already increasing their efforts to better coordinate the services they offer to young children and their families, with positive results. The report looks into several of these efforts, including creative financing, community focal points for service delivery, and continuity in programs and standards.
"We know that programs such as home visiting and nutrition assistance can help set the stage for future success. It's up to Congress and current and future administrations to step up to the plate," said Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Policy Analyst for CAP's Early Childhood Policy team and co-author of the report. "Continuous funding—and additional resources—would be the first step in the right direction toward ensuring that more families are benefiting from interventions proven to work and proven to deliver long-lasting benefits."
The report commends these individual communities for taking the initiative to boost such programs, but adds that there are additional steps that could be taken by the federal government to ensure that more children benefit. Suggestions include increasing federal resources, securing funding that is long-term and stable, and making funding sources flexible to help support service alignment.
CAP recommends building momentum on a continuous basis for private-sector investments, offering help for putting together funding proposals/plans, streamlining grant applications, and creating a federal cross-agency office that focuses specifically on children and infants.