Since you are looking at this site with an older browser, you will not be able to see any graphics or formatting. For better results, please upgrade your browser.

Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems that Spend Smarter
Maximizing Resources to Serve Vulnerable Children

Authors: Kay Johnson and Jane Knitzer
Publication Date: February 2006

This is an excerpt from the full report.

Building on scientific evidence about the relationship between early experience, brain development, and long-term developmental outcomes and complementing White House initiatives to ensure that children enter school healthy and ready to learn, the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) developed a Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Health in 2000. This plan specified two goals:

  • Goal 1: To provide leadership to the development of cross service systems integration partnerships that support children in early childhood in order to enhance their ability to enter school healthy and ready to learn.
  • Goal 2: To support states and communities in their efforts to build early childhood service systems that address the critical components of access to comprehensive pediatric services and medical homes; social-emotional development of young children; early care and education; and parenting education and family support.

To achieve these goals, MCHB funded State Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) planning grants to help develop more comprehensive approaches to early childhood service delivery. During the first three years of grant funding (FYs 2002-2004), states were charged with building partnerships with other stakeholders and developing a State Comprehensive Early Childhood Plan. Some 21 states have now completed such plans and received approval to move forward into the implementation phase of their ECCS project, while others continue to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive plan.

To complement these state ECCS grants, in 2005, MCHB funded Project THRIVE, a public policy analysis and education initiative for infants and young children at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). THRIVE’s mission is to ensure that young children and their families have access to high-quality health care, child care and early learning, early intervention, and parenting supports by providing policy analysis and research syntheses that can inform state efforts to strengthen and expand state early childhood comprehensive systems.

This first Project THRIVE Issue Brief builds on the evidence and recommendations of Spending Smarter: A Funding Guide for Policymakers to Promote Social and Emotional Health and School Readiness.2 The Spending Smarter report was designed to help legislators, agency officials (such as health, child care, mental health, early education, and child welfare professionals), families, and other advocates take steps to maximize the impact of existing funding streams and feel confident that they are using the limited available resources in the most effective ways. The emphasis is on planning for better financing of services to more vulnerable children with social-emotional challenges.

This THRIVE Issue Brief looks through the lens of state ECCS grant projects to identify ways in which they can promote smarter spending for vulnerable young children as they plan for and implement new, more integrated systems. It has a special focus on promoting social and emotional health and well-being, which is a critical precursor to both later health and school readiness. This brief provides: 1) a brief overview of the challenge; 2) summaries from the larger analysis (in Spending Smarter) of individual funding streams and programs that can be used to build components of a coherent system of supports and services; and 3) some selected promising practices from ECCS projects to illustrate finance strategies. Finally, building on the Spending Smarter checklist, the brief focuses on strategies for ECCS leaders and their partner stakeholders to consider for immediate adoption in their own states or communities.