This blog is an excerpt from a new Application Guide, Writing a Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five Application that Will Continue State Progress toward Greater System Efficiency, Higher Program Quality, and Improved Child Outcomes.
No one knows better than a state administrator how difficult it is to coordinate federal and state early childhood programs. State early childhood administrators—often housed in different agencies—have responsibility for numerous programs designed to support young children and their families. These programs frequently have different program goals, eligibility criteria, and standards, which makes coordination exceptionally difficult. In some cases—as with the federal Head Start program—state administrators have little control over the program, creating an additional set of coordination challenges. In contrast, other programs, like the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, give states greater control and flexibility over the delivery of services. These differences across programs make it challenging for states to create an early childhood system that is easy to access and navigate for families who are low income and/or face barriers to opportunity.
Despite the challenges, states have made significant progress in creating coordinated systems. Through the use of State Early Childhood Advisory Councils, Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge grants, Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grants, MIECHV, and other federal and state coordination opportunities, state early childhood systems continue to evolve. Across the country, states are utilizing new governance structures, building stronger early childhood workforce and professional development systems, improving the way they measure and support program quality, and creating data systems to better coordinate and utilize information for system improvement. States are also addressing the access to and quality of care for infants and toddlers and are working to meet new challenges such as infant and early childhood mental health and supporting children with a high number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
The new Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program provides states with a historic opportunity to design and implement an early care and education system that gives equitable access to high-quality programs for all children and families. This federal funding allows states to engage in a thorough needs assessment, robust strategic planning process, and other activities intended to rally stakeholders around a common vision and goals for young children.
Given the anticipated number of grants and the requirements of the application, the PDG B-5 grant seeks to meet states where they are in their current system-building efforts and help them take bold steps forward. The grant will afford nearly every state the opportunity to think critically about its current early childhood system, assess system needs, and develop a plan of action. The grant also provides funding to implement key improvement initiatives and activities to meet state needs once a strategic plan is in place.
This application guide is designed to help states take full advantage of this opportunity. It draws from the principles of implementation science, behavioral economics, and other methodologies to help states think holistically about the grant application, and to use the grant funding in a way to set and meet new goals for the state system. States can think of the PDG B-5 grant –and its 40 expected awards—as a planning support for their next phase of early childhood systems building.
To that end, this guide:
- Provides a set of steps states can use to approach the PDG B-5 funding opportunity.
- Highlights specific areas of state early childhood systems where coordination and collaboration are most important for leveraging existing funding to:
- Maximize parental choice.
- Strengthen the delivery and quality of existing programs.
- Address the persistent inequitable access to early childhood opportunities faced by low-income and racially diverse families.
- Offers recommendations and resources that support stronger state partnerships with Head Start programs.
- Provides a template and process to create a logic model for the application that drives the needs assessment and strategic planning process.
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