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Despite compelling evidence that the early years set the foundation for children’s health and future development— including educational success—early childhood programs and services continue to be drastically underfunded.

When programs are underfunded...

capacity fails to meet demand and the programs and services are unstable. In addition, states and communities often lack a clear understanding of the real cost of delivering high-quality programs and services, presenting an additional barrier to the creation of a comprehensive early childhood system that meets the needs of young children and their families.

The long-term financial benefit of investing in early childhood is also well-documented. In 2016, Professor and Nobel Laureate James Heckman and colleagues from the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center released The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program. This groundbreaking study shows that high-quality birth to five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% rate per child, per year return on investment through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors, and employment—reducing taxpayer costs down the line and preparing the country’s workforce for a competitive future.

Our Work

The BUILD Initiative works with state leaders on early childhood system financing to:

  • Maximize federal funding opportunities by providing technical assistance to successfully apply for federal funding, implement federal initiatives, and leverage and sustain federal funding after the grant period ends.
  • Support states in understanding the funding mix that supports the delivery of birth to five programs and services to children and families through the use of tools such as fiscal mapping.
  • Demonstrate ways to leverage and efficiently use all of the funding streams available from public and private sources.
  • Create opportunities for cross-state peer learning and documenting and sharing promising approaches to financing.

Fiscal Mapping

BUILD has worked with a number of states on fiscal mapping—creating a detailed picture of funding across systems and funding entities. By looking at all relevant funding streams—including federal, state, city, local, philanthropic, and private payer—and documenting the policies, restrictions, and regulations associated with the funding, state leaders can more clearly understand what funding is available to support young children and their families, how it is being used, and what gaps exist.

Additionally, fiscal mapping provides an intentional lens to view access to services for the most vulnerable children and families who are furthest from opportunity. By considering eligibility requirements, barriers to participation, and populations served by various funding streams, the fiscal map can help state leaders understand if the programs and services they are creating are accessible to those who need and want them.

State Benefits

States have a complex patchwork of funding sources and financing mechanisms that often leads agencies and organizations to operate in isolation, disconnected from other entities that serve children and families. As a result, the sectors of the early childhood system—early learning, family support, and health—develop independent strategies to address issues that cut across sector boundaries to have an impact on young children and their families and often compete for the funding to sustain those strategies.

Lack of coordination can result in a nonfunctioning system with inequities in access, quality, affordability, and accountability. Funding sources and mechanisms vary in their implementation requirements and contract approach, as well as in their service requirements, quality standards, and accountability measures. State leaders need a clear understanding of the entire financing picture if they are to effectively develop the policies and programs that will result in the best services for children and families.

Fiscal mapping identifies the available funding sources for early childhood services and their specific characteristics. This includes the source of the funds and the administering organization, the services, goals, population served, and reach or capacity of the funding.

Explore Financing Collection