Financing Quality

In her Keynote at the 2014 National Smart Start Conference last week, Linda K. Smith referred to the new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships as a strategy to finance quality. Our ears perked up. We’ve heard much about the partnerships, and this was the first time we’d heard them described in that manner. Smith is the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s Basic Math
The cost of quality does not change based on the funding stream. Rather the ability to provide high quality does.

Take a toddler eligible for Early Head Start (EHS). An EHS provider would receive on average $13,500 to serve that child. Now let’s say that the EHS program does not have space, and the toddler also is eligible for child care subsidy. To provide care to that same child, a child care program now would receive on average $5,500. The cost of quality did not decrease; the standards changed.

In North Carolina, the amount a child care program receives per child for subsidy depends upon the county in which the program operates, the number of stars and the age of child.

How will EHS-Child Care Partnerships raise quality?
Child care programs participating in the partnership will have to meet the Early Head Start standards and provide the comprehensive services the program mandates. New grantees will have 18 months to meet the criteria.

EHS services are designed to encompass the full range of a family’s needs from pregnancy through a child’s third birthday and include:

  • High quality early learning;
  • Home visits, especially for families with newborns and other infants;
  • Parent education, including parent-child activities;
  • Comprehensive health and mental health services, including services to women before, during, and after pregnancy;
  • Nutrition; and
  • Ongoing support for parents through case management and peer support groups.

The Administration for Children and Families now has an online tool that allows users to compare national standards across programs: The National Standards Crosswalk Tool.

How is this different from what happens now?
In most instances, a dedicated EHS provider serves only children in EHS. (In North Carolina, Durham and Onslow counties are the exception. Both counties administer existing Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships.) Through the partnerships, child care programs will be able to serve Early Head Start children along with children whose families receive child care subsidy and children whose families can afford the cost of care. In other words, children will not be segregated by funding stream.

The child care program will receive the higher payment rate for children participating in Early Head Start. In return the program will have to meet the Early Head Start standards, thereby raising the quality of their infant and toddler programs.

Early Head Start: A Birth to Eight Policy
According to The Research Base for a Birth through Age Eight State Policy Framework, “Developmental research indicates that targeted policies in health, family support, and learning during the critical years spanning birth through age eight can make a difference in children’s life trajectories.

The report outlines several policy recommendations based on the research, including that the federal government should expand Early Head Start as it “combines early education with services for parents and access to other resources.


See our previous articles on the Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships: