NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council Considers Data Implications of COVID-19 and Experiences of Black Families

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council (ECDAC) convened for its quarterly meeting on May 27, 2021. The meeting focused on moving forward with NC’s data development strategy, considering data implications of COVID-19 for the NC Early Childhood Action Plan, and learning more about the experiences of Black families during the two pandemics of COVID-19 and racism. Read highlights from the meeting below.

Next Steps for Data Development

The ECDAC selected two affordable, high-quality child care measures as its next areas of focus for data development:

  1. Estimated eligible children under age six receiving child care subsidies, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and income
  2. Families paying ten percent or less of their income on child care, disaggregated by race/ethnicity, income, and age of children

Developing a plan to obtain and use these measures is important, particularly in light of child care issues that have been laid bare by COVID-19 and the opportunity to advocate for greater accessibility and equity. A workgroup will be formed to consider barriers and resources and create an initial plan for next steps. These measures are included in the NC data development strategy which is intended to improve NC’s early childhood data by addressing gaps in measures prioritized by Pathways, the NC Early Childhood Action Plan, and the early learning portions of the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI)’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.

COVID-19 and NC’s Early Childhood Data

The ECDAC, along with several groups across the state and country, is considering the implications of the pandemic on NC’s early childhood data. Dr. Paul Lanier, Associate Professor and Director of Child and Family Well-Being at the Jordan Institute of Families reviewed a policy brief prepared by his team at the UNC School of Social Work looking at data considerations for the NC Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP) in response to COVID-19 program and policy changes. The brief looked at each goal and target of the ECAP and considered:

  1. Which indicators represent policies and programs most vulnerable to COVID-19?
  2. Which indicators are most concerning regarding data quality (reliability and validity)?

For example, when considering the ECAP’s commitment for Goal 2 which states that NC babies, toddlers, young children, and their families will have regular, ongoing access to high-quality healthcare, potential COVID-19 impacts on data indicators include:

  • Disparities in well-child visits may be exacerbated due to differences in access to technology and reliable internet
  • Medicaid allowed well-child visits to be conducted via telehealth technology when audio and visual components are available
  • It is possible that families lost health insurance due to lay-offs in response to COVID-19 closures
  • We may observe a decrease in children who are up-to-date on immunizations

The brief highlights how contextual factors need to be considered when interpreting NC’s early childhood data during and after the pandemic, and potentially revising the ECAP measures and targets for 2025.

ECDAC members shared other examples and concerns based on their current work. One council member noted that the NC DPI has seen significant impacts to data due to COVID-19, such as changes in discipline data down to the preschool level. “When kids are learning remotely, no one is writing them up for not being at the dinner table.” She also reported challenges getting accurate data on families experiencing economic disadvantage with little to no paperwork going home and being worked on at school offices. Another council member shared a national concern on how data is used longitudinally given data quality issues during the pandemic. The ECDAC will continue to explore how it can best support NC’s early childhood data work related to COVID-19.

Black Parent Voices in the Two Pandemics

Guest speaker Dr. Iheoma Iruka—Research Professor at UNC Department of Public Policy, Fellow at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and Founding Director of the Equity Research Action Coalition—presented findings from a recent report: Black Parent Voices: Resilience in the Face of the Two Pandemics–COVID-19 and Racism. The report illustrates how the pandemic is affecting Black families’ experiences with racism and discrimination, financial security/material hardship, health and mental health, and early care and education options using national Rapid-EC survey data collected from Black families with children ages zero to five. 

Quantitive and qualitative data included in the report show how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the inequities that Black families and communities have experienced throughout history and in their daily lives. Black adults are at high risk of catching, being hospitalized with, and dying from the coronavirus. Black children are also sickened and hospitalized at a higher rate than white children. When compared to whites, Black adults are also more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed and underemployed, have low income and wealth, be killed by police, and be imprisoned in their lifetime.

Dr. Iruka and her team’s work demonstrates how the pandemic, coupled with racism, has had–and will continue to have–a significant impact on the well-being of Black children, families, and communities. It emphasizes the importance of listening to Black parents and specifically addressing the needs of Black families.

Other Data Updates

Dan Tetreault, OEL/Read to Achieve Project Coordinator and Jenni Wilkinson, Early Education Policy Advisor from NC DPI’s Office of Early Learning.provided an overview of the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 and its data requirements. Vikki Crouse, Policy Analyst and NC KIDS COUNT Project Director at NC Child provided an overview and tour of their 2021 County Data Dashboard

The NC ECDAC is a collaborative effort between the NC Early Childhood Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and includes members from DHHS divisions, the NC DPI, the Department of Information Technology, and data researchers and practitioners from outside state government. The Council is tasked with providing strategic direction and using its influence and decision-making authority to improve the quality and scope of early childhood data collection, and to support widespread analysis and use of early childhood data by policymakers and other decision-makers.

Learn more about the ECDAC and its members here.