Provides national data showing how health care, family, and community factors are related to mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders in early childhood. Findings highlight specific factors that could be addressed through efforts at national, state and local levels.
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Building Comprehensive and Collaborative Early Childhood Systems
Current Early Childhood Systems
Several public systems have responsibility for the well-being of young children and families. Many families—especially those experiencing poverty, job insecurity, or health issues—interact with multiple service sectors, such as health care, mental health, child care, schools, job training, substance abuse programs, and housing agencies. Often, these systems do not work together to coordinate services for children and families. Each agency has its own eligibility requirements, service providers, and practices, creating a burden on families and inefficient or duplicative “silo” services that are uncoordinated in their efforts to support families and promote well-being in children.
Project LAUNCH Efforts for Comprehensive Early Childhood Systems
Project LAUNCH looks at the whole child—and the child as part of a family and community. A major goal of Project LAUNCH is to help providers across disciplines think holistically about children’s well-being and work together so that the care and support offered to families is coordinated and well integrated. Guided by their Young Child Wellness Councils (cross-sector advisory groups, including parents), Project LAUNCH grantees bring together organizations to promote collaboration and improve the integration and efficiency of the child-serving systems. Project LAUNCH system integration efforts include policy development, identification of funding mechanisms to ensure long-term support for young children’s wellness (e.g., changes in Medicaid reimbursement policies), cross-sector workforce development efforts, shared data systems, expanded referral systems, and other activities intended to improve communication and simplify services for children and families at the local level.
Turning Points that Led to Success for Project LAUNCH
Project LAUNCH grantees discuss critical moments in the implementation of the grant in their community, state, tribe or territory.
State and Local Level System Building and Integration Efforts
At the state level, Project LAUNCH grantees build on and coordinate with other state and federally funded efforts to develop and strengthen systems to promote wellness in young children. One example of close collaboration is with the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems: Building Health Through Integration grant program, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These grants are awarded to states and communities to help them improve integration and services for young children. Project LAUNCH grantees work to ensure that behavioral health is integrated into efforts to improve access to high-quality early learning programs, such as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, Project LAUNCH grantees collaborate closely with state and local leaders in implementing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant, funded by HRSA, that helps states, territories, and tribal entities offer voluntary, evidence-based home visiting programs for pregnant mothers and families of young children.
At the local level, Project LAUNCH pilot communities work on similar system building and integration efforts. A local Young Child Wellness Council is convened to bring together partners and providers from across service delivery systems. This includes representatives from health care, mental health, early childhood education, child care, local education agencies, and child welfare and also may include other important members of the community invested in young children (e.g., faith organizations, law enforcement, libraries, parks and recreation, and local businesses). The local Young Child Wellness Council plays a pivotal role in planning, shaping, and overseeing the implementation of Project LAUNCH strategies, and it helps ensure that funded innovative practices are promoted and sustained beyond the end of the grant.
A critical aspect of the Project LAUNCH model is the partnership between the state (or tribe or territory) and the local pilot community. The Project LAUNCH team consists of a key leader at the state (or tribal/territorial) level and one at the local pilot community level. They collaborate regularly to ensure that the lessons learned by the local community through the implementation of Project LAUNCH are shared with the state/tribe/territory to foster more strategic thinking about statewide, territory-wide, or tribal adoption of relevant policies, practices, and programs intended to improve the child-serving system. Equally important, the state/tribe/territory listens to the challenges of the local community and leverages its Young Child Wellness Council and other resources to help remove barriers and facilitate successes by changing policy, realigning priorities, raising attention and awareness, and determining strategies for developing the workforce. The local Project LAUNCH coordinator and his or her counterparts at the state, territory, or tribal level are partners in their work to support sustainable change to better serve young children and their families.
- The Project LAUNCH grantee in El Paso, Texas, has developed a strong local Young Child Wellness Council; this group has been a catalyst for cross-sector collaboration, which has resulted in the securing of additional funding. For example, one of the Council’s workgroups was recently awarded a grant to conduct an environmental scan of early childhood services in the community concerning challenges experienced by providers and parents in the area of developmental screening. Following the scan, the workgroup will convene a summit of key stakeholders and develop a series of policy briefs.
- The local Project LAUNCH California grantee, serving East Oakland in Alameda County, piloted a program to embed a highly skilled mental health clinician within existing public health home visiting programs to provide consultation to home visitors, provide direct mental health services to a limited number of clients, and make referrals to mental health treatment as appropriate. Most families served by the county’s home visiting programs are living in highly challenged communities and the additional mental health resources enable home visiting staff to effectively support children and families. Due to the success of the project, this position was incorporated into the county MCAH/Title V budget for the Public Health Department after five years of planning. Two mental health positions are being supported through other funding sources.
- Through Project LAUNCH Maine, the state’s home visiting program has been enhanced based on the experiences of the Bridging Program. The Bridging Program serves families whose infants and young children have various needs, including babies born preterm, infants treated for medical issues in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, infants and young children with high risk factors or medical and developmental issues, as well as parents who need extra support to meet the needs of their children.
- Project LAUNCH Washington collaborated with a group of state-level partners to create and implement a strategic plan for universal developmental screening in the state. Now referred to as the Help Me Grow Washington Partnership, the effort is using a collective impact approach and moving toward identifying shared measures for developmental screening and responsive supports.
- In Rhode Island, Project LAUNCH worked with state partners to enhance KIDSNET, the state’s confidential, computerized child health information system. KIDSNET facilitates the collection and appropriate sharing of health data with health care providers, parents, maternal and child health programs, and other child service providers for the provision of timely and appropriate preventive health services and follow-up. Project LAUNCH work helped ensure the system could be accessed by various child-serving providers to reduce duplication of developmental screenings, creating a more positive experience for families and using resources more efficiently.
Explores interventions in early childhood that can help prevent drug use and other unhealthy behaviors. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, provides research-based principles that affect a child's self-control and overall mental health, starting during pregnancy through the eighth year of life. It recognizes that while substance use generally begins during the teen years, it has known biological, psychological, social, and environmental roots that begin even before birth.
Summarizes research about infant and toddler development, highlighting areas that are foundational for later school success. The report serves as a guide for programs to inform their practices and policies and to help programs think about their own theories of change and what outcomes they are most focused on improving for young children.
Shares the ways in which Preschool Development Grant states are responding to the expulsion and suspension of their youngest students, outlining policies and practices used. The report also discusses relevant federal and state policies aimed at mitigating the excessive use of expulsion and suspension for preschool students. The expulsion and suspension of preschool age children has been a growing issue for states, receiving considerable attention at many levels.
Provides practical knowledge for practitioners in the government, business, and nonprofit sectors to implement their own intersector initiatives. It is designed to support practitioners in navigating the differences in languages, cultures, and work practices that exist across sectors—differences that can prove challenging to align when pursuing shared goals in a consensus-oriented environment.
Reviews some of the strategies used by states to address issues related to infant and early childhood mental health. It provides recommendations for nurturing change in state-level infant and early childhood mental health supports and services.
Helps state and community leaders improve the capacity of their early childhood systems. Comprehensive early childhood systems require work across the health, early learning and development, and family support and leadership sectors to achieve agreed-upon goals for thriving children and families.
Reviews what has been accomplished to date in the development of the “family voice” in all the child-serving systems—not just the substance abuse system but also the systems of mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, trauma support, education, and primary care. It also includes recommendations to create true cross-systems collaboration supporting family involvement so that youth and their families can fully access the services and supports they need to obtain and maintain optimum health.
Offers valuable information from the BUILD Initiative for those seeking to build early learning systems, based upon fiscal analysis and the latest research and evidence of the need for and value of additional investments in early childhood services
Offers an overview of critical early childhood system components according to their evidence base, status of development, exemplary state actions in building the component, and exemplary state actions in linking each component with other components.
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