By: Ngozi Onunaku, Senior Policy Analyst for Early Childhood Development
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
While federal funds for the early childhood State Advisory Councils (the Councils) are currently winding down, states and territories are working to sustain their Councils.
By design, the Councils' funds were intended to serve as start up funds. In fact, states receiving the grant were required to identify a sustainability plan for their Council work and work towards implementation.
The last blog on the Councils described some of the ways in which states strategically invested Council funds to build early childhood infrastructure as a form of sustainability. Since then states convened for a face-to-face meeting in Washington, D.C., this summer to further explore the issue of sustainability. During the meeting they discussed the current challenges they face, as well as successes and plans for the future.
The Councils identified that they will need to expand or build new relationships with partners that can help inform, support and sustain the Council work. For some states new partners will include representatives from private business, philanthropy, schools, the child welfare agency, pediatrics, child nutrition programs (e.g. Women Infants & Children program), tribes and local government (e.g. mayors).
Councils agreed that beefing up their communications to the general public and stakeholders is a critical next step in promoting and sustaining the work of the Councils. Many are working on translating what they have accomplished over the past few years into simple key messages that can be easily understood by the public. Some will look to develop a communications plan. In some instances this will include reengaging their governors and communicating with other state leadership about plans for sustaining the Council.
Councils discussed the need for stronger governance moving forward. Using lessons learned from their three-year grants, Councils are making plans to move ahead with less resources and staff. They are also thinking about how to make the Councils “adaptable” in order to handle future transitions or changes in administration.
Finally, Councils considered the need for strategic planning and new goals. Across the board, Councils agree that their state early childhood systems development work must and will continue but that they must go back to the drawing board and recalibrate. For instance they must discuss the new vision for their Councils balanced with what is realistic. They must also identify what their new SAC work will cost.
We will stay tuned.