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A Big Week for Tribal Early Childhood Programs

Photo of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Tribal Home Visiting Team: Brandi Smallwood, Judy McDaniel and Barbara Moffitt

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Tribal Home Visiting Team at the Pew Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs, Jan. 29, 2014. (From left to right: Brandi Smallwood, Judy McDaniel and Barbara Moffitt).

By Moushumi Beltangady, Senior Policy Analyst, Early Childhood Development

The last week of January 2014 was a big week for the tribal early childhood development programs! ACF held the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (Tribal MIECHV) grantee meeting and a meeting of the Tribal Early Childhood Research Center (TRC) Home Visiting Steering Committee, and Tribal MIECHV grantees participated in Pew Charitable Trust’s Fourth National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs. 

The Tribal Early Learning Initiative (TELI) grantees had their first in-person meeting. And ACF began planning for new Tribal Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships grants, a new and exciting opportunity for tribal communities to expand high-quality early learning and development opportunities for infants and toddlers!

The Tribal Early Childhood Research Center’s (TRC) Home Visiting Steering Committee met on Jan. 27. The group, which includes representatives from seven Tribal MIECHV grantees, discussed emerging issues in home visiting practice and research, learned about the TRC’s work to study tribal communities’ readiness for the Survey of Well-Being of Young Children (SWYC), and reflected on the idea of measuring culture as part of determining the success of tribal early childhood programs.

On Jan. 28, ACF was thrilled to welcome Tribal MIECHV grantees to our own home, the Aerospace Building in Washington, D.C. The meeting was the first time that all three cohorts of Tribal MIECHV grantees had ever been together, and was an exciting opportunity for learning, sharing and networking. The meeting kicked off with a warm welcome and open conversation with Deputy Assistant Secretary Linda Smith, then moved into breakout sessions on parent, family, and community engagement and data collection. After lunch, we heard from experts on the topic of program sustainability, followed by roundtable conversations on the topic of strategic information sharing.

The next day, the Tribal MIECHV grantees migrated to the Fourth National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs. This one-and-a-half day event was attended by more than 560 participants and included plenaries and breakout sessions on brain development and toxic stress, policy and financing, early childhood systems, professional development, staff recruitment and retention, fathers and home visiting, data systems, and continuous quality improvement.

Tribal MIECHV grantees presented at sessions on early childhood systems integration and cultural adaptation and enhancement in tribal home visiting programs. In addition, 18 Tribal MIECHV grantees presented posters on their projects, cultural adaptations, and evaluations at a well-attended evening poster session. Tribal MIECHV grantees made a big impact at the Summit – making it clear that they are leading the home visiting field in both program quality and innovation!

Immediately following the Summit, four Tribal MIECHV grantees gathered with their Head Start/Early Head Start and Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) for the first meeting of the Tribal Early Learning Initiative (TELI) grantees. The TELI grantees reflected on their work to build stronger early childhood systems in their communities and participated in sessions on professional development, financing early childhood systems, and cross-system collaboration strategies. They also had an opportunity to consult with both Linda Smith and Administration on Native Americans Commissioner Lillian Sparks Robinson.

Even as existing tribal early childhood program grantees were meeting to reflect on their success and think about the future, ACF began preparing for a new opportunity for tribal communities to improve the outcomes for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. With the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, ACF is launching the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, a $500 million investment which will support tribes, states and communities in expanding high quality early learning and development opportunities for infants and toddlers.

The legislation includes a three percent set-aside (approximately $15 million) for grants to tribes. In January, Tribal MIECHV grantees and TELI grantees had an opportunity to provide input on the new initiative, along with visitors from the National Indian Child Care Association and a group of Oklahoma tribal Head Start grantees. ACF held a briefing and input webinar for tribal partners on Feb. 11, which invited input and questions from all stakeholders.

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