Early Childhood Development Interagency Coordination

330 C Street SW
4th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20201
Phone: (202) 401-9204
Fax: (202) 205-4891
https://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ecd

The ACF Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development (ECD) was created in 2009 to provide an integrated, comprehensive, and focused approach to improving early childhood education and development.  This office provides coordination across the Office of Head Start (OHS) and the Office of Child Care (OCC), as well as working with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) who administers the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) in collaboration with ACF.

ECD also works with other programs within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of these is the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, which administers and coordinates the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. ECD administers the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (Tribal MIECHV) program that provides grants to tribal organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate home visiting programs in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

ECD also serves as the liaison and support to a range of other federal agencies, particularly the U.S. Department of Education, including but not limited to coordination of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, Preschool Development Grants, Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!Reducing Suspension and Expulsion Practices in Early Childhood Settings and expanding early care and education for homeless children. Given the importance of state and local activities in early childhood development, ECD works closely with state partners such as State Advisory Councils, State Child Care Administrators, and State Pre-K Directors.

In addition to our federal and state partners ECD continues to reach out to a wide range of national organizations and philanthropic partners to assure that we are learning and collaborating together. These interagency, collaborative programs and communications help ensure a complete and integrated approach to improving the nation’s childhood learning and development.  Within all of our programs and projects, we strive to achieve the following goals:

  • Build successful Early Learning and Development Systems across Head Start, child care, and pre-K.
  • Promote high quality and accountable early learning and development programs for all children.
  • Improve the health and safety of early learning and development programs.
  • Ensure an effective early childhood workforce.
  • Promote family support and engagement in a child’s development.

Office of Head Start: Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Over one million children are served every year by Head Start programs encompassing the 50 States, 6 Territories, and 566 American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Since 1965, nearly 30 million low-income children and their families have received these comprehensive services to increase their school readiness.
Office of Child Care: The Office of Child Care supports low-income working families by providing access to affordable, high-quality early care and afterschool programs. OCC administers the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and works with state, territory, and tribal governments to provide support for children and their families juggling work schedules and struggling to find child care programs that will fit their needs and that will prepare children to succeed in school.

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) and Tribal MIECHV: The MIECHV Program responds to the diverse needs of children and families in communities at risk and provides an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration and partnership at the federal, state, and community levels to improve health and development outcomes for at-risk children through evidence-based home visiting programs. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) administers the State MIECHV program, which provides grants to States and Jurisdictions to develop statewide home visiting programs.  ACF administers the Tribal MIECHV program.
The Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (Tribal MIECHV) program provides grants to tribal organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate home visiting programs in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The Tribal MIECHV program is funded by a 3 percent set-aside from the larger MIECHV program. Tribal MIECHV grants are awarded to Indian tribes, consortia of tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations.

Tribal Early Learning Initiative: In fall 2012, ACF began a partnership, known as the Tribal Early Learning Initiative (TELI), with American Indian tribes to support better outcomes for Native children and families. The TELI’s objective is for tribes and their communities to continue to grow and sustain critical early childhood systems to meet the needs of young children, families, and the community as a whole and increase the number of children in quality early care and education settings.
TELI has four goals:

  • Support tribes to fully and effectively coordinate and leverage Child Care and Development Fund, Head Start/Early Head Start, and Tribal MIECHV programs to meet the needs of communities, children, and families.
  • Create and support seamless quality early childhood systems across programs serving young children and families.
  • Raise the quality of services to children and families across the prenatal to age 5 continuum.
  • Identify and break down barriers to collaboration and systems improvement.

Early Childhood Health: Effective disease prevention, along with promotion of healthy development and wellness, are best achieved with well-coordinated efforts starting early in the life course.  Disease prevention and health promotion, as well as linkages to health services, can be delivered anywhere children and families spend time: in the home, in communities, and in a range of early care and education settings serving children prenatally through age 8 such as child care, Head Start/Early Head Start (HS/EHS), home visiting and after school programs.  Returns on investment for these coordination efforts are unparalleled; by addressing health and development early in children’s lives, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate the need for more expensive corrective measures in later years. Early childhood health supports safe, healthy, happy children who are ready to learn include asthma awareness, developmental and behavioral services and access to services.

Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership: As part of President Obama’s Early Learning Initiative, ACF has set aside $500 million for new Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships. These grants allow new or existing Early Head Start programs to partner with local child care centers and family child care providers serving infants and toddlers from low-income families. ACF supports states and communities as they expand high quality early learning opportunities to infants and toddlers through EHS-CC Partnerships. The partnerships will support working families by providing a full-day, full-year program so that low-income children have the healthy and enriching early experiences they need to realize their full potential.

State Advisory Councils: ACF awarded $100 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for 50 State Advisory Council grants to 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.  The overall responsibility of the State Advisory Council is to lead the development or enhancement of a high-quality, comprehensive system of early childhood development and care that ensures statewide coordination and collaboration among the wide range of early childhood programs and services in the state. These include child care, Head Start, IDEA preschool, infants and families programs, and pre-kindergarten programs and services.

Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC): RTT-ELC is a discretionary grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. RTT-ELC supports states in building early learning systems that raise the quality of early learning and development programs, support early childhood educators, engage families, and increase access to early care and education opportunities so that all children can enter kindergarten ready to succeed.  Since 2011, more than $1 billion has been awarded to 20 states. ACF Early Childhood Development staff work closely with the Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning to guide and oversee the work of these 20 states. RTT-ELC focuses on five key areas of reform:

  • Establishing Successful State Systems by building on the State's existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the State's early learning and development agenda, and carefully coordinating programs across agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant
  • Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs by creating a common tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the State to evaluate and improve program performance and to inform families about program quality
  • Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for children to develop common standards within the State and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs, as well as inform, engage and support families
  • Supporting A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation, and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies
  • Measuring Outcomes and Progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed in elementary school.

Preschool Development Grant (PDG): In response to the call to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America, Congress appropriated $250 million in fiscal year 2014 for the Preschool Development Grant (PDG). Through these PDG awards, more than 33,000 additional children will be served in high-quality preschool programs that meet high-quality standards in the first year of the program alone. Eighteen states received grants, totaling more than $226 million, under the Preschool Development Grants program. States receiving grants will develop or expand high-quality preschool programs in regionally diverse communities—from urban neighborhoods to small towns to tribal areas—as determined by the state. Preschool programs funded under either category of grants must meet the criteria for high-quality preschool programs. ACF Early Childhood Development staff work closely with the Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning to guide and oversee the policy work of these 18 states.

Other Interagency Initiatives:

  • Reducing Suspension and Expulsion Practices in Early Childhood Settings Recent data indicate that expulsions and suspensions regularly occur in preschool settings. This is a problematic issue given the well-established research indicating that these practices can influence a number of adverse outcomes across development, health, and education. In addition, stark racial and gender disparities exist in these practices, with young boys of color being suspended and expelled at much higher rates than other children in early learning programs. These trends warrant immediate attention from the early childhood and education fields. The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education issued a policy statement and recommendations to assist states and public and private early childhood programs in partnering to prevent and severely limit expulsions and suspensions in early learning settings.
  • Early Childhood Workforce: ACF, in partnership with the Department of Education and several foundations, funded a study and consensus report, conducted by an independent committee and the National Academies of Science (NAS), on early childhood workforce preparation and professional development, informed by the science of children’s developmental trajectories from birth age 8. The recently released Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through  Age 8: A Unifying Foundation looks at Essential Features of Child Development, Principles to Support Quality Practice and provided A Blueprint for Action. ACF  will work with public and private partners as we learn from this study and begin to  work to build a better system of support for our early learning teachers. 
  • Increasing Early Care and Education (ECE) Services for Homeless Children: Providing early childhood education services to homeless children is especially urgent when considering the vulnerability of young children experiencing homelessness. ACF coordinates an interagency early childhood workgroup that provides materials and resources for programs, communities and states to ensure that these young children are prioritized for services that support their early learning and development. A series of papers and tools have been developed.
  • Bridging The Word Gap: Research shows that during the first three years of life, a poor child hears roughly 30 million fewer total words than his or her more affluent peers. This is known as the “word gap,” and it can lead to disparities not just in vocabulary size, but also in school readiness, long-term educational and health outcomes, earnings, and family stability. The "word gap" refers to the difference in the both the quantity of words and the quality of foundational interactions a child hears and experiences in the first few years of life. HHS, ED and several philanthropic partners supported a contract to the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study focused on how to best support young children who are dual and English language learners. In addition, HHS and ED are developing a Parent Early Learning Toolkit to help parents identify high-quality early learning programs.
  • “Look Before You Lock” Campaign: ECD works in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) national campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths, injury, and trauma after being left unsupervised in cars, vans, or school buses. The campaign reminds bus drivers and monitors, teachers, parents, and caregivers to acknowledge it could happen to them and to ask themselves—"Where's baby? Look before you lock."
Last Reviewed: February 4, 2016
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