Children’s early experiences are critical in shaping the foundation for their long-term development and growth. Young children are capable of tremendous growth and resilience, even in the face of adversity. Nurturing and responsive relationships with parents and caregivers, and challenging and engaging learning environments at home and in early care and education settings can help promote positive outcomes in young children. HHS is committed to providing high-quality early care and education for young children as well as to helping parents support children’s health and development.
Improve Early Learning Program Quality and Young Children’s School Readiness Outcomes
HHS will work to foster high quality in its early care and education programs, including Early Head Start, Head Start and the Child Care and Development Fund. HHS will revise the Head Start Program Performance Standards and improve training for teachers and program directors, utilizing the latest research. HHS will ensure that Head Start programs meet the educational, health, and nutritional needs of the children and families they serve. HHS will promote the use of Quality Rating Improvement Systems in child care programs, which can provide families with valuable information about the quality of child care providers while encouraging providers to invest in quality improvements and assisting them in such efforts.
Support the Coordination of Services for Young Children and Their Families
HHS will encourage states to bring together key decisionmakers to improve early education across settings (e.g., prekindergarten, private preschools, Head Start, center-based child care, and family child care) through the State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood, a new effort funded under the Recovery Act. HHS will identify strategies for promoting high-quality systems of early learning across settings in states through the Early Learning and Development Inter-Departmental Initiative. These efforts can foster state and local connections between early learning programs and those providing high-quality health, nutrition, mental health, and family support services, as well as connections between early learning programs and elementary schools.
Increase Access to High-Quality Programs for Vulnerable Young Children and Families
HHS will increase access to early learning programs as well as home visiting programs that can help parents respond to their children’s developmental and health needs. Revisions to the Head Start Program Performance Standards and other efforts by the Department will ensure programs are available to respond to the unique needs of special populations, such as dual language learners, children with disabilities, and American Indian and Alaska Native children. HHS will develop place-based strategies and encourage systemwide investments for serving children from birth to age eight in low-income and resource-poor communities through the Early Learning Communities Initiative.
Ensure that Young Children’s Home Experiences Support Children’s Learning and Healthy Development
HHS will strengthen home visitation services provided by states to families of young children through implementation of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program funded in the Affordable Care Act. Revised Head Start Program Performance Standards will emphasize encouraging family engagement in children’s learning through support for partnerships between early childhood programs, parents, and families and through support for family literacy activities