Ensuring an equitable start for all babies requires understanding the influence of race, ethnicity, and racism in the lives of babies and families. As a result of the longstanding history of systemic racism and marginalization in the United States, babies in communities of color, particularly Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native infants and toddlers, are disproportionately at risk for poorer outcomes in each of ZERO TO THREE’s policy framework domains of well-being that are essential for healthy development—Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences.
When the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) learned of imminent federal COVID funding, they were confronted with the same spending and distribution decisions that all states were required to quickly consider as families and child care providers were suffering from the long-lasting pandemic impacts. OEC knew they wanted to be intentional and thoughtful in equitable distribution of the funding to best bolster the child care economy, however, lacking child level enrollment data, they had to look to other data resources accessible to the state in order to reach this goal. Leadership decided that using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to guide distribution would be a good alternative to previous “equal” distribution of funds that disadvantaged larger programs and didn’t allow for extra support to programs in child care deserts or those serving under-resourced communities. The SVI’s overall vulnerability score is based on variables related to socioeconomic status, household composition and disability, minority status, language and housing type, and transportation, and SVI is highly correlated with the percentage of non-White population within a census tract. The assumption was that by serving programs in areas with the highest SVI, or programs in neighboring communities, funding would make the most impact and be more likely to reach those most in need and result in more equitable distribution than that of previous resources. No one method is perfect—but this process seemed to be the best way to use a variable validated by the census to help stabilize and get funding distributed equitably to communities most heavily impacted by COVID. While the state recognizes limitations in this approach (Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, 2021), it is believed that programs serving children and families with the highest needs were likely to receive more assistance. Connecticut also added additional funds for programs that are high-quality, serve children on subsidy, and serve infants and toddlers.
To learn more about addressing bias and advancing equity in state policy read here.