In early 2023, ZERO TO THREE interviewed eight states to understand how they are leveraging American Rescue Plan Act funding to meet the needs of infants, toddlers and families.
This article describes Alaska’s efforts.
Alaska has leveraged American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to think creatively about supporting the state’s home visiting system. Home visiting models provided in Alaska include Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, Early Head Start, and the Infant Learning Program (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C). Recognizing that all these programs represent critical supports for families, particularly in the context of the pandemic, Alaska made the decision to use ARPA funding to make universal supports available program-wide. This included providing training on trauma and resilience using the ECHO model, with continuing education credits available to match the requirements of each model. Access to the training opportunity was also made available to foster parents enrolled in home visiting programs, with the option for foster parents to count the training toward meeting continuing education requirements.
The ECHO model included didactic information and a case presentation during which a home visitor shares a case for discussion. The state has also leveraged ARPA funds to convene two home visiting summits, —one focused on interpersonal violence and the other on home visitor safety.
Alaska is working to strengthen family voice through the Family Engagement and Leadership Training (FELT) program, which is specifically for families with young children, including those with infants and toddlers. The program provides parents with access to online training to build knowledge and skills to support them participating fully and confidently as leaders in settings such as state advisory groups. There is also a networking and connection piece of the training that allows participants to discuss the training content for better understanding and practical application. The state used ARPA dollars combined with funding from the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grant to pilot the program and is now working to expand the opportunity to more families.
Alaska is also working to address the needs of infants, toddlers and families in the child care space. The state is currently in the planning process to pilot a tiered child care subsidy payment rate for infants and toddlers enrolled in either centers or family child care programs. This strategy emerged in response to parents and providers highlighting both the need for infant and toddler care and the challenges that come with how much more they cost to serve. This issue is exacerbated in Alaska by the particularly high cost of living.
As in other states, Alaska has faced challenges associated with implementation of ARPA activities. One of these is the logistics of moving funding quickly through state systems. As a result of long-term lack of funding for state agency capacity, the infrastructure to move funding at this scale was not in place prior to the pandemic. Challenges were exacerbated by the deadlines associated with ARPA funding and the fact that Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services went through significant administrative changes during this period, with a bifurcation of the agency during the pandemic. Lastly, as is true across states, the one-time nature of ARPA funds poses significant questions regarding sustainability of efforts. Despite these challenges, ARPA resources have enabled important progress to be made in meeting the needs of Alaska’s babies and families.
Additional ARPA Resources
Interested in learning more about how states are using ARPA to support babies? Visit our landing page to read the summary brief, “States Are Leveraging ARPA to Move the Needle for Infants and Toddlers,” and the full series of state articles (featuring Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin).