The overall goal of the new early childhood system in Mississippi is to place children in high quality early learning environments and families on a clear path to self-sufficiency.
The early childhood system in Mississippi integrates services for families with young children by connecting three essential service areas:
- Early care and learning
- Health, mental health, safety and nutrition; and
- Family engagement
The overall goal of the new system is to place children in high quality early learning environments and families on a clear path to self-sufficiency. Eligibility determination includes a service gap assessment and the development of an overall family service plan. Eligible families are able to enroll children in one of two types of voucher-eligible programs:
- Standard Centers are licensed and meet minimum federal and state standards. Additionally, Standard Centers operate above licensure expectations by meeting training and professional development requirements set forth by the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 and requiring all staff to have 15 hours of continuing professional development each year as prescribed by the act. Standard Centers program curriculum must also align with the state’s early learning guidelines.
- In addition to meeting Standard Center requirements, Comprehensive Centers must have the capacity to engage in:
- Additional customized professional development beyond the standard 15 hours.
- Coaching aimed at closing education and credential gaps that staff might have.
- Assessment of children at least twice a year.
- Work with an external evaluator to examine how programs and activities are implemented in the center.
- Family engagement activities that will encourage parents to participate in parenting classes and parent-teacher organizations (PTOs).
- Technical assistance for the implementation of a continuous quality improvement plan, kindergarten transition plan, business management plan, and, when necessary, corrective action plan.
To streamline access to professional development, the Mississippi Community College Board is responsible for managing early childhood academies which provide technical assistance, coaching and training. To learn more about this program, visit the State Early Childhood Advisory Council website here.