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New Resource Lays Out Strong Policies for Babies

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ZERO TO THREE congratulates the University of Texas at Austin on this week’s inaugural convening of the National Prenatal-to-3 (PN-3) Research to Policy Summit: Building a State Policy Roadmap to Strengthen the Earliest Years and release of the 2020 Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap: Building a Strong and Equitable Prenatal-to-3 System of Care. The Roadmap complements the national and state picture of infants, toddlers, and families in ZTT’s State of Babies Yearbook.

Developed by the PN-3 Policy Impact Center at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs, the State Policy Roadmap offers guidance to states on how to implement the most effective state-level policies and strategies to date that foster these nurturing environments, monitor their state’s progress toward adopting and fully implementing effective solutions, and measure the well-being of infants and toddlers in their state.

Cynthia Osborne, director of the PN-3 Policy Impact Center, hosted the virtual summit that brought members of the early childhood field together to learn about the science of the developing child; discuss how policy choices can lead to or reduce racial disparities; and hear from state leaders about using the evidence-driven Roadmap to strengthen prenatal-to-3 systems of care in their state.

Dr. Osborne also launched the Roadmap itself, an extensive compendium of key policies, indicators, and research that can help states identify key policies and strategies to benefit their infants, toddlers, and families. The Roadmap will help them monitor progress as they adopt, enhance, and extend these approaches and chart the well-being of young children. Each state has its own roadmap that can be downloaded from the website. Policymakers and advocates alike are sure to welcome this thorough guide.

ZTT’s HealthySteps program is among the 11 policies and strategies identified by the Center as “effective solutions that strengthen the prenatal-to-3 period.” HealthySteps is an evidence-based approach that works to transform pediatric primary care by embedding a child development specialist in the practice, to promote the health, well-being and school readiness of babies and toddlers, with an emphasis on families living in low-income communities. HealthySteps Specialists provide tailored support for common and complex concerns that physicians often lack time to address, such as behavior, sleep, feeding, attachment, parental depression, social determinants of health, and adapting to life with a baby or toddler.

The State of Babies Yearbook takes a holistic look at the nation’s babies and presents a snapshot of how they and their families are faring based on nearly 60 indicators of well-being in ZTT’s three policy framework areas of good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences. New this year, many of the indicators were disaggregated by race and ethnicity, income and urbanicity to allow users to go beyond state averages and begin to understand the very different experiences of babies in these subgroups. The Yearbook tracks some of the policies in ZERO TO THREE’s broad policy agenda, as reflected in our federal policy agendaThink Babies initiative, Building Strong Foundations for Families work, and other parts of our comprehensive policy framework.

We believe state policymakers, stakeholders, and advocates will benefit from the fact that these two resources are aligned on many policies and indicators, providing a wealth of consistent information and guideposts to help build their agendas to meet their state’s needs for improving outcomes for very young children and their families. Several of the policies in the Roadmap – Expanded Medicaid Eligibility, Paid Family Leave, and State Earned Income Tax Credit – also figure into the SOBY state profiles. Most of the key strategies in the Roadmap also are tracked in SOBY, as is much of the supplemental data included in the extensive Roadmap report. Specifically, like ZERO TO THREE’s annual State of Babies Yearbook, the Roadmap outlines states’ progress on population and policy indicators of well-being in the areas of health, family, and early learning – sharing many common indicators such as those related to maternal and infant health, social-emotional health, families’ ability to meet basic needs, child welfare, economic supports, paid leave policies, opportunities for language development, access to quality early learning settings, and early intervention.

We know policymakers and advocates need tools to harness such powerful data and policy directions to choose what is right for their states. ZERO TO THREE has several resources to support states in this important work, such as the State of Babies Yearbook State Profile Navigator which helps state stakeholders reflect on and analyze the state of babies in their state; Infants and Toddlers in the Policy Picture: A Self-Assessment Toolkit for States, a comprehensive guide (including stakeholder and family surveys) that helps users take a deeper dive into examining the current status of services for infants, toddlers and their families, and set systemwide priorities for improvement; a State Initiatives Collection with more than 250 articles highlighting examples of how states across the country have implemented effective policies and strategies; and Think Babies resources to support advocates and families to make the case for change.

Learn more about the Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap at pn3policy.org. For additional information on the State of Babies Yearbook, visit stateofbabies.org, and on the ZERO TO THREE policy agenda at https://www.zerotothree.org/policy-and-advocacy. We encourage all interested in the current and future well-being of the nation’s babies to use all of these resources in your work.


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