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States Innovate and Adapt During the Pandemic

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As we enter another season under the Coronavirus pandemic, ZERO TO THREE would like to take a moment to highlight the many swift and efficient system adaptations that states have made to support the needs of young children and their families during the past six months.

Policy and practice changes will continue to be essential as families across the nation deal with the ongoing crisis and it’s impacts.

• Strong Families Arizona quickly linked families to resources via a home visitor portal that includes help with accessing the internet. The resources assist with mobile phone access, hotspot and wi-fi maps and location searches, discounts from internet providers and a free technical support phoneline provided by Arizona public library staff.

• An Executive Order from Governor Polis in Colorado allowed the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish sustainability grants for child care programs. The grants support child care providers with costs associated with COVID-19, including but not limited to: accommodating smaller group sizes, activities designed to address the availability of child care – particularly those serving essential and emergency workers, purchasing additional safety and cleaning supplies, and covering salaries and other compensations for staff.

• The Iowa Department of Public Health created a space on their family support webpage to house resources for home visitors, including a repository of best practices from the field. Ideas shared include inviting a translator to join online meetings to provide real time translation without the disruptions that can occur in face to face home visits. The modification to practice will be incorporated into general practice post pandemic. In another part of the state, the home visitors started a Facebook live feature where they offer a children’s story time. The live story time concept has been replicated across the state.

• Michigan created a weekly newsletter for home visiting families which includes information and tips on COVID-19 for families. They also created a series of handouts for families during COVID-19 that include topics such as Caring for Your New Baby During COVID-19 which has links to other resources such as stress reduction, infant crying, keeping kids safe and father’s mental health. Another topic, Breastfeeding During COVID-19 includes facts about breastfeeding during COVID-19 as well as links to more information on pregnancy and caring for a newborn during the pandemic.

• While not specific to Coronavirus, on August 4th, Missouri voted to extend Medicaid benefits to include an additional 230,000 adults with low incomes. Amendment 2 passed with 53% of the vote. This important measure will provide essential medical care for the families of many young children as the pandemic continues to spread across the state.

• In Oregon, the Early Learning Division implemented an online Emergency Child Care Dashboard that includes vacancy and capacity data. Additionally, the Oregon Health Authority is now including child care COVID-19 outbreaks in their weekly report.

• The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) announced the COVID-19 Health and Safety System Supports for Providers that launches a no-wrong-door approach to receiving information related to the pandemic. Certification Representatives, Early Learning Resource Center Quality Coaches, Preschool Program Specialists, Program Quality Assessors, Infant Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Consultants, and Early Intervention Specialists all received the same training to answer questions and support programs. Team members meet periodically to discuss feedback they have received as well as tackle common issues coming up in the field. This approach has resulted in an ongoing continuous improvement process for supporting issues related to health and safety during this time. The state also recently launched the Licensed Facility COVID-19 Data Collection Tool for reporting of new active coronavirus cases in programs.

• Finally, ZERO TO THREE is a partner with the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) on the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to support the 12 ECCS state grantees and their respective communities in strengthening systems and practices to improve outcomes in population-based children’s developmental health and family well-being. ECCS grantees include Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Utah. Members of this group recently reported that they are:

• Creating opportunities for family leaders to virtually participate in advisory groups and strategic discussions and using parent leaders to disseminate ASQ screening information and health promotion education through social media networks.

• Building on the increased number and utilization of Lending Libraries in the community by placing Child Development bundles in them that include ASQ screening information for families to conduct a screening while they are at home, along with providing developmentally appropriate activity ideas.

• Creating a private group on Facebook for local early care and education providers to share ideas and support one another and inform state leaders of their collective challenges and successes.

• Building off the local United Way 211 system to expand specific resources for families.

• Creating community resource bundles for families to have key resources such as diapers, wipes and emergency funding resources.

ZERO TO THREE recognizes that all states have incorporated changes to better serve families during this crisis. We would love to add information about your state here – please email us at [email protected] to share your innovative strategies and policy changes.


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