Policy Resource

Vermont Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Feb 9, 2016

In December, 2013, Vermont became one of the six newest states to receive a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant.

Through this grant, the state is directing substantial resources to support several early childhood policy priorities. Five of these targets are: infant and early childhood mental health, Early Learning Guidelines, Home Visiting, the Promise Community Initiative, and program streamlining.

Vermont is taking steps to build capacity in infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH). The state is planning to offer new IECMH professional development opportunities to infant-toddler professionals and those serving older children. Additionally, the state plans to increase the involvement of IECMH profes¬sionals as practice coaches through the states professional development system.

Vermont is revising its Early Learning Guidelines (ELG) to ensure they are developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate for all children. The state is taking steps to ensure the ELG are aligned with other standards and frameworks, such as the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework, Common Core State Standards for K“12, state education standards, and kindergarten entry assessments. Vermont will also be extending their current ELG to include infancy to grade 3. Finally, the state has plans to widely disseminate their ELG to parents and professionals to ensure they are used to support young children’s healthy development.

Vermont included proposals its RTT-ELC application to strengthen its home visiting system. The states application outlines plans to implement an evidence-based statewide home visiting system by expanding models already operating (Nurse-Family Partnership, Early Head Start, and Parents as Teachers) and initiating new ones (Early Start and Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home Visiting). Technical assistance, training, and quality assurance measures will be used to ensure model fidelity. The proposal builds off work being done through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) and Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health (Project LAUNCH) grants.

Vermont is going to invest in a Promise Community initiative to mobilize six distressed rural communities each year of the grant to work toward the transformation of every aspect of the environment in which poor children grow up. A state-level implementation team will be created, including three coaches to engage participating communities in coalition-building and planning. The state will provide seed money to help Promise Communities implement strategies such as: Baby College programs to educate young parents about child development, welcome baby visits to link new parents to local resources and other families, support for community health clinics, and shared services models to better support comprehensive services in local early learning and development programs.

Vermont plans to implement processes to make it easier to connect families to the programs that are most appropriate for them. The state has adopted the Connecticut Help Me Grow framework to serve as a central mechanism to coordinate and track developmen¬tal screening results and referrals. The state will translate some educational materials into lan¬guages other than English to increase the number of refugee children who are screened. Vermont also plans to develop and implement a case management and data collection system for its current Children’s Integrated Services (CIS) pro¬gram. CIS co-locates Part C Early Intervention, early childhood and family mental health, nursing and family support, and specialized child care services in the Department for Children and Families. CIS teams across the state already use common referral and intake forms and a case management form to develop a comprehensive and individualized child and/or family plan.

Vermont plans to support the aforementioned childhood policy priorities through a combi-nation of infrastructure development and provision of intensive services. The state stressed in its application the importance of community-driven solutions and will meaningfully involve local parents, providers, and other relevant stakeholders in planning. Learn more about Vermont and how other states are using RTT-ELC funds to strengthen their early childhood systems in ZERO TO THREEs paper, Meeting the Challenge: How the Newest Early Learning Challenge Grantees Can Meet the Needs of Infants and Toddlers.

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