Using ARPA to Grow Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Systems

Mental health issues have increased significantly during the pandemic, with recent data demonstrating concerning rates of anxiety and depression among adults; grief, anxiety, and behavioral issues among young children; and a diminished and heavily burdened early childhood workforce.

In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) awarded funds to states, territories, and tribes to provide relief from the impacts of COVID-19. Federal agencies identified mental health concerns as a top priority and infant and early childhood mental health consultation (IECMHC) as a key approach. IECMHC is a preventative mental health intervention that focuses on child, family, and staff wellbeing, and builds the capacities of early childhood programs to address mental health issues and promote wellness.

Many states have unused ARPA funds that could be allocated or re-allocated to address children’s mental health needs. The purpose of this brief is to offer state, territorial, and tribal decision-makers concrete and actionable recommendations for using ARPA funds to build IECMHC systems that increase access to high-quality IECMHC, especially for populations that have experienced disproportionate impacts from the pandemic. The brief is tailored to administrators who oversee Child Care, Head Start/Early Head Start, and IDEA Part B and Part C programs.

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Equity is Quality and Quality is Equity: Operationalizing Equity in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems

A robust research base indicates the importance of high quality early care and education in relation to a host of long term health, education, and employment outcomes. The concept of “quality” in these programs has been the focus of much attention and resources, particularly over the last decade. Most states have established definitions of quality through quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) and have allocated accompanying resources to support early care and education providers to progress toward higher levels of quality. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, definitions of “quality” have been sorely lacking attention to equity and to the unique experiences that disproportionately affect children from historically marginalized communities. This report addresses a fundamental content flaw in QRISs by operationalizing equity indicators. These indicators are grounded and organized by the CEP’s 14 priorities to advance equity in early care and education systems, published in a 2020 report, in partnership with 8 national organizations. States can use these indicators to inform QRIS redesign efforts to advance equity and improve transparency for families.

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Advancing Equity through Head Start’s Program Information Report

Head Start has a long-standing commitment to serving children from under-resourced communities, and since its inception, has served over one million children and their families through early education and related services. Although Head Start prides itself on advancing equity for eligible children and families, and has notable standards that can concretely ensure programs achieve that goal, there are gaps and missed opportunities to advance equity in its data system. To center equity across programmatic functioning, Head Start must operationalize equity in its data systems, including in and starting with the Program Information Report (PIR). This brief provides actionable recommendations to embed equity in the Head Start PIR to enable a greater understanding of equitable and positive experiences for children served.

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10 Ways the Biden Administration Can Advance Equity for Young Learners Today

Fifty years ago, the United States came incredibly close to creating a national system of early care and education, when the Comprehensive Child Development Act passed both the Senate and House with overwhelming margins, only to be vetoed by President Nixon. Fifty years later, this promise to America’s young children and families remains unfulfilled, and we find ourselves yet again tantalizingly close to—and yet infuriatingly far from— delivering a need that must be addressed now.

Unfortunately, children’s lives have not paused to wait for congressional activity—least of all in a still-untamed pandemic. They deserve urgency. So, as the country waits to see if current efforts to build a universal early care and education system in the United States finally succeed, there are several actions the executive branch can take to advance equity in early learning systems now and improve the conditions in which children are learning tomorrow, and importantly, to prepare a stronger foundation for the possibility of a much improved, universally accessible system in the future.

Building on our two previously published Start with Equity agendas, Start With Equity, from the Early Yearsto the Early Grades: Data, Research, and an ActionableChild Equity Policy Agenda and Start With Equity: 14 Priorities to Dismantle Systemic Racism in Early Care andEducation, this brief outlines key “now actions.” 

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Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades

Data, Research, and an Actionable Child Equity Policy Agenda

Funded by the Heising Simons Foundation, the Children’s Equity Project (CEP) has released a new landmark report that reviews the state of equity in America's learning systems, from the early years to the early grades. The report provides a comprehensive review of the data to better understand how children from a variety of marginalized communities are faring; a review of the evidence base, with an emphasis on interventions that have proven successful in narrowing disparities in opportunity and outcomes; and a review of the national policy landscape. The report includes a comprehensive and concrete equity policy agenda aimed at making our learning systems more equitable.

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Start with Equity: California

Funded by the Heising Simons Foundation, the CEP developed a follow-up report focusing on the state of equity in California’s early care and learning systems. The report specifically focuses on three key issues covered in the Start with Equity national report: harsh discipline and its disproportionate application, lack of inclusive learning opportunities for children with disabilities, and inequitable access to bilingual learning for dual language learners. The report includes a California-specific policy agenda to inform the state’s Master Plan for Early Care and Learning and to build more equitable systems for the state’s youngest learners.

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Start with Equity: 14 Priorities to Dismantle Systemic Racism in Early Care and Education

Funded by the Heising Simons Foundation, the CEP published a follow-up new report outlining 14 critical priorities and actionable policies that federal and state policymakers can immediately and concretely advance equity in the early childhood system for our most vulnerable children. The report aims to create better, more just systems and to dismantle long-standing racist policies and practices, so that all children can reach their full potential.

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Promoting Equity in Early Education

Advancing Equity Through the American Rescue Plan Act

This new brief reviews concrete strategies to invest in building equitable systems using the unprecedented infusion of resources provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.

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Headstart Report

Building a Universal Preschool System Around Head Start

The Building a Universal Preschool System Around Head Start brief unpacks the argument for making Head Start the anchor of a new universal system to ensure an equitable, mixed delivery, high-quality, and comprehensive system that optimizes existing funding streams and coordinates new ones to meet this unique moment in history.

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Equity and COVID-19: Considering Equity in the Transition Back to School and Early Childhood Programs - Policy Recommendations

The Building a Universal Preschool System Around Head Start brief unpacks the argument for making Head Start the anchor of a new universal system to ensure an equitable, mixed delivery, high-quality, and comprehensive system that optimizes existing funding streams and coordinates new ones to meet this unique moment in history.

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Equity in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Webinar Series

In partnership with the Center of Excellence for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, the CEP created a 4-part webinar series that explores the historical and societal institutions of racism in child-serving systems and discusses actionable steps early childhood systems leaders and mental health consultants can take to create anti-racist spaces for our youngest learners.

Equity Strategic Plan Template to Advance Equity in Early Care and Education Systems

The Early Childhood Equity Strategic Plan Template is an implementation tool that can assist states and tribes in planning for equity within their learning systems for the youngest children.

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Harsh Discipline and its Disproportionate Application in the Early Years and Early Grades

The CEP is dedicated to analyzing data and policy related to harsh discipline in schools and its disproportionate application in learning settings with particular attention paid to its use in the early years to the early grades. We analyze discipline data and policy implications nationally, as well as at the state and local levels. We specifically focus on identifying and closing disparities that Black children, other children of color, and children with disabilities face within learning systems across an array of harsh discipline types, including suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraint.

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Immigration and Young Children

Federal Policy and State Licensing Standards for the Operation of Residential Facilities Housing Unaccompanied Migrant Children

The CEP published a national analysis of the complicated state and federal rules that govern the treatment and quality of care in shelters housing immigrant children who come to the United States on their own or who are separated from their parents or another adult they are traveling with upon arrival. The analysis takes a developmental lens, examining factors that are most likely to affect child development, health, and wellness.

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