Taking Intentional Steps to Prioritize Infants and Toddlers

Over the past 10 months, seven Alliance state partners embarked on a mission to increase public support for infants and toddlers by creating coalitions, identifying infant/toddler specific policy priorities, and developing advocacy strategies and communication plans.

Through the generous support of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, the Alliance invested in planning efforts in Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Their increased advocacy capacity on behalf of infants and toddlers led to early policy wins. Georgia will use new federal child care funds to increase the infant toddler base reimbursement rate and increase scholarships to professionals working with infants and toddlers. Pennsylvania increased in state funding for home visiting by 33 percent; and Wisconsin will use TANF funding to raise the subsidy rate by 5 percent for infants (ages 0-2) and for young children (ages 2-4). These are some of the early returns from recent efforts to build diverse coalitions focused on infants and toddlers.

The planning process began with an intentional effort to raise the profile of infants and toddlers by building specific infant toddler coalitions. State policies impacting children prenatal to age three are broad and touch multiple sectors, including maternal and early childhood mental health, child care, home visiting and primary health care. State advocates not only focused on bringing together diverse sectors, many of them also built their infant toddler coalitions with an explicit focus on equity. These broad stakeholder groups had competing interests resulting in a need to negotiate, build consensus, and sequence priorities.

Each state’s infant toddler coalition grappled with topics such as funding the high cost of infant/toddler budget items, a lack of consensus on workforce issues like requiring infant toddler credentials and compensation and communicating the importance of high-quality infant toddler child care. From these discussions, they identified and prioritized specific policy issues and were deliberate about developing their legislative requests.

Our partners focused on legislative strategies to improve policies for infants and toddlers and, pursued administrative avenues to address obstacles faced by families and child care providers. They were opportunistic, working with agency heads on the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) state applications to identify opportunities to target resources through child care contracts and inclusion of infant and toddlers. Through coalitions, task forces, and strategic partnerships they collected and analyzed data, conducted case studies, wrote briefs, and took advantage of every opportunity to educate policy makers, business and community leaders, grassroots community members, and other stakeholders about the need to increase investments in programs proven to support the healthy development of infants and toddlers. They persisted and shared lessons learned with each other through an Infant and Toddler Child Care Advocacy Community of Practice co-facilitated by the Alliance and Zero to Three.

Each state approached its efforts in a slightly different way, but with the same goal in mind: to advance the well-being and school readiness of infants and toddlers in their state. The intentional focus on infants and toddlers by our partners shows what is possible when we work together to advance smart policies for America’s youngest children.

Mimi Aledo-Sandoval
Policy Director
Alliance for Early Success