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Delaware Early Childhood Advocates Turn Planning and Persistent Advocacy into Governance Consolidation Wins

Years of work by early childhood advocates in Delaware – including Alliance-ally Rodel and other members of the  Vision Coalition  – continue to pay off in important structural changes in the way state agencies serve young children. The vision was formally laid out in a 2015 plan that called for the state to develop an aligned governance structure to enable unified and efficient decision making.

The first real signs of change came in 2019 with a senate bill that represented a first step toward unified and streamlined early learning governance in the state — connecting the Delaware Stars for Early Success standards with the Office of Child Care Licensing regulations, and moving the Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) from the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families (DSCYF) to DOE. Prior to this move, early childhood governance was fragmented across 11 different divisions in three separate state agencies – Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), DOE, and DSCYF. The overall goal is to eventually shift as many components of early learning into one agency, to prevent duplications, increase efficiencies, and elevate the importance of early learning and child care in Delaware.

More of these consolidation recommendations championed by state advocates are now being operationalized. In May, Governor John Carney and Secretary of Education Susan Bunting announced that early childhood governance will be further consolidated at the Delaware Department of Education (DOE).

A new associate secretary will oversee the Office of Early Learning (OEL), OCCL, and future consolidated workflows from DHSS, which will all comprise a new Early Childhood Support Team. In addition to adding efficiency, this also creates a final decision maker for early childhood questions and adds important accountability to early childhood education in Delaware. The associate secretary will report directly to the Secretary of Education and will be part of the DOE’s leadership team.

“We know that a substantial percentage of brain development takes place before the age of five. Early childhood experiences are critical to a child’s success in school and in life. By consolidating governance and creating a single point of accountability, we can better support programs, families, children, and our great early childhood workforce.”

Delaware Governor John Carney

Rodel Senior Vice President Madeleine Bayard, who also serves as the chair of the Delaware Early Childhood Council, believes these moves will lead to long-term improvements in the strength and effectiveness of the states early childhood systems.

“We thank Governor Carney and Secretary Bunting for their leadership elevating and consolidating early childhood governance,” Bayard said. “This is a positive step forward to align early learning with K-12 education while preserving the holistic, two-generation approaches we know are critical in children’s early years.”

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