Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Supporting The Youngest Kentuckians: The Early Childhood Development Fund

Kentucky’s Early Childhood Development Fund uses 25% of Kentucky’s annual revenue from the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to support the full development of our youngest children. Here’s how the 2017-18 funding is being put to use under the budget adopted in 2016:

  • $9,000,000 for the Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS)
  • $8,894,700 for the Early Childhood Development Program
  • $2,050,000 for the Early Childhood Advisory Council
  • $1,100,000 for Early Childhood Scholarships
  • $1,000,000 for the Healthy Start initiatives
  • $1,000,000 for Early Childhood Mental Health
  • $1,471,400 for several smaller programs

That’s a total of $24,516,100 working to strengthen very young Kentuckians, and here’s a further explanation of those important activities.

The HANDS program provides voluntary home visits to support new and expectant parents’ efforts to help their children grow and learn. All first-time parents are eligible for a first meeting to discuss questions and share resources. Parents who are facing multiple challenges can receive regular home visits that share information, link families to health and other services, and build on the strengths of each family. HANDS is short for Health Access Nurturing Development Services. 10,697 children and their families received HANDS support in 2015-16. Starting in 2016, HANDS support is available to families even if it is not their first child.

This line item funds two main efforts:

  • First, the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) helps low-income working families afford quality childcare for their children, with the help being offered on a sliding fee basis for eligible parents and guardians. The Tobacco Master Settlement provides a portion of the funding for CCAP, with other dollars coming from the state General Fund and from the federal government.
  • Second, child advocacy centers provide comprehensive examinations for children who have been sexually abused in clinics across the state that have been designed to make them feel safe and reduce the trauma of the victimization and examination.

This line item supports state and local work to develop and coordinate quality early childhood development. At the state level, the Early Childhood Advisory Council oversees standards and goals for Kentucky’s early childhood system and advocates for quality early childhood services and improved school readiness. Members are appointed by the Governor to represent a broad range of early childhood educators, administrators, and advocates, and the Advisory Council’s work is s supported by the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. At the local level, Community Early Childhood Councils (also known as CECCs) promote high quality early childcare and education by working to identify and address local needs, building up capacity in particular counties or groups of counties. 74 CCECs have received funding for 2017-18.

These scholarships strengthen the quality of early care programs and education. For those who work in early care and education programs or as preschool classroom assistants, scholarship dollars support work toward a child care development associate credential, an associate’s degree in early childhood education, a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary early childhood education or an approved related program, or early childhood development Director’s certificate. 1,374 scholarships were awarded in 2016-16.

Healthy Start in Child Care provides free technical assistance to child care providers, promoting safe, healthy, and nurturing environments for children’s development. Nurses and health educators serve as Healthy Start consultants based in local health departments, and provide support by phone, e-mail, and on-site work.

Regional early childhood mental health specialists help their regions better serve young children with social, emotional and behavioral issues. Their work includes providing evaluation, assessment, and therapeutic services for young children and their families, along with training and consultation to strengthen programs that serve those children. The program supports a specialist for each of Kentucky’s 14 community mental health center regions.

Tobacco Settlement resources also provide:

  • $891,400 to help pregnant women recover from substance use disorders
  • $500,000 for early childhood oral health efforts
  • $80,000 for the folic acid program

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