Over the past several months, I have spent a lot of time talking to early childhood stakeholders about collaboration, and today the Early Education Initiative is releasing a policy brief based on that reporting. "The Next Step in Systems-Building: Early Childhood Advisory Councils and Federal Efforts to Promote Policy Alignment in Early Childhood." It provides a status report on all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
You'd think that sharing information and working together nicely would be second nature to leaders in early childhood policy. After all, it is something they teach in kindergarten. But in practice, collaboration -- or more specifically, policy alignment -- is more than just a matter of making sure everyone knows what everyone is doing and playing nicely. It takes hard work.
What makes policy alignment so hard? Government programs serving young children and their families are spread across departments of education, health and welfare. Non-profit organizations and private childcare providers also play a significant role in caring for and improving the lives of young children. The result is a tangled web of avoidable dysfunction. Low-income parents may not know that their children are eligible for Medicaid or Head Start, kindergarten teachers are given no information on the background of their incoming students, providers file redundant paperwork for different agencies, and the list goes on.