Children and their families interact with different support systems that often do not collaborate or communicate with one another. For example, a child may be enrolled in Head Start, have a sibling attending a local public elementary school, and have a mother receiving the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and all three of those programs could have different requirements and no cross-communication among them, despite serving the same family.
To address this issue head-on, the National League of Cities (NLC) developed the Educational Alignment for Young Children (EAYC) initiative which provides a foundation for bringing multi-sector groups together to align efforts, programs and policies in support of better outcomes for young children and families. The initiative features three key elements for educational alignment:
- Building governance structures or formal partnerships in communities to take collaborative action in ensuring a high-quality early childhood system;
- Enhancing professional development to support early childhood professionals; and
- Improving family engagement services and supporting families by helping parents gain access to a full range of services, including health and mental health services.
For the 2013-2016 EAYC initiative, NLC and municipal officials worked together to align programmatic efforts on behalf of young children from birth to age eight. NLC provided technical assistance to six cities: Austin and Fort Worth, Texas; Hartford, Conn.; Longmont, Colo.; Richmond, Va.; and Rochester, N.Y. To tackle alignment issues, the leaders developed cross-sector teams comprised of city staff and city council members, public library leaders, early childhood educators and administrators, and representatives from the school district. The initiative was generously supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.