Kansas early childhood needs assessment released

A statewide study of early childhood care and education in Kansas has been completed and documents the challenges and opportunities for families and policymakers.

The two main conclusions of the Kansas Early Childhood Care and Needs Assessment are:

— Kansas families’ experiences with the early childhood care and education system are profoundly shaped by where they live across the state and within communities;

— Many young Kansas children grow up in families who are struggling to meet their basic needs.

The study represents the culmination of a year of work in which early childhood officials held meetings across the state and heard from Kansans from all 105 counties.

The Needs Assessment was conducted as part of a $4.5 million grant awarded to the Kansas State Department of Education in late December 2018. The grant also included funding to support the creation of a statewide strategic plan for early childhood, which is expected to be released in April.

The report is currently available for online viewing or download on the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund website at kschildrenscabinet.org/needs-assessment.

Here are the major themes found in the early childhood needs assessment:

— Accessibility. Families with young children experience inequitable access to high-quality programs and services across the broader early childhood system;

— Availability. Families with young children experience a gap between the services that are available and their actual needs, especially among vulnerable and underserved populations;

— Navigation. Families must adopt a `connect the dots’ approach to navigate services across sectors; disruptors are frequent and common;

— Collaboration and Integration. Early childhood providers and stakeholders share a desire for collaboration and cooperation but these are often disconnected and uncoordinated;

— Workforce. Early childhood workforce needs at leadership and direct service levels include preparation, compensation/financial relief, ongoing training and support, recruitment and retention;

— Systems alignment. Greater systems alignments needed to fully realize an efficient and robust early childhood care and education infrastructure;

— Facilities. Needs exist related to the physical conditions and environments of early childhood facilities across the state;

— Bright spots. Efficient, innovative, responsive efforts are occurring among early care and education system partners in communities throughout Kansas.

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