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  • Partner: Lake County, Illinois – A diverse group of partners came together to ensure that all Lake County families and young children are prepared to thrive, and that the long-term social and economic future of the county is bright.
  • Location: Lake County, IL
  • Start Early Engagement: 7 months

The Challenge:

A network of county partners wanted to improve the prenatal to age five early childhood system through greater coordination and investment. Before taking action, they needed to understand what changes would be most beneficial to the community and where their collective resources could be most impactful. These engaged leaders represented public and private sectors, including education, county government, the philanthropic community, and community economic development entities.

This work will enable us to take an equity-centered approach as we identify a shared path forward to collaboratively expand our community’s capacity to meet children and families where they are. We appreciated (Start Early’s) depth and breadth of expertise, thoughtful timeline, and the level of deep engagement with our core group of funders as we sought to better understand the findings.

Lake County Early Childhood Funders Group
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The Results:

As Start Early began its work in Lake County, Illinois launched Birth to Five Action Councils as a new regional early childhood infrastructure for early childhood systems – serendipitous timing that positioned Lake County partners for active engagement. Through the systems mapping process, the consulting team gathered comprehensive data, including surveys, interviews, and focus groups with families and early childhood professionals, and synthesized the learnings into a final report with strategic recommendations for priority actions.

The results:

  1. Increased Funding & Access: With an actionable strategy to help Lake County scale, partners successfully advocated and applied for more public funds to increase early childhood access through expanded Head Start and state pre-K. Simultaneously an anchor donor, better able to understand gaps in early education access, stepped up to bring an Educare program to the County; interim Educare programming is already underway.
  2. A Road Map for Future Coordinated Actions: The group is positioned with data-driven priorities and strategic actions that can further guide collective investments and help them continue to scale their impact across Lake County.
Learn More

Explore the Lake County Early Childhood System Assessment from Start Early

Mississippi State Early Childhood Advisory Council

The Challenge:

Mississippi’s newly appointed State Early Childhood Advisory Council (SECAC) wanted to rebuild trust by setting an inclusive, transparent tone within the early childhood community and establishing a common system vision. SECAC sought a better understanding of how to leverage all available funding streams to move toward a more coordinated, sustainable, equitable birth to five early childhood system in Mississippi. In response to advocates, SECAC also sought ways to remove barriers and increase program access for children and families.

Restructuring a state-wide system is no simple task. The Start Early Team was integral in the development of an actionable plan and creation of a cohesive vision for the future of Mississippi’s ECE system. Whether it was contributing to brainstorming sessions, trouble-shooting potential issues, or working through logistics, they had us covered.

Chad Allgood, Ph.D., Mississippi Department of Human Services
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The Results:

SECAC and Start Early’s collaboration resulted in three important outcomes for SECAC:

  1. Relaunched Council: The new SECAC now meets regularly and maintains clear communication with constituents. Through interviews, focus groups, and town halls SECAC is centering the voices of those served by its system and working toward a unified vision.
  2. Comprehensive System Mapping & New Data-Driven Priorities: SECAC and its stakeholders now have a comprehensive map of Mississippi’s early childhood system and its strengths and opportunities. Drawing from this report developed by Start Early, SECAC has identified the state’s urgent priorities, including:
    Address the early childhood workforce crisis and compensation issues to stem turnover and fill vacancies
    Improve early intervention services and the state’s ability to serve families in their natural environment
  3. Strategic Planning Process: SECAC adopted a new strategic vision framework, and system-wide strategic planning work is now underway in SECAC committees.
Learn More

Explore SECAC’s Early Childhood System Asset Map in These Two Deliverables From Start Early

Part 1: Program Profiles       Part 2: Strengths and Opportunities

First page of Early Childhood System Asset Map part 1First page of Early Childhood System Asset Map part 2







Logo lockup including Rhode Island Kids County and Parents Leading for Educational Equity

The Challenge:

As leaders in the RIght from the Start Campaign, a legislative and budget campaign to advance state policies for young children and their families in Rhode Island, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT (RIKC) and Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE) worked together to center families of color as leaders in the coalition. They believed that integrating the priorities of families of children with disabilities and developmental delays into the coalition’s policy agenda was essential to improving access and equity for young children of color in the state’s Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) programs. These highly effective, busy teams sought a framework of support to move their integrated work forward.

Start Early helped us strengthen our partnership and co-develop and implement strategies to move the work forward. Our work together helped us stay on track, learn from work in other states, bring new ideas to the table, and respond to opportunities. We know that parents who have been engaged feel like they are making a difference for their own families...

Ramona Santos Torres, Co-founder & Executive Director, Parents Leading for Education Equity & Leanne Barrett, Senior Policy Analyst, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
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The Results:

Start Early Consulting worked closely with coalition leadership to establish and facilitate regular early childhood IDEA meetings that authentically include families of color – aligning member expectations, preparing participants for equitable engagement, and balancing power dynamics with neutral facilitation. Start Early then assisted the team’s translation of family needs into policy priorities.

This supported partnership launch set the RIKC and PLEE team up for several important outcomes:

  1. Funding: RIght from the Start successfully secured a 45% Medicaid rate increase for EI in Rhode Island after 20 years of frozen rates. This increase also triggered equivalent rate increases from commercial health insurance providers to improve children’s access to Early Intervention statewide.
  2. An Effective, Family-Centered Approach to Policy: RIght from the Start continues to center families in its coalition meetings and development of policy priorities. Its current EI/ECSE advocacy agenda reflects family priorities such as a bilingual workforce, multi-lingual supports for families, improved access to child care for children with disabilities and delays and more flexible strategies to deliver early childhood IDEA services in community-based settings that respond to the needs of families. A new early childhood IDEA task force for system leaders, families, and advocates is also a priority.

Jefferson Ready Start Network logo

  • Partner: Jefferson Ready Start Network (JRSN) is part of a diverse, statewide coalition created to increase awareness and access to high-quality early childhood care and education in local communities across Louisiana.
  • Location: Jefferson Parish, LA
  • Start Early Engagement: 9 months

The Challenge:

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Aware of barriers to accessing high-quality early care and education, Jefferson Ready Start Network decided to focus its upcoming strategic planning cycle on how to increase access to its affordable early learning programs across the region. JRSN needed new data on its rapidly changing population and ongoing high poverty rates and wanted to understand those statistics in the context of two significant local challenges: economic and cultural barriers to ECE access and the persistent impacts of the pandemic.

Start Early Consulting was instrumental in helping us compile local data to create a strong case for early childhood investment, ultimately increasing access to quality early childhood education in Jefferson Parish.

Sarintha Stricklin, Ph.D., Executive Director, Jefferson Ready Start Network
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The Results:

Start Early Consulting delivered a Landscape Analysis with seven key research-based findings that demonstrated the early care and education supply and access gaps within Jefferson Parish. The consulting team then conducted stakeholder sessions and workforce surveys to process the results of the analysis and identify problems, root causes, barriers, and required supports to move forward.

This data and analysis resulted in two important outcomes for the JRSN team:

  1. Funding: JRSN was able to successfully communicate the critical need for additional investment in early childhood education to its stakeholders and community.
  2. Program Design: The analysis gave the JRSN team a data-driven understanding of particular service gaps for Latino and Hispanic families within the parish – and provided an essential foundation to guide further research and, ultimately, the launch of JRSN’s all-new program, the “Two-Generation Approach to Workforce Development and Early Education.”

Learn More

Start Early’s Landscape Analysis for the Jefferson Ready Start Network offers findings and recommendations backed by detailed data in the following areas: Population Overview & Context, Economic Factors & Family Needs, and Childcare Demands, Supply & Gap.

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