Strengthening Montana’s Early Childhood System Project
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services launched the Strengthening Montana’s Early Childhood System Project in 2019 through a Preschool Development Birth through Five (PDG B-5) grant from the Administration for Children and Families. The Strengthening Montana’s Early Childhood System Project is focused on developing the state’s comprehensive early childhood system to enhance early learning and development, family support and engagement, and health to move the state toward its vision of all children having the skills and knowledge they need to reach their full potential in life.
2019 Grant Activities
Activity 1: Needs Assessment
Montana’s comprehensive statewide needs assessment analyzed early childhood system strengths and gaps related to access, quality, workforce, coordination, family engagement, and governance.
Strengthening Montana's Early Childhood System: A Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment
Activity 2: Strategic Plan
The strategic plan was developed May—July 2019, with a significant focus on engaging family and provider voices throughout the process. Montana’s early childhood strategic plan reflects the state’s approach to implementing a five-year effort toward strengthening the state’s early childhood system, with a focus on enhancing its early care and education mixed delivery system for children birth through five, particularly for vulnerable children.
Strengthening Montana's Early Childhood System: Strategic Plan
Activity 3: Maximizing Family Choice and Knowledge
Families are children’s first and most important teachers. Montana wants to empower families to nurture their children’s learning and development across the early childhood system. Family engagement strategies include:
- Further defining family engagement.
- Improved, culturally competent information sharing about ECE.
- Investing in family engagement coordinators in local early childhood coalitions.
- Improving early childhood resource and referral processes.
- Increased screening for social-emotional health.
Activity 4: Sharing Best Practices among State ECE and Education Providers
The quality of education and care Montana’s children receive is largely dependent on the quality of the state’s ECE workforce and the early childhood system supporting them. Montana is using this grant to strategically invest in professional development and capacity building for early childhood system providers so they can excel in their work. The state is approaching this activity of sharing best practices among state ECE providers through three primary strategies:
- Sharing best practices across the early childhood system.
- ECE provider professional development.
- ECE targeted learning communities.
Activity 5: Improving Overall Quality of ECE Programs, Providers, and Services
Montana is approaching this activity of improving the overall quality of ECE programs, providers, and services through four primary strategic areas of focus:
- Increasing early childhood system coordination and collaboration.
- Improving data systems.
- Increasing ECE system capacity to improve access and quality for underserved populations and regions.
- Improving school readiness and transitions.
2020 – 2022 Renewal Grant
Montana submitted an application for the Preschool Development Birth through Five Renewal Grant in November 2019. The Strengthening Montana’s Early Childhood System project renewal grant will help the state to further achieve early childhood system goals based on achievements and lessons learned from the 2019 planning grant year. Work within the renewal grant is aligned with the early childhood needs assessment findings and strategic plan goals. We expect to achieve the following outcomes, aligned with the state’s early childhood strategic plan, through the PDG B-5 renewal grant project:
- Montana’s families with young children have increased access to, and participation in high quality early care and education across a mixed delivery system.
- Montana’s early childhood workforce is confident and effective, due to enhanced ECE professional development.
- The early childhood system is coordinated to support effective family assessment, system navigation, care coordination, and use of data.
- Montana’s families are engaged and valued as partners in the early childhood system.
- Montana’s communities make early childhood a priority, and act to support children’s health, learning, and well-being.
- Montana’s early childhood system is structured to support policy alignment, strategic financing, continuous improvement, and accountability.
The table below outlines the strategies included in the grant application by activity.