By Alison May
Legislators and legislative staff from 13 states, along with researchers and policy experts converged in Denver last month to participate in the first-of-its-kind Infant and Toddler Symposium convened by NCSL.
This day-and-a-half long conference provided legislators and legislative staff the opportunity to hear from a variety of experts.
Topics covered included: the return on investment in programs geared toward the early years, quality early learning environments with a specific focus on home-based child care, and home visiting to name a few. See the full agenda.
Did you know that more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second in the first few years of a child’s life? During the session Brain Science: Building a Foundation for Achievement, Sarah Lytle from the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington explained the latest research on brain development and how early everyday experiences support children's learning in all domains.
The session Not Wasting Brain Building Moments: Financing and State Strategies to Consider generated a lot of conversation and ideas about what could be done back in the states. The session highlighted state policy approaches and strategies to finance a birth-to-3 system, including public-private partnerships, tax credits and blended funding. Presenters Barbara Gebhard from ZERO TO THREE and Jeanna Capito from the BUILD Initiative included information about the cost of quality and how that factors into financing mechanisms.
Other sessions of note included hearing from a pediatrician about adverse early childhood experiences and its connection to child and parent well-being. Matthew Melmed, executive director of ZERO TO THREE, provided state lawmakers with ideas to consider as he talked about translating science into policy.
Legislators participated in a session examining family child care—4 million children are in home-based and friend, neighbor and relative care—and how Alabama is partnering with Early Head Start to improve quality child care settings.
Representative Terri Collins (R-Ala.) (left) said she enjoyed the meeting and information: “I was proud to have a fellow Alabama member on the panel. She and I had lunch and plan to follow up with a meeting to share the information with the groups we believe would be supporters and develop a strategy for our state. We hope to include Governor [Kay] Ivey in the meeting, as she had an Early Learning Summit this last session that was very well attended.”
The presentation on brain science and the development of a baby’s brain was of particular interest to Representative Susan Lontine (D-Colo). “This is such a critical time impacting a child for the rest of their life and this is something that every policymaker working in the areas of early childhood, child care and education needs to hear about. I plan on trying to get this in front of our joint budget committee, as well as our health committees and education committees."
The symposium was part of the new birth-to-3 policy project for state legislators funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative. Other components include a webinar Brain Science: Interventions and Policy Implications for Serving Parents and Children featuring Sarah Watamura of the University of Denver in April. The project will also produce a report on legislative strategies targeting infants and toddlers.
Alison May is a staff coordinator in NCSL’s Children and Families program.