CNCounty News

Counties for Kids campaign and website offer early childhood resources

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Key Takeaways

The National Association of Counties Research Foundation (NACoRF), is launching the Counties for Kids initiative, a public awareness campaign and website with resources for county leaders who are committed to making investments in young children from prenatal to age three (PN-3). Through Counties for Kids, counties can access tools and resources and join educational events to connect with peers and national experts to learn strategies for moving the needle for young children.

Learn More

Counties are critical actors in ensuring healthy beginnings for our youngest residents, working daily to shape early childhood systems, influence policy and provide core services to an estimated 16 million infants and toddlers across the United States. Research shows that the most rapid period of brain development occurs within the first three years of life, with 1 million new neural connections formed every second. A child’s experiences during the PN-3 period shape their development, laying the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, counties are adjusting service delivery and strengthening early childhood systems to meet families’ needs. According to the University of Oregon, about forty-two percent of households with young children are worried about paying for at least one basic need like food, rent or utilities and nearly half of parents are concerned about being able to return to work due to lack of child care. These findings underscore how COVID-19 is impacting the lives and development of infants and toddlers. In response, county leaders have shown dedication and commitment to early childhood by approving local budgets, advancing county-based systems and leading ballot initiatives to expand services for infants and toddlers.

NACoRF encourages all counties – no matter where you are on your early childhood journey – to become a Counties for Kids champion and join a national movement of county leaders dedicated to improving outcomes for infants and toddlers.

  • On Jan. 27, NACoRF will host a social media day using NACo’s Facebook page and Twitter. County leaders and partners may use NACoRF’s new social media toolkit to access sample tweets and graphics promoting the importance of investing in infants and toddlers. NACoRF is encouraging all counties to participate in this day and share their local PN-3 efforts using the #CountiesForKids hashtag.
  • On Jan. 28, NACoRF will hold a virtual Peer Learning Network convening on strategies for building the supply of child care at the county-level. This interactive discussion among county leaders and national experts will explore what counties can do to increase child care options for infants and toddlers. Guest speakers from the Bipartisan Policy Center will share its child care gap tool, which provides county leaders with access to county-level data on child care supply and gaps.
  • NACoRF has released a new letter to the editor template for county leaders to use and share with local media sources on county-based efforts for expanding children’s services and discussing why it is important to make early investments.

The Counties for Kids website hosts educational materials, resources and toolkits with customizable templates to help county leaders start and champion a local PN-3 initiative and learn key strategies for advancing county-based PN-3 policies, programs and systems. The ABCs of Prenatal-to-Three is a one-pager that offers county elected officials a range of ideas for prioritizing investments that set young children on a path to success. Counties Getting Started is a self-guided tool that county government administrators and non-profits leaders can use to develop and launch a PN-3 initiative. The Prenatal-to-Three County Leader Toolkit contains resources and strategies for building awareness and bolstering support for infants and toddlers at the county level. These tools and resources were informed by the county leaders in the Children’s Impact Network, NACoRF’s technical assistance cohort that assisted counties in expanding services and systems for young children PN-3. NACoRF tapped into the expertise of these county leaders to create customizable templates and toolkits unique to counties that are interested in learning the nuts and bolts of scaling PN-3 systems and advancing local funding and policies serving young children and families.

Ramsey County, Minn. participated in the Children’s Impact Network’s inaugural cohort in 2018. As a part of this effort, Ramsey County created a centralized intake and referral system, tackled systemic racial and health inequities and strengthened its engagement with parents and providers. In an interview with NACoRF, Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire said that “[investing early] is the best thing that we can do for our communities and for our country. By helping children and families, we build stronger neighborhoods and stronger communities, our resources are more efficiently used and we have healthier and happier people.”

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