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Early Childhood Transition Task Force meets for third time

Over the span of four days, members of Gov. Laura Kelly’s Early Childhood Transition Task Force met with around 500 Kansans in nine Kansas communities to talk about early childhood across the state as part of the Community Engagement Tour.

Executive order 23-01, signed by Gov. Kelly in January, created the Early Childhood Task Force. The executive order stated that the task force was responsible for conducting a series of stakeholder engagement opportunities; eliciting feedback on the current early childhood governance structure and better understanding the needs of parents; families, providers and businesses.

The task force on Thursday, Aug. 17, had its third meeting to review what was learned during the Community Engagement Tour. The Hunt Institute provided support to the task force and found 43.9% of participants of the tour were service providers. The rest were made up of parents, community members, policymakers and more.

Through the tour, The Hunt Institute found several things to improve on, as well as celebrate. They found they needed to improve the following:

  • Child care
    • Licensing
      • The current process is slow, cumbersome and hindered by the ire Marshal’s outdated security code and response rate. New providers often don’t know where they are in the process.
    • Lack of workforce
      • Some care facilities that shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic never reopened. Low wages make recruitment and staff retention difficult.
  • Family Experiences
    • Affordability
      • To many respondents, the cost of child care still feels high even with the state’s subsidy.
    • Accessibility
      • Many families reported they do not have reliable transportation to seek out care due to the lack of a vehicle or the long travel distance and time.
    • Social Stigma
      • Some families chose not to seek help because of perceived social stigma around receiving government subsidies and fear of professionals coming into their home (and removing their children).
  • System Issues
    • Navigation
      • Participants from all nine locations made the point that it is difficult to navigate the various programs and find relevant information.
    • Inefficiencies
      • There was recognition that there has been increased collaboration over the past couple of years between agencies, however, the system is stressed and staff are doing the best they can. Turnover at the state level has resulted in loss of historical knowledge and smooth communication between state agencies.
    • Programmatic Funding
      • Restricted funding makes it difficult for communities to provide the services families need. Special education is not fully funded. There is a growing need for mental health services, which are largely unmet and underfunded.

As the task force found a number of things that need improvement, they also found several things worth celebrating. Those include:

  • Community level collaboration
    • Local school districts
      • Many schools opened space during the pandemic to provide child care.
    • Public-private partnerships
      • Local businesses collaborate with chambers of commerce and provide financial support for private investments in the early child care ecosystem.
    • Nonprofit organizations
      • Organizations such as Child Care Aware and United Way have been a positive force in providing guidance on navigation and resources.
    • Unconventional spaces
      • Local community centers and churches open spaces and provide community support in early child care.
  • State level collaboration
    • Increased communication and collaboration
      • Attendees noted the increased communication and collaboration of state agencies.
    • Encouraging
      • Most found the increase in communication and collaboration encouraging and wanted to see more of it.
  • Professional pride and passion
    • Faith in the profession
      • Early childhood care and education professionals believe in the work they are doing.
    • Fair compensation
      • They want to afford to continue working in this profession.

Some initiatives the task force will consider include supporting public-private partnerships; consolidate programs under on agency for easy navigation; streamline licensing process; and provide technical assistance and education.

To read materials from Thursday’s meeting, click here. The task force will next meet on Wednesday, Oct. 18 to compile an initial draft of recommendations. The task force hopes to deliver its final report to Governor Laura Kelly in December, prior to the deadline of Jan. 1, 2024, set forth in Executive Order 23-01.

Posted: Aug 17, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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