Winners Announced for PCI’s First Prenatal-to-Age-Three Grant Competition

A baby held by a woman, smiling and waving
Photo: Pritzker Children's Initiative

When the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI) launched a first-of-its-kind Prenatal-to-Age Three State Grant Competition late last year, 42 of 45 eligible states, including the District of Columbia, submitted applications. The goal was to identify strategies to expand high-quality early childhood services through innovative, collaborative efforts, as well as to demonstrate the unwavering eagerness of communities, businesses and government agencies to prioritize and support infants and toddlers in their communities.

The response was overwhelming! Based on the exciting, thoughtful proposals we received and the successes for young children in statehouses across the nation this spring, it’s abundantly clear that state leaders understand that the foundation for all future learning, health and behavior is built in the first years of life.

We are excited to share the winners of this nationwide competition: Arkansas, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. As grant recipients, PCI has awarded each state $100,000 to establish a coalition of state- and community-level partners that in the coming months will lay out a clear and actionable plan to implement policy changes and programmatic advances.

As grant recipients, PCI has awarded each state $100,000 to establish a coalition of state- and community-level partners that in the coming months will lay out a clear and actionable plan to implement policy changes and programmatic advances.
The overwhelming response to the grant call for applications also identified states that showed great promise in developing a prenatal-to-three agenda. Inspired by their potential, and knowing the high demand for prenatal-to-age-three investments, PCI will support continued planning work in New Mexico, New Jersey and South Carolina.

Paving the Way for an Actionable Prenatal-to-Three State Agenda

PCI is focused on ensuring that families have the support they need to give their children a strong start in life. A significant and critical part of PCI’s strategy to achieve this vision aims at expanding high-quality services to at least one million more low-income families with infants and toddlers across the nation by 2023. While the national attention on the needs of young children is growing, our team knows that to reach this goal we need to work directly with leaders in states and communities who are entrenched in the issues of the families.

Better serving infants and toddlers begins with understanding the scope of needs within a state, and assessing the inequities in communities that affect the quality of, access to and engagement in prenatal-to-age-three services.

The most meaningful, sustainable impact is made:

  • when states and communities convene leaders across industries and agencies,
  • apply their resources and expertise toward a common agenda, and
  • share ownership of a comprehensive agenda that sets children on a path for future success in school and life.

And since strong evidence is the foundation of an effective strategy, states that invest in data systems are better prepared to identify disparities in access and outcomes, better able to address specific needs and gaps in services, and better equipped to make necessary adjustments to provide long-term support.

While the approach may vary from state to state, this competition has made it clear that the undeniable evidence of the benefits of early childhood development is guiding efforts. By investing in the first three years of a child’s life, children start kindergarten ready to thrive, and the returns for the state are the highest, reducing the need for more expensive educational and health interventions later in life.

With an estimated three million of the nation’s youngest children at risk of reaching kindergarten unprepared for success, these states are developing critical strategies to address kindergarten readiness. Collectively, their success will have a significant impact on this nationwide issue.

To ensure the innovations, policies and best practices developed in these state coalitions are shared and effectively implemented, grant winners will also join the PCI-funded National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT). Through critical state- and community-based approaches and a shared commitment to the healthy development of our youngest children, NCIT can advance policies that set children on a path for academic, social and professional success, beginning at birth.

Gerry Cobb is Director of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative.

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