Sep 02, 2014

Study Required by Act 717 Assesses Coordination of Early Childhood Enrollment in Advance of Fall 2015 Deadline

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education today announced that publicly-funded early childhood providers in every community in the state completed a self-assessment of early childhood enrollment processes required by Act 717 of the 2014 legislative session. By law, every parish in the state is required to coordinate enrollment among child care centers, Head Start providers, and pre-kindergartens by October 2015. Coordinating enrollment is part of the state’s implementation of the landmark Act 3 of 2012, which unifies the state’s fragmented system of early childhood care and education.

At present, most Louisiana families do not have a primary point of contact to learn about early childhood programs in their communities. Families often have to go to many locations to determine if they are eligible for a program, and they may be on a waitlist for one provider while another in their community has available seats.

According to the law, each parish has one year to establish a plan that closes these gaps. By fall of 2015, every parish in the state will have fully implemented these and other provisions of Act 3.

“To serve every family seeking early childhood services, it will take a diverse set of providers coordinating their services,” said State Superintendent John White. “Communities in the Early Childhood Care and Education Network are already proving that through coordinating enrollment under a unified process, we can create better access for parents and serve more children.”

Per Act 717, child care centers, Head Start providers, and pre-kindergartens will coordinate enrollment services in four ways by 2015:

  • Coordinated Information Campaign: Inform families about the availability of publicly-funded early childhood care and education programs serving children birth to four-years-old.

  • Coordinated Eligibility Determination: Ensures families are referred to another available, publicly-funded, provider should they be ineligible or unable to access their primary choice due to availability.
  • Coordinated Application: Collect family preferences regarding enrollment choices for publicly-funded early childhood care and education programs.
  • Matching Based on Preference: Enroll at-risk children based upon a family’s preferred list of publicly-funded providers.

Four findings from the initial survey indicated that while challenges exist parishes are capable of coordinating enrollment.

  • Coordinated enrollment is possible. Several communities in Cohort 1 of the pilot developed a fully coordinated enrollment system in their first year. The result is that families benefited from this streamlined, coordinated process through an easier understanding of enrollment and applying to programs. Providers also benefited from this coordinated effort.

    “All pilot providers in West Baton Rouge came together to create a system that made more sense for families and eased the workload on providers,” said Crystal Leon, Early Childhood Director for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools. “Through a joint information campaign and application process, we helped families apply to multiple programs without having to navigate different timelines or applications.”

  • All communities self-assessed their practices, showing most communities are not yet coordinating enrollment. Coordination across each area defined in Act 717 is at different levels statewide, but more than half of the state is not coordinating or doing so minimally in the areas of information campaigns, applications, and child matching. The state will continue to rely on local leaders to design a coordinated system meeting the needs of their communities and putting families first.

    “The New Orleans pilot has been working for the past year to engage all providers to develop a framework for coordinated enrollment. We knew we needed to invest the time to get child care providers, charter operators, Head Start, and parents involved in building a system that will ease burdens on families and providers, and ultimately serve more children. We look forward to having all four-year-olds enroll through a coordinated system next year,” said Tony Recasner, CEO for Agenda for Children.
  • Cohort 1 pilots are ahead of the rest of the state. Cohort 1 pilot communities have achieved full coordination on the four key areas at a greater frequency than non-pilot communities. Cohort 1 pilots built coordinated information campaigns and improved referral process benefiting families. Some Cohort 1 pilots have already started using coordinated applications and matching families based on family preference.
  • When communities coordinate, families benefit. In most communities, the work of coordinating eligibility is already underway. For some families, this has meant providers referring them to other providers based on eligibility or space availability. This partial progress is resulting in more at-risk children being served.

    “In Lafayette, we needed to find innovative ways to coordinate among all our providers and support each other,” said Pat Cooper, Superintendent of the Lafayette Parish School System. “That’s why we became a Child Care Resource and Referral agency. In our new role, we can help get all of the providers in our community on the same page about the best ways to work with families and to prepare our kids for K-12 and beyond.”

What to Expect:

Cohort 1 and 2 pilots will continue to receive state support and technical assistance. The Department will expand the network again early next year with the announcement of a third cohort of pilot communities. Communities not yet part of the Early Childhood Care and Education Network pilots will have an opportunity to apply in the fall, this enabling them to access state resources and support. Statewide implementation of the network will take place for the 2015-2016 school year.

To view results of the Coordinated Enrollment Self-Assessment Survey, please click here.

For more information on the Early Childhood Care and Education Network, please click here.

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