The first two thousand days make up the most critical stage of the human lifecycle. These first five years will impact a child’s chances for success for the rest of their lives. Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) is a statewide initiative housed within the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services that unites public and private agencies, organizations, and stakeholders under one common vision, “Every child, beginning at birth, will be healthy and successful.”
Stakeholder engagement is essential to improving outcomes for Iowa’s young children and their families. That’s why the vision and plan for Iowa’s Early Childhood system was built on widespread responses from families and early childhood providers across the state. “We are ECI” represents a strategic plan that recognizes the ever-changing needs for Iowa’s children and families.
The state system is composed of the ECI State Board and the Stakeholders Alliance, with involvement and partnership from hundreds of private entities to strengthen the system. The State Board provides oversight of state and local efforts while serving as an advisory group to the Iowa legislature and the Governor’s Office. The Stakeholders Alliance provides advice regarding the coordination of early childhood activities in the state and is made up of public and private stakeholders; the Alliance branches into several component groups and subgroups focused on a range of expertise. Both the State Board and the Stakeholders Alliance Work together to further the strategic plan and vision for early childhood development in the state of Iowa.
Early Childhood Iowa Areas enable local citizens to lead collaborative efforts involving education, health, and human services programs on behalf of children, families and other citizens residing in the area. The focus is to improve results for families with young children, ages 0-5 years.
There are 38 Early Childhood Iowa areas statewide representing all 99 counties. Each area has a citizen-led board to support activities to promote collaboration and develop systems in the community for young children and their families.
In their role, ECI area boards develop a comprehensive community plan that includes data gathered through various assessment processes. This information assists the community in planning, funding, professional development and overall support of early childhood programming in the community.
The Early Childhood Iowa Public-Private Partnership is a long-term collaboration between the public and private sectors to promote efforts that build public awareness of the importance of early childhood development. The primary area of this partnership is to create awareness among businesses about the critical role child care plays on retaining reliable, productive employees. Studies consistently show that investments in high-quality early learning programs impact communities. Increase the quality, availability, and sustainability of these programs and services will benefit Iowans by:
- Strengthening families with young children
- Reducing crime and incarceration rates
- Increasing tax revenues
- Supporting effective public schools
- Improving lifelong health
Additionally, there are a number of benefits for Iowa’s private sector. Increasing the quality, availability, and sustainability of programs and services will benefit Iowa businesses by:
- Reducing employers’ recruiting and training costs
- Reducing absenteeism
- Increasing employee engagement and work satisfaction
- Strengthening the quality of Iowa’s future workforce
Family support is an array of community-based services designed to enable and empower families by building on individual and family capabilities that support and strengthen parenting capabilities and overall family functioning. Home visiting is a strategy for delivering family support services. Group-based parent educators provide similar family support services but in a group setting for multiple participating families. Different programs that use home visiting as a delivery method can have very different goals e.g., preventing child abuse, school readiness, parent involvement, and advocacy. Iowa currently has a patchwork of family support programs operating at various levels of effectiveness that vary in goals, program models they follow, funding levels, and training and support for staff.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children has a blog for you. Referred to as, “Our Learning Moments”, this blog is where families share stories about their children’s learning.
A child’s cognitive learning is developed through play experiences, building connections within their environment, and secure and nurturing early care and educational experiences. These areas of development are detailed within the Iowa Early Learning Standards which support what children should know and be able to do, birth through age five, as they grow in their overall school and life readiness.
Created for any positive adult in the life of a child, the Iowa Core Knowledge of Child Development lays out eight notable aspects of early childhood learning and development. Whether a parent, guardian, grandparent, child care provider, retail employee, medical provider, or anything else, utilize the eight core aspects to expand and improve your response to the children in your life.
The ECI Education Pathway helps individuals make decisions about the training and education needed to develop a dynamic career in early childhood care and learning. Using an interactive process, the individual provides their current level of training or education, whether they are new to the field or are employed within early childhood, discovers potential learning opportunities to advance within early care and education, and develops a personal professional development plan.
In response to demands on public service systems to do more, do better, and cost less, attention is being drawn to the value of integrated data systems (IDS) for research to inform executive decision-making. In 2019 the IDS led to the development of the 2019 Statewide Needs Assessment and influenced our We Are ECI 2019-2022 Strategic Plan. As demonstrated through these efforts, the IDS continues to allow Iowa’s early childhood system to effectively and efficiently coordinate the work of health, social services, and education agencies to directly benefit families.
ECI’s 2019 Statewide Needs Assessment reflects a legislatively prioritized statewide emphasis on collaborative, comprehensive approaches to supporting young children and their families. It builds on investments over the last several decades in quality early care and education systems and brings together relevant data from siloed systems of health, education, and child welfare to use for statewide strategic planning.
Visit the Policies and Procedures page to view ECI's policies and procedures.
Family support is an array of community-based services designed to enable and empower families by building on individual and family capabilities that support and strengthen parenting capabilities and overall family functioning. Home visiting is a strategy for delivering family support services. Group-based parent educators provide similar family support services in a group setting for multiple participating families. Different programs that use home visiting as a delivery method can have very different goals e.g., preventing child abuse, school readiness, parent involvement, and advocacy. Iowa currently has a patchwork of family support programs operating at various levels of effectiveness that vary in goals, program models they follow, funding levels, and training and support for staff.
Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program
To support ongoing professional development and competency assessment, the Institute was developed to offer Family Support Professionals everywhere the opportunity to learn new skills and grow their careers. Through engaging, online modules and a personalized learning map feature, professionals take charge of their growth and advancement.
Family Support Credentialing
In conjunction with developing skilled and responsive family support professionals, it is equally important to establish program credentialing. Lutheran Services in Iowa coordinates the Iowa Family Support Credential (IFSC) for the state of Iowa, more about the program can be found at the Iowa Family Support Technical Assistance Network website. Credentialing and technical assistance are guided by a set of standards.
The DAISEY Reporting Database
DAISEY, which stands for Data Application and Integrated Solutions for the Early Years, is a shared measurement system designed to help communities see the difference they make in the lives of children and their families who are at risk. Family support professionals utilize DAISEY to enter required demographic and assessment data on the families they serve which, is then utilized to generate de-identified, population-based, quarterly reports. Family support programs can then access their aggregated data through interactive intelligence reports that are built into DAISEY. The DAISEY Iowa Family Support website is a family support provider’s resource for all things DAISEY (training materials, webinars to learn more about data entry, data dictionary, and program instructions).
AEA Learning Online provides access to professional development opportunities through self-paced training; online courses for relicensure credit through the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners and graduate credit through Drake University, Morningside College, and Grandview University; and ongoing professional development opportunities. AEA Learning Online helps schools meet Iowa reporting requirements by providing a learning management system for districts and organizations. AEA Learning Online partners with the Iowa Department of Human Services to provide ongoing professional learning for early childhood professionals that is self-paced and can be personalized to fit professional learning needs.
The Iowa Association for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health has three primary goals: to enhance the quality and capacity of Iowa’s early childhood professionals to meet the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of young children and their families; to increase public awareness and understanding of the need for high-quality, nurturing relationships during infancy and early childhood; and to promote comprehensive and integrated services and supports for those working together to help children achieve their full social and emotional potential.
Early Childhood Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (EC PBIS), is what Iowa calls its Pyramid Model initiative. This initiative offers early childhood programs a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to promoting social-emotional development and addressing challenging behaviors among young children. EC-PBIS creates nurturing environments for children equipped with supported staff trained to respond to challenging behaviors to support the goal of fostering positive mental health at a young age.
If you are looking for information about or to apply to be part of Program Wide PBIS please click here.
Head Start programs promote school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by supporting the development of the whole child. Head Start supports children’s growth and development in a positive learning environment through a variety of services, which include early learning, health, and family well-being. A key part of the training and technical assistance provided by Head Start to its grantees comes from the National Centers. The National Centers offer resources and approaches to build program capacity and encourage consistent practices. Available resources include Head Start Inclusion, Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning; Early Childhood Health and Wellness; Parent, Family, and Community Engagement; Program Management and Fiscal Operations; and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.
Iowa AEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research. We promote a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession, and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children. Iowa AEYC provides support through T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® IOWA, Child Care WAGE$® IOWA, Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™, Farm to Early Care and Education, Iowa Early Learning Standards, and other resources. T.E.A.C.H. is a scholarship program that provides the early childhood workforce with access to educational opportunities. WAGE$ offers salary supplements, based on the individual's level of formal education and commitment to her or his program. The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™ is a nationally recognized credential earned by those working in the early care and education field. The CDA credential is a recognized part of Iowa child care regulations, is a way to earn points on Iowa's Quality Rating System (QRS), and is part of achieving some accreditation standards.
CCR&R agencies are community-based programs staffed by early care and education professionals that work to connect families with quality child care services. Child Care Consultants provide on-site consultation to licensed preschools, Child Care Centers (CCC), non registered Child Care Home (CCH) providers and registered Child Development Home (CDH) providers. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) is the regulatory agency for early childhood care and education. CCR&R supports providers in complying with state regulations. Training in a variety of topics is offered to child care providers to not only meet licensing/registration requirements but to also improve the quality of care. CCR&R facilitates many types of professional development opportunities for the adults who care for our youngest citizens.
The Directory of Early Childhood Programs at Iowa Colleges and Universities provides information to assist the early childhood workforce in making college choices. The directory includes information regarding Child Development Associate (CDA) programs, Certificates of Specialization Early Childhood or Early Childhood Administration, Early Childhood Education Diploma Programs, Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Programs, Early Childhood Education Endorsement Programs, Early Childhood Education M.S., M.A., and Ph.D. Programs offered by Iowa higher education institutions. Information contained in the directory, prepared by T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® IOWA at the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (Iowa AEYC), is subject to change at any time.
Shared Services is a nationally recognized strategy in which small, independent programs share the cost of administrative services, in order to reduce overhead and improve financial performance.
Governor's Child Care Task Force Report (November 2021)
Re-invent vs Re-build: Let's Fix the Child Care System (January 5, 2022), Opportunities Exchange Presentation
Understanding the Business Environment for Iowa Providers (March 4, 2022), Opportunities Exchange Presentation
Early Childhood Parenting Resources
The Iowa Family Support Network (IFSN) includes information and referral for Early ACCESS, IDEA Part C services, along with Family Support Services and Group Based Parenting Programs. The IFSN contains a statewide Resource Directory, Statewide Events, National Resources, and Projects and Research related to early childhood including early intervention. Early ACCESS early intervention service system partnered with the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visitation (MIECHV) system to create a single, coordinated resource.
Parentivity is a resource for parents via a web-based community that provides “just right” information for parents when you need it the most. Understanding there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to parenting, Parentivity offers personalized content proven to reduce family risks and optimize parenting resourcefulness, family resilience, child growth, and school readiness. Parentivity – a place to ask, learn, and share! Find out more at parentivity.org.
More than 650 family support professionals reach over 12,000 families and 14,000 children across Iowa. Iowa’s family support programs work with parents who invest their time to strengthen and nourish their family. Family support workers advocate, assist in enhancing parenting skills, and help caregivers find someone they can depend on. Three key areas of focus are: Maternal and Child Health, School Readiness, and Strong Families. Visit http://iowafamilysupportimpact.org/ for more information.
Early Childhood Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (EC-PBIS) provides parenting resources to promote your child’s social-emotional development. Utilize the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations to find and download online materials such as handouts, fact sheets, and newsletters.
An appropriate and high-quality environment is essential to the growth and development of young children both in and out of the home. You are the expert when it comes to deciding what is best for you and your child. Trust your instincts to help you decide what is best for your family by:
- Interviewing providers for comparison
- Calling providers to determine if they meet your basic needs such as hours care is needed and openings for your child’s age
- Scheduling a visit to tour and ask questions
- Asking for names of other parents who have taken their child to the provider (now or in the past) and contacting them to ask about their experiences
- Reviewing the information. If you are not comfortable with the child care setting, keep looking. If you find a provider you like whose program is full, ask if they will put your name on a waiting list.
Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) is a program to support quality child care throughout the state of Iowa. CCR&R is available to assist families in selecting child care providers who best meet the needs of their child and family. CCR&R Child Care Consultants provide on-site consultation to licensed preschools, centers, non-registered home providers, and Child Development Home providers. Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) provides services that help parents make informed choices about the care of their children.
Statewide Voluntary Preschool
Enrolling your four-year old in your local district’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool program is one way to access quality early childhood education. Statewide Voluntary Preschool programs are housed within local school district buildings and in local community partner locations. Contact your local school district for more information.
Shared Visions Preschool
Preschool opportunities through Shared Visions may be available in your area. Shared Visions Preschool programs provide quality, comprehensive child development programs for children who meet identified risk factors, such as family income of 130% of the Federal Poverty Level or lower. The preschool programs serve children ages three to five and must follow one of three program standards: the National Association for the Education of Young Children Accreditation Standards, Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards, or Head Start Program Performance Standards.
Early Head Start and Head Start
Head Start programs promote school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by supporting the development of the whole child. Head Start is a locally operated, federally funded program that provides a comprehensive child development program for 3- to 5-year-old children from low-income families in 98 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The program provides services to promote academic, social and emotional development, as well as providing social, health, and nutrition services. Program eligibility is for children and families at or below the federal poverty level who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits or where children have disabilities.
Find Private Preschool Options
Your family’s early learning and child care needs are unique to your family. Sometimes the number of hours your child will need for care is more than the above preschool programs can offer. Many times, the above preschool program options partner with a licensed child care program to provide more options for your family and child’s care and early learning needs. To find local licensed and regulated child care programs in your local area, go to the Child Care page.
NAEYC Family Blog
The National Association for the Education of Young Children has a blog for you. Referred to as, “Our Learning Moments”, this blog is where families share stories about their children’s learning.
Appeal Process June 21, 2018
Area Director Competencies/Skills June 21, 2018
Area Director Professional Development Plan Template April 1, 2012
Board of Directors Self-Evaluation June 21, 2018
Board Professional Development Plan Template December 1, 2017
Conflict of Interest/Duality April 1, 2012
Contracting For Services March 14, 2011
Credit Card Policy Guidance September 11, 2019
Developing Board Bylaws April 1, 2012
Developing Policies and Procedures March 14, 2011
Examination of Records (Open Records) June 21, 2018
Indicators and Data Dictionary March 3, 2023
Insurance Needs for Local Area Boards June 8, 2022
Introduction to Robert's Rules of Order December 1, 2017
Investing in the Business Investment Program April 9, 2018
Non-Profit Status December 1, 2017
Official Meetings Open to Public March 1, 2012
Process for Early Childhood Iowa Area Boundary Change March 4, 2012
Requirements/Options for Area Boards September 15, 2021
Sample Board Member Job Description April 1, 2012
Statewide Performance Measures (Tool O) November 4, 2022
Statutory Responsibilities of an Early Childhood Iowa Area Board August 22, 2019
Strategies to Measure and Build on Collaborative Relationships September 1, 2017
Budget Instructions for Iowa Grants May 1, 2020
Cost Allocation March 5, 2018
Early Childhood Iowa Area Funding November 7, 2022
Fiscal Agent Agreement July 22, 2021
Fiscal Clarifications November 7, 2022
FY19 Annual Report Instructions for Iowa Grants September 10, 2019
Indirect Cost Rate Principles March 6, 2020
Mid-Year Financial Reporting November 7, 2014
Payment Considerations When Changing Fiscal Agents October 24, 2019
2021-2025 Community Plan Designation Review Matrix July 1, 2021
Designation Mid-Cycle Review of Contract Award & Monitoring September 23, 2019
ECI Area Board Designation– General Policies November 5, 2021
Tool NN (2021 update) October 1, 2021
Frequently Used Data Sources for Needs Assessments October 30, 2020
U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines (2020) January 22, 2020
U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines (2021) January 25, 2021
U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines (2022) January 26, 2022
U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines (2023) January 23, 2023