Improving the lives of young children through data

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodNov 8 2018

Children and families make use of a variety of public systems, including public health insurance, child care subsidies, and food assistance. Because children and families access many different systems, it is critically important to gather information about their experiences with these services—which ones they access, how the quality of those services affect them, and how children fare later in school and life. Such information can be used to shape the services themselves, making them more effective and efficient. This information is also necessary to identify gaps in needed services and locations where additional resources should be invested. Sharing and integrating data across the variety of systems accessed by children and families is crucial to providing decision-makers with complete and accurate information that they can use to shape and improve services.

This brief highlights projects implemented in three states to integrate education, health, and/or social services data in order to inform policies that influence the lives of young children and their families. The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) funded KIDS COUNT organizations in the states of Mississippi (MS), Minnesota (MN), and Rhode Island (RI), supporting each state in its use of integrated data to address one pressing early childhood policy question (see box below). The Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC) had the privilege of contributing to the work of the three KIDS COUNT sites by providing technical assistance to support their completion of project goals and tracking their progress to document the benefits and challenges of this work.

Each site used integrated data about children from birth to age 5 to learn more about the ways young children interact with different systems. By state, the integrated data were used to learn how public assistance (MN), health (MS) and the child welfare (RI) systems intersect with and connect to early care and education1 (ECE) services and programs. Specifics about the three state organizations’ policy questions, key findings, and recommended strategies to support the continued use of integrated data are profiled at the end of this brief.