Numerous studies show that early childhood is a critical time of growth and learning. Investing in early childhood programs has been shown to provide short- and long-term social and economic benefits for the country. The early childhood field has tried a variety of strategies to support families and prepare young children for success in life, two of which emerge as particularly strong options: home visiting (HV) and high-quality early care and education (or ECE).
Currently, and traditionally, ECE and HV exist in silos—that is, research efforts in the two fields are poorly integrated and linked, and programs are typically funded and administered at the state and federal level by different agencies. For example, in North Carolina, most HV programs are housed in the Division of Public Health, whereas ECE programs (e.g., licensing, pre-K, Quality Rating and Improvement System) are housed in the Division of Child Development and Early Education.
These silos do a disservice to young children and their families. Bringing together the ECE and HV fields can help policymakers, practitioners, and researchers jointly address their shared challenges and better serve families.
Home visiting aims to improve children’s outcomes by working with parents to set goals for themselves and change their behaviors; studies have shown that these changes improve both parent and child outcomes. Additionally, a review of ECE research concludes that high-quality preschool supports children’s early learning, and suggests that interactions between teachers and children are key aspects of high-quality programs.
The common elements between these strategies are evident when you look closely. Each serves largely the same families, and each has a similar workforce, professional development pathways, and overarching goals. If the research conducted in these two fields were better integrated and linked, we would improve overall practice and create more effective and efficient child and family outcomes.
Home visiting and ECE must learn from—and share lessons with—each other. In a forthcoming blog series, we will explore key questions for the early childhood field:
- How do we support the professional development of the early childhood workforce, including both ECE and HV workers?
- How can ECE benefit from the lessons learned in HV about connecting children and families to needed community services?
- How can ECE share with HV lessons about building early childhood integrated data systems to answer critical policy questions across early childhood systems?
- How can HV’s work on building continuous quality improvement systems inform the ECE field—and vice versa?
In answering these questions, the research field can leverage current knowledge, expand innovation, more efficiently tackle shared challenges, and determine how—and where—research in one area may inform research in the other. We hope that this blog series will spark conversation within states, federal programs, and the research community to identify opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and coordination.