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Methodology and Results


The goal of the survey was to document the initiatives developed by public child welfare agencies for enhancing early childhood development. The idea for conducting the survey originated at the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) Commissioners Roundtable in 1999. The commissioners, who were provided information on the advantages of prevention and early intervention, expressed interest in knowing whether public agencies were aware of early childhood development studies and, if so, how they were addressing the issue based on the new research. The commissioners requested that CWLA document how the states were responding to the new findings on infant brain development and prevention and early intervention efforts.


Surveys were sent to public CWLA agencies in all 50 states. Thirty-eight states (76%) returned the surveys.


The instrument, which consisted of 17 questions, was divided into four sections: general, public awareness, services, and training. Questions that were left blank were automatically marked “no” (this implied that services were not offered or changes did not occur). A follow-up call was made to the contact person listed on each returned survey, for the purpose of verifying and clarifying information from the survey. Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS) software was used to score each question. For the basis of this survey, we put emphasis on the number of "yes" responses received. The survey was developed by the CWLA Deputy Director, the Director of Child Welfare Services, the Director of Child Day Care Services and a student from Saint Louis University who was completing her Masters level internship in Social Work at CWLA.


Each agency was mailed a survey, along with a cover letter, on February 20, 2000. The letter explained the purpose of the survey and requested that all surveys be completed and returned by March 21, 2000.

Each participant was asked to provide the name of a contact person that could be placed on a resource list and could be contacted if CWLA had further questions regarding responses to the survey. We also requested the agency name, the job title of the contact person, an address, telephone and fax numbers and an email address. Each respondent also was asked to answer the questions in the context of services geared to enhancing a child’s life during early childhood. Lastly, the participants were encouraged to contact CWLA with any questions related to the survey.

Results and Discussion

General Section/Results

Within the section labeled "General” 31 out of 38 states (81.6%) stated they had reviewed and/or evaluated research on early brain development and the critical risk factors in early childhood. Seven out of 38 indicated they had not reviewed the research.

Public Awareness

The Public Awareness section included eight questions. Information was requested on the role the agency played in increasing awareness on the topic of early brain development; the description of the initiative; purpose of the initiative; and whether or not changes occurred legislatively, in policy or both. The results are based on the 38 states that responded to the survey.


States best described their initiatives as the following:

Initiative # of respondents % of respondents
Statewide task forces and/or committees 25 65.8
Series of forums or conferences 23 60.5
Local initiative grants 23 60.5
Media campaigns 15 39.5
Organized public speaking events 13 34.2

The following described their states’ roles in the initiative as:

State's Role # of respondents % of respondents
A co-sponsor or participant with other agencies or departments within state government 31 81.6
A co-sponsor or participant with other groups/organizations across systems/sectors 28 73.7
The lead agency 19 50.0

States described the purpose of their initiative(s) as:

Purpose # of respondents % of respondents
To improve availability and accessibility of services through increased cross-system collaboration 32 84.2
To increase public awareness regarding the importance of supporting and strengthening families with young children 30 78.9
To mobilize resources and support for prevention and early intervention programs 30 78.9

As a result of the initiative, 18 (47.4%) states indicated that they had both legislative and policy changes to enhance prevention, early intervention and healthy child development efforts:

Legislative and/or Policy Changes # of respondents % of respondents
Reported only legislative changes 3 7.9
Reported only policy changes 1 2.6
Reported neither legislative or policy changes 15 39.5
Checked "other" 1 2.6

States reported providing public education on prevention, early intervention and healthy child development efforts as follows:

Public Education Provided # of respondents % of respondents
To both state and local agencies 25 64.8
To local communities only 3 7.9
Statewide only 2 5.3
Did not provide information to either state or local agencies 4 10.5
Checked "other" 4 10.5

States reported that information regarding prevention, early intervention and healthy child development was disseminated in the following ways:

Information Disseminated # of respondents % of respondents
Through affiliated non-profit organizations 26 68.4
Through annual conferences 23 60.5
Notices mailed to families with open cases 7 18.4
Provide information when requested by families 6 15.8
Provide information by holding monthly town meetings 5 13.2


The service section consisted of seven questions regarding the direct services provided, the services used most often, the priority in which people receive services and the purpose of services. The survey also requested information on the funding sources for services, the effectiveness of services, and if there had been an increase of funding to support programs that reduce critical risk factors for young children.


Prevention or early intervention services are offered by all of the 38 agencies who responded to the survey, either directly or through purchase of service to families with young children (including pregnant and parenting teens).

Based on a list of services provided, we asked agencies to indicate which services they offer and to identify the service model used, if applicable. The following is a list of the top five services provided:

Services Provided # of respondents % of respondents
Parent Education 36 94.7
Referral and Linkage to appropriate resources 36 94.7
Home Visiting 35 92.1
Enhancement of child development 31 81.6
Child Day Care 29 46.3

The Healthy Families America home visiting approach was listed most often as a service model, suggesting that many states are providing or funding home visiting services to prevent abuse and neglect, help maintain stability in the home, and decrease the number of children in care.

States identified the following as having priority in receiving services:

Priority for Services # of respondents % of respondents
Families that have certain risk factors (families living in a particular neighborhood, single-parent families, or teen parents) 30 78.9
Families that have been reported to Child Protective Services 27 71.1
Families with an open case file 15 39.5
Services are available to all that apply 12 31.6

States identified the overall purpose of services as the following:

Overall Purpose # of respondents % of respondents
To increase the strength and stability of families and to enhance child development 36 94.7
To increase parents’ confidence and competence in their parenting ability, provide children a supportive and stable environment, and to prevent child abuse and/or neglect 35 92.1

Since this was an exploratory survey, it would have been difficult to get a dollar amount for services provided. We decided that what was important was to find out how funding was distributed across prevention and early intervention services provided by public child welfare agencies:

Source of Funding # of respondents % of respondents
Federal funds 36 94.7
State funds 34 89.5
Local funds 18 47.4
Foundation funds 18 47.4
Corporate funds 7 18.4
Other sources 3 7.9

Seventeen (44.7%) states indicated that as a result of their initiative, there had been an increase in funding to support programs that reduce critical risk factors.

It is clear that federal and state governments are the primary source of funding for these programs. A future goal, based on the findings, may be to identify ways of increasing the involvement of foundations and corporations in early childhood initiatives.

The survey asked whether states had developed outcome measures in order to assess the success of programs they offered. Twenty-two (57.9%) stated they had or were in the process of developing outcome measures. Most states answered “yes” to the question yet most did not have conclusive results of their evaluation efforts.


The Training section consisted of three questions, which focused on whether agencies received training in the areas of prevention, early intervention and healthy development for families with young children, and if so, who provides the training, who receives the training, and when the training occurs for service workers.

29 (76.3%) of the states received training on the importance of prevention, early intervention and healthy development

Training Provided By # of respondents % of respondents
Individual consultants 18 47.4
Organizations or institutes 17 44.7
Universities 12 31.6
National associations 11 28.9

Who Receives Training # of respondents % of respondents
Upper management 19 50.0
Middle management 23 60.5
Front-line workers 32 84.2
Foster and adoptive parents 16 42.1
Open training to the community 10 26.3

When Training Is Provided # of respondents % of respondents
During in-service 22 57.9
During pre-service 20 52.6
During supervision or staff meetings 11 28.9


Overall, a majority of states were familiar with the research pertaining to early childhood development. To further enhance early childhood initiatives, states should:
  • Continue to develop outcome measures and evaluate the effectiveness of their prevention and early intervention programs and public education initiatives. Findings should be collected and made available on a national basis. This could support the development and funding of national programs of early intervention services.
  • Continue to support legislative and policy changes, which have occurred in about half of the reporting states (47.4%).
  • Build relationships between child welfare agencies, corporations, and foundations in order to increase funding opportunities.
The following are examples of the types of initiatives implemented across the country as reported by the states:
  • California

    The state of California has made it a priority to identify and provide services to families in need, with a special emphasis on families with children five years and younger.

    Proposition 10, The Children & Families First Act, has enabled the state to start new early child development programs by utilizing funds from an increased sales tax on cigarettes.

    Through a grant from the Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP), California has implemented a pilot project to replicate the California Safe and Healthy Families (CAL-SAHF) Family Support Home Visiting Program. The project is geared towards identifying and providing support to at-risk families with children between zero and up to three months of age.

  • Delaware

    The state of Delaware is providing a coordinated, comprehensive early care and education system that can serve all of Delaware’s children over the next eight years. The system was developed by a steering committee that was made up of over forty early childhood experts. Their job was to create a research driven, long-term plan. The group developed a plan that focuses on eight major areas: quality programs, professional development, family engagement, public will, program licensure, governance, financing, and results.

    At the conclusion of the project, the data will be used to guide planning, educating, monitoring, and accountability of quality early care and education programs. The information collected will be useful in determining the effectiveness of early childhood education.

  • Iowa

    The Iowa Community Empowerment Initiative was established by legislative mandate during the 1998 Iowa legislative session in an effort to create a partnership between communities and state government with an initial emphasis to improve the well-being of families with young children. The initiative calls for the development of local community empowerment areas statewide. Through these areas, local citizens will be enabled to lead collaborative efforts involving education, health, and human services programs on behalf of children, families and other citizens residing in the area. Leadership functions may include strategic planning for and oversight and managing of programs and funding. For state fiscal year 2000, $15.4 million will be provided statewide to communities for early childhood initiatives including home visitation, parent support, parent education, and preschool services. Additionally, $6.35 million will go to community empowerment areas for efforts to enhance capacity and quality child care services.

  • Missouri

    Missouri has paid close attention to the research that has been produced on brain development and early childhood education. The state, with the support and encouragement of Governor and Mrs. Carnahan, has disseminated information on early brain development statewide.

    The Kauffman Foundation and the Missouri Division of Social Services collaborated to produce an educational video and brochure, “In the Interest of Minds” which summarize the research on brain development and the advantages of early childhood prevention, intervention and education.

    Based on the research, the Governor led an 18-month agenda which resulted in:
    • The development of a commission to create early childhood care and education legislation.
    • Two conferences with record-setting attendance
    • Legislation that is addressing the need for early childcare and education
    • Bipartisan support for a new law that designates $20 million in riverboat fees for early childhood development.

  • Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania’s initiative focuses on the development of family centers. The initiative is based on the concept that in order to assure the healthy growth and development of a child, there must be support for the family and the community in which they live.

    The Department of Education, Health and Public Welfare and Pennsylvania’s Family Centers are working together in a collaborative manner to provide services to help families become healthy, self-sufficient and well informed of the resources available.

    Family Centers have been in effect for over five years throughout Pennsylvania. Program evaluation efforts are demonstrating that Family Centers are increasing families' employment, increasing families' level of education, ensuring children are fully immunized on schedule, linking more families to primary and preventive health care services, improving parenting skills and understanding of child development, and increasing community unity and collaborative resources.

  • Washington

    BrainNet was created in 1997 in Washington state. BrainNet is an initiative developed to enhance the life of children. The program emphasizes educating people on the importance of early brain development. BrainNet educates parents, caregivers, employers and policy makers on the necessity of early educational experiences for toddlers.

    The BrainNet Initiative has increased the number of licensed child care providers through out Washington state. Child Care providers are also trained in infant brain development and strategies to "maximize Washington's Brain Power."

  • Wisconsin

    There are several on-going initiatives that affect the early care and education of Wisconsin’s children. The state recently received a National Governor’s Association grant for Building Public and Political Will for Early Care and Education. This grant will provide technical assistance to help improve early care and education services for working families. The grant will look at existing programs in the state and develop strategies on breaking down barriers across the various departments and systems to bring about consensus for reducing or eliminating those barriers to service for young children and their families.

    Listed below are some of the early childhood initiatives currently in place in Wisconsin.
    • The STATE BRAIN TEAM, comprised of representatives from child care licensing, public health, community and family development and Birth to 3 agencies in the Department of Health and Family Services as well as representatives from the Department of Public Instruction, Office of Child Care in the Department of Workforce Development, Children’s Trust Fund, WI Council on Children and Families, UW-Extension, Wisconsin Technical College System and others, meets regularly. This team is charged with promoting the early brain development research and providing training to persons throughout the state on the research and its implications for children, adults and their families as well as on public policy issues.
    • An Infant/Toddler Credential as a part of the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood program was instituted to offer tuition scholarships and bonuses to persons working with children under age 3. This initiative links training, compensation and commitment to improving the quality of early childhood care and education experiences for young children and their families.
    • Wisconsin addresses the quality and availability of child care through a major quality child care initiative. This initiative includes a statewide child care resource and referral network comprised of the 17 child care resource and referral agencies serving all counties and tribes in Wisconsin. Start-up and expansion grants are available to increase the supply of child care throughout the state. Quality improvement grants are also available to help centers achieve higher quality standards. These standards include national accreditation, improved staff training, lower turnover and improved compensation. Programs receive grants for multiple years.
    • Wisconsin also funds a Child Care Information Center that provides audio-visual and printed materials to child care providers around the state through a resource and lending library.


Missouri Department of Social Services, 1999. In the Interest of Minds. Kauffman Foundation, Missouri.

The Carolina Abecedarian Project, 1999. Gains from high quality child care persist into adulthood - landmark study. [Available on-line:].

Contact List and Resource List:

Information for the contact list and resource list was provided by respondents to the Early Childhood Initiative Surveys.

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