The final report from the Early Childhood State Advisory Councils, released in May, documents the $92 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to 45 states to help build higher-quality early childhood systems. The funding touched the lives of millions of children across the country and helped inform President Obama’s 2013 early learning plan.
Among the grant’s legislative requirements were to conduct periodic statewide needs analyses, to identify strategies for better collaboration, and to increase participation among underrepresented groups. In order to advance these goals, two states, Colorado and New York, built interactive early childhood cost-benefit models to measure the current scope of the state’s early childhood system and to estimate the costs and benefits of program improvement. I was excited to have the opportunity to help develop both of these models in partnership with APA Consulting and each state’s early childhood advisory council.
Colorado Early Investment Model
The Colorado Early Investment Model captures costs, enrollment, and economic benefits for public programs serving children birth through eight throughout the state. The model grew out of a needs assessment to identify the level of risk in counties across the state. The report notes:
As a result of the needs assessment, the [Early Childhood Leadership Council] pursued developing the Early Childhood Investment Model to assess assets and resources in communities. This free, publicly available tool aided in identifying communities of high risk and areas where investments could potentially make the greatest impact. This tool also helped determine program enrollment and provided cost data. It allowed users to manipulate the data by changing the access and quality of programs to better understand the connections between enrollment, cost, quality, and return on investment. Colorado explored innovative financing solutions using the investment model combined with analytic expertise such as Pay-For-Success Social Impact Bonds. In that model, private investors pay for preventive or interventional social services in advance. If these services deliver their intended results, governments reimburse the investors with a return on their investment. They also save money, because they spend more than they would have without the model.
New York State Fiscal Analysis Model For Early Childhood Services
The recently-released New York State Fiscal Analysis Model For Early Childhood Services also captures programmatic costs and return on investment for over a hundred programs throughout the state.
The New York model grew out of the state’s goals around early childhood financing. The report states:
The [Early Childhood Advisory] Council supported the development of a web-based early childhood cost model to provide policymakers with budgetary and financial analyses of existing and proposed programs, services, and policies, and insight on how to maximize resources. A return on investment component was added to the Council’s early childhood cost model, as well as a dissemination and training plan. The Council produced issue briefs to help communicate results of the model and policy implications. In October 2013, the Council conducted a second financing strategies forum to create two guides on blending and braiding funds to support early childhood systems building and enhance HV programs.