By Megan Carolan
Earlier this month, ICS announced that we will provide technical assistance to five jurisdictions seeking to use Pay for Success financing to improve outcomes for children. Our work, funded through the Pay for Success initiative of the Social Innovation Fund, is focused on helping these jurisdictions explore the feasibility of expanding their early childhood offerings through Pay for Success financing. While PFS is an innovative funding model, the jurisdictions’ proposals focused on expanding access to tried-and-true early childhood interventions:
- The State of Connecticut, working to scale Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), an evidence-based program to prevent child abuse and neglect
- The State of North Carolina, working to improve children’s health and literacy by expanding early childhood home visiting and literacy programs
- The City of Spartanburg, South Carolina, working to expand high-quality early care and education programs to increase kindergarten readiness, reading and math proficiency, and high school and post-secondary graduation rates
- The County of Sonoma County, California, working to expand early childhood home visiting and high-quality pre-kindergarten to improve community health and educational attainment
- The Washington State Department of Early Learning and Thrive by Five—in partnership with a fellow SIF-grantee, Third Sector Capital Partners—working to enhance child development and well-being, reduce child abuse and neglect, and promote school readiness by expanding early childhood home visiting programs, especially in Native American communities
The programs these jurisdictions want to expand represent a wide range of early childhood interventions. Below is a brief introduction to the nuts and bolts of these interventions as we begin working with these five ambitious jurisdictions.
Triple P– which stands for the Positive Parenting Program–is a parenting program that currently operates in 25 countries for parents of children from birth through 12. It provides five levels of services to fit the needs of individual families, ranging from a population-level communications strategy to brief interventions for a specific concern to intensive counseling provided either one-on-one or in small groups. There is a wealth of research exploring the benefits of Triple P for particular populations as well as implementation challenges. A 2012 report by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) found a benefit-to-cost ratio of $6.06 per child participating in the Triple P system.
Home visiting is a popular idea among the TA recipients, either as a standalone intervention or in tandem with other programs. Home visiting has grown in popularity in the last few years, with initial funds at the federal level appropriated in 2008 and the creation of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) through 2010’s health care reform (worryingly, MIECHV is set to expire this month). Home-visiting includes a variety of programs (a recent report explores the evidence-based models used by states), though the most well-known is probably the Nurse Family Partnership, which the WSIPP analysis referenced above finds a $2.37 benefit-to-cost ratio.
Reach Out and Read (referenced in North Carolina’s application as a literacy program) is a program that uses pediatricians’ offices to promote literacy to low-income families. Participating doctors distribute age-appropriate books to children beginning at their 6 month well-baby visits as well as talk with parents to promote developmentally appropriate literacy activities. The program has been found to increase the frequency of parents reading to children, as well as to make reading a more enjoyable family activity – changes that are linked to better long-term literacy outcomes.
Finally, jurisdictions proposed investing in early childhood education and pre-K programs. Early childhood education programs, especially state-funded programs, take many forms, but research consistently shows that high-quality preschool can have positive benefits for both low-income children as well as middle-income.
Providing TA to these jurisdictions begins not with the logistics of a PFS transaction, but with gauging how many families they reach and what outcomes they produce with their current early childhood interventions and mapping their goals for the future. Each of these programs offers a profound opportunity to improve the lives of children, families, and their communities. We look forward to exploring these programs and sharing our findings!