By Robert Cyr
The ongoing consolidation of state child welfare programs through the creation of the Office of Early Childhood, expected to fully pass into law this spring, will help to streamline services to low-income families and little will change from their perspective, according to state officials.
Latino children make up a substantial portion of the thousands in state receiving subsidized services, according to OEC data. More than 4,700 of the 11,115 children in state-sponsored pre-school, or 42.5 percent, are Latino. Latino children also make up 41.3 percent of Early Learning and Development programs under Title I of ESEA, as well as 35.1 percent, or 1,293 of the 3,686 children enrolled in child day care programs, according to state data.
The OEC will encompass the Department of Education’s School Readiness program, the Department of Social Services’ Care for Kids, Children’s Trust Fund, and other childcare programs, the Department of Public Health’s childcare licensing program, the Department of Developmental Services’ Birth to 3 program, and the Board of Regents’ Charts a Course program, according to
Governor Dannel Malloy’s office.The umbrella office was developed by agency commissioners, early childhood education and development advocates, parents, caregivers, and other stakeholders and signed under Executive Order by Malloy last June, said Malloy’s spokesperson, Samaia Hernandez.
“This is already happening,” she said. The consolidation process will result in no lost jobs or loss of services, she said, adding that “staff will be brought from other agencies.”
OEC Communications Director Diana Lejardi said the office won’t affect families already using the different programs and their usual contacts at the agencies will remain the same. The state programs cater to children up to 5 years old.
“It makes it easier for parents,” she said. “The point is to coordinate those segments and systems; they’re kind of disjointed right now. The idea is to streamline funding so the parents do not have to go through a thousand different hoops to access these funds. At the ground level there’s not going to be a lot of change.”
The new agency builds on work done in 2012 when Connecticut invested $9.8 million in early childhood initiatives, created 1,000 new spots for early learners, invested $3 million for a tiered quality rating and improvement system, and sought collaborative partnerships for Office of Early Childhood Planning.