Although they frequently get lots of “likes” on Facebook, infants and toddlers still don’t get the public policy attention that they deserve.
Thanks, however, to a new initiative — the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) – very young children should get more policy respect.
The story of MPIT began earlier this year when Strategies for Children and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley, along with a group of nonprofit partners, state agency representatives, and philanthropic funders, applied for a planning grant from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative.
Pritzker planned to award planning grants of $100,000 and actions grants of $1 to $3 million to states that submitted “winning proposals focused on expanding needed state and community services for children prenatal to age three and their families.”
Our goal was to use the Pritzker funding to create a statewide effort that would “result in a new (first-of-its-kind) state plan for infants and toddlers” as well as a new coalition focused on infants and toddlers.
The 11 applications that were funded came from Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Sadly, Massachusetts was not among the grantees. But applying for the grant still lit a useful fire. Our partners wanted to develop a plan and collaborate across organizations. So Strategies for Children applied for and won local funding, and MPIT was born.
The project funders to date are:
Boston Opportunity Agenda
The Boston Foundation
Commonwealth Children’s Fund
Gisela B. Hogan Foundation
The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, and
United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley
Since securing project funding, Massachusetts has been invited by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative to join the other grantees in a national learning network. This will be a unique opportunity to learn about best practices from other states and national experts, which will enable us to bring innovative ideas to Massachusetts.
What are MPIT’s next steps?
First, we want to collect input from families with young children about their experience accessing programs and services. This will help strengthen our state’s evolving Birth-5 plan (a.k.a. the Preschool Development Grant B-5).
We also want to make connections. Massachusetts is home to many strong programs for young children, including child care, home visiting, and mental health supports. But these programs are often “siloed” by state agency, funding stream, and eligibility criteria. And these siloes can mean that families experience a range of emotions while searching for help: joy and relief, but also confusion and frustration.
To engage and hear from families, we’re planning community forums in Greater Boston and Western Massachusetts as well as a webinar for people who cannot make the forums. We’ll also send surveys to families and service providers.
This work will create a first-of-its-kind collaboration between government and non-governmental stakeholders, and it will connect early education and health experts.
We hope to vastly improve infants’ and toddlers’ access to high-quality programs and services and create more positive experiences that meet families’ needs and expectations.
Stay tuned for updates and announcements. And for additional information, contact project manager Titus DosRemedios at firstname.lastname@example.org.