“A child is born in Massachusetts… then what happens?”
That’s the important question that the new website EC 101 tries to answer for parents, providers, policymakers, and philanthropists who want to promote healthy childhood development across Massachusetts by mapping out the state’s many early childhood programs and resources.
Ideally, Brian Gold says, the answer to What happens after a child is born? should be that children “grow and thrive.” Gold is the executive director of the Massachusetts Early Childhood Funder Collaborative, a group of individuals and foundations that worked with the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy to create EC 101 (short for Early Childhood 101).
But Gold — as a professional, a former foster parent, and the father of a 15-month-old child — sees a clear need for more clarity.
To create this clarity, EC 101’s goal is to tame the state’s complex early childhood system by creating “a visual, accessible format that allows for clear understanding of the current conditions of the early childhood landscape.”
To do this, the website draws on feedback from parents, stakeholders, and experts as well as on state and national research to create an interactive tool that’s full of information. The website can also be translated into multiple languages, everything from Albanian and Chinese to Thai and Yiddish.
An EC 101 webinar is posted above.
One important distinction that EC 101 makes is that there are early childhood systems – and there’s a “non-system.”
The systems include the “services, programs, and professionals that families and children interact with in the first five years of life” in four different areas that can be explored on the website. These areas are:
• education and care, and
The early childhood “non-system” includes gaps and misalignments that make it hard for families to access what they need.
As EC 101’s website explains, “During pregnancy, families are usually looked after by their primary care doctor or women’s health specialist as they navigate the childbearing experience. However, once that child enters the world, families are on their own to learn new skills and navigate new experiences every day. This includes balancing children and career, which can be a significant stressor for parents.”
“Many of the services that families and children engage with are connected to multiple systems. However, this does not mean that the systems themselves interact in reality. In fact, many services for young children and their families operate in isolation from each other.”
The result is, “ineffectiveness, inefficiency, and significant equity issues. Families who possess social capital and strong networks to navigate various systems are able to access what they need, when they need it; families without these advantages may have significant challenges.”
In addition to exploring systems and non-systems, EC 101 lets users chronologically “Explore the journeys that Massachusetts families and young children take through the first 5 years of life, and the various systems they interact with along the way.”
The website also has a useful glossary that explains terms like Early Head Start, subsidized child care, and early intervention. There’s also information on related state agencies and on developmental milestones.
A link called “Our Vision” describes the comprehensive system that Massachusetts could have and includes a “Get Involved!” section that shares information on advocacy efforts, legislative work, business support for early childhood, and philanthropic opportunities. There’s even a place to provide feedback about the website to help it grow.
Please explore the website and share it with parents, providers, and other stakeholders. And fill out this survey about how you might use EC 101 or to share any feedback you have.
The more that everyone knows about early childhood, the better off young children in Massachusetts will be.