TRACKING THE SURGE OF NEW YORK'S EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS AND POLICIESIn a marked sea change in social welfare policy, there’s a sudden new surge of policies and programs aimed at addressing behavioral and emotional problems among the city’s youngest children. This report describes, for the first time, the scope and depth of this fast-growing trend.
While many of the new initiatives we detail are in very early stages of implementation (we primarily looked at ones launched after Fiscal Year 2014) the overall picture is clear:
There’s an emerging awareness of the powerful developmental toll that poverty, family violence homelessness and other stresses take on very young children. There are also growing efforts at the city and state levels to address them.
While traditionally child welfare policies for babies and toddlers have focused on issues of physical health and safety, today social and emotional services are squarely on the radar.
Baby & Toddler Takeoff details the elements of this surge in policies and programs. Findings include:
• The current fiscal year, which began in July, will include at least $15 million in new city and state funds (allocated within the last two years) for a range of programs that address New York City children's social and emotional health. (See “Introduction.”)
• This marks a significant new investment in young children. In Fiscal Year 2013, Child Welfare Watch found that only $1.65 million of city and state funding were earmarked specifically for early childhood mental health.
• Now $7.4 million of the new funds are aimed at keeping very young children out of foster care by promoting healthy social and emotional development and providing early childhood mental health. (See “Therapies to Keep Young Kids Out of Foster Care.”)
• Meanwhile, hopes to baseline the city's longest-standing source of dedicated funds for early childhood mental health—which have been on the chopping block year to year—have been pinned to FY17. (See “Uncertain Funding for Early Childhood Mental Health Programs.”)
• Other initiatives include a major state-level overhaul of Medicaid that will, officials hope, increase screening, diagnosis and treatment of behavioral problems among toddlers. (See “High Hopes for Medicaid Reform.”)
• This July also sees the launch of many other new city- and state-funded programs using innovative approaches to address baby and toddler emotional and behavioral development. (See “Reaching Kids,” “Treating Trauma” and “Building a Workforce.”)
• Over the past few years, top officials with strong backgrounds in early childhood development have been appointed to oversee new efforts in the city’s Department of Health and Administration for Children’s Services. (See “Introduction” and “Support for New Families in Shelters.”)
• Despite the current energy and enthusiasm for early childhood services, the reach of most of the efforts we outline is modest and does not address the likely tens of thousands of young children who could benefit from such services.
• Many in the field add that without greater coordination and communication among initiatives, the impact of these efforts will be compromised.
The Center will follow up on the release of this online report with continued reporting in the months ahead on early childhood policies and programs in the city and state.