Transforming the Vermont Early Childhood Professional Development System
The Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act was reauthorized for the first time in 18 years in 2014. In a historic re-envisioning of this critical federal funding source for child care subsidies and child care quality improvement in states, the new law and guidance expressed a clear focus on a two generation approach to support economic self-sufficiency for low-income families while also supporting healthy development and school readiness for children. One of the stated purposes of the Act is to improve the overall quality of child care programs in states as a means of improving outcomes for children. In recognition of research that identifies the qualifications, knowledge and competence of professionals in child care settings as the aspect of quality that most impacts child outcomes, one of the key features of the new law focuses on training and professional development of the child care workforce and specifically identifies research-informed professional development activities as allowable for funding under the increased quality set-asides required by the law. Funding from CCDBG supports those aspects of Vermont’s system of professional development for early care and learning and afterschool professionals administered by the Child Development Division (CDD) in the Department for Children and Families (DCF).
In guidance to states about implementation of the CCDBG Act of 2014, the federal Office of Child Care strongly advocated that states incorporate recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council’s (NRC) 2015 publication Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation into their Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) State Plans. After consultation with the Vermont Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (VACCRRA) and the Professional Preparation and Development (PPD) Subcommittee of the Building Bright Futures Statewide Advisory Council on Early Childhood (BBF SAC), CDD included a goal in Vermont’s CCDF State Plan (released in January 2016) that states:
By January 1, 2017, CDD will launch a transformed system of training and professional development that is aligned with and incorporates established standards for programs and professionals in Vermont. We seek to enhance coordination among and within components of the system and increase consistent access to high quality, locally available learning opportunities that strengthen foundational knowledge and competencies while also supporting growth along identified career pathways toward expanding knowledge and competence and possibilities for career advancement.
This goal is based on the NRC report recommendations as well as an examination of Vermont’s existing service delivery system and investments in workforce development in relation to our shared aspirations for that system.
In working toward the goal, CDD is combining CCDF funds from several current agreements supporting the systemic delivery of professional development for the early care and learning workforce to create a competitive and integrated application for initial funding for the Vermont Early Childhood Professional Development System (VT ECPDS) including the Northern Lights Career Development Center and comprehensive, coordinated Regional Professional Development Opportunities (RDPO).
The catalyst for creating a competitive application is procurement requirements in Vermont state government that are designed to “ensure a fair and open bidding process for the selection of vendors” that guards against favoritism or imprudent spending, ensures that results meet identified needs and achieve desired outcomes, and protects the interests of the State and its taxpayers.
As part of this process, CDD convened an ad hoc workgroup to examine research into best practice and make recommendations regarding essential and desired elements of an effective delivery system in Vermont. The group included professionals working in family child care homes and centers and other stakeholders. This envisioning group worked over two months and delivered recommendations to CDD in late April. (Details and recommendations are included in Attachment I)
This competition represents an unprecedented opportunity for community partners, stakeholders and early childhood professionals to work together to design and implement a coordinated approach to a transformed system expressed in a collaborative, innovative application. Vermont is ready for a transformed system that closes the gap between what we know about adult learning and professional growth and what we do to envision and commit to an ECPDS that “improves the quality of professional practice, the quality of the practice environment, and the status and well-being of the workforce – and ultimately, outcomes for children.”
We are grateful for the contributions of all of our public and private partners in Vermont’s early childhood community for working with us to support forward momentum
Reeva Murphy Ken Schatz
Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner
Child Development Division Department for Children and Families