Delaware: Making Progress on Consolidating and Aligning Early Childhood Services
After over a decade of studies and advocacy for more efficient, streamlined early childhood services, Delaware is making significant progress in consolidating its oversight and governance.
As advocates and experts have noted, the government bodies that oversee early childhood issues in Delaware is fragmented, at best. At one time, there were 11 divisions (now we have 8) related to early childhood education spread across three government agencies: the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families—leading to an inefficient and complex system for families and professionals to navigate.
Calls for consolidation are not new. The Vision Coalition’s 10-year plan for education, Student Success 2025, called for greater consolidation and alignment in early learning governance. Specifically, “an aligned state governance structure to enable unified and efficient decision making.” Delawareans still think that holds true today, as we heard via the public feedback the administration received during the PDG strategic planning process, led by the Office of Early Learning and Early Childhood Council.
- Families often describe feeling discouraged, isolated, or lost when dealing with early learning bureaucracy. They instead turn to family, friends, and neighbors for “formal care” for their children, in the absence of realistic support.
- Professionals find the system difficult to navigate, especially with political, regulatory, and administrative obstacles in place. Greater compensation and deeper training are glaring needs. Last year, we suggested that local and national experts be engaged to develop a plan for consolidation.
Timeline: Delaware Early Childhood Governance Milestones
- Policy Matters working group recommends consolidating early learning governance
- Student Success 2025 plan recommends consolidated early childhood governance
- Vision Coalition Leadership Team makes detailed recommendations to Governor for consolidated governance
- SB187 passes moving OCCL to DOE as of July 1, 2020
- DHSS commits to moving CCDF quality dollars to DOE as of July 1, 2020
- GACEC recommends consolidation to Governor
- Vision Coalition recommends moving IDEA Part C 0-3 and quality dollars to DOE
- OCCL moves into DOE
- Quality dollars move to DOE
- DOE creates new Associate Secretary of Early Childhood Support position to oversee consolidated governance
- Provider data system and student registration and enrollment data system integration planning begins
- Stars Redesign underway
Thankfully, Delaware leaders are working on solutions.
In 2019, Governor Carney signed Senate Bill 187, a first step toward unified and streamlined early learning governance in Delaware. The bill connects the Delaware Stars for Early Success standards with the Office of Child Care Licensing regulations and removes the Office of Child Care Licensing from the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families and puts it within the Department of Education to facilitate that consistency.
And in November, Yvette Sanchez Fuentes became Delaware’s first-ever Associate Secretary for Early Childhood Support. This position, created by reallocating existing roles, oversees both the Office of Early Learning and the Office of Child Care Licensing.
What is under consideration next for streamlining and simplifying early childhood services in Delaware?
- Moving IDEA Part C (0-3) into DOE with IDEA Part B (3-5), as recommended.
- Implementing the full intent of SB187 “The Department of Education shall ensure that Delaware Stars for Early Success standards are consistent with the regulations of the Office of Child Care Licensing,” bringing Delaware into the group of states that have tiered licensure systems, where all licensed providers are rated.
- Aligning Early Learning Foundations with K-12 learning standards.
- Moving parts of child care policy and funding decisionmaking from Division of Social Services to the Department of Education.