Building an Early Childhood Services System: Lessons from Abroad

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<p>Despite overwhelming evidence that experiences during the early childhood years contribute greatly to later health and educational attainment, the United States lacks a clearly articulated policy to address the needs of young children and their families during this crucial period.</p>
<p>The U.S., however, is not the only country to struggle with the direction of early childhood policy, according to <a href="/publications/fund-reports/2009/may/international-comparison-early-childhood-initiatives-services">An International Comparison of Early Childhood Initiatives: From Services to Systems</a>, a new Commonwealth Fund report by Neal Halfon, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues. England, Canada, and Australia all started with similarly fragmented early childhood services, and families in these countries are facing similar pressures resulting from long hours at work, irregular work schedules, and limited child care options.</p>
<p>In the report, Halfon, the founding director of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, and his team detail each country’s efforts to develop policies that they hope will produce lasting gains for their youngest citizens. The authors also consider the implications of these nations’ experiences for the development of early childhood policy in the U.S.</p>
<p>As the report shows, the building blocks for the early childhood system of the future are already emerging. Approaches that align strategies across multiple levels of government—local, state, and national—and that integrate health, education, and family support services are proving to be the most successful.</p>