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Defining a family-centric early childhood system: Conversation starters on building more equitable early childhood systems


Early childhood systems builders in states and communities across the country are working hard to create cross-sector early childhood systems that are equitable, supportive, accessible, and of high quality for all children and families. This is a complex challenge that requires systems builders to first understand and adopt the perspectives of the children and families who navigate their system, and then adapt their mental model of what makes an early childhood system successful to this perspective. That is, rather than conceptualizing their system in terms of the programs it offers, the funding streams it includes, the people it reaches, and the long-term outcomes it produces, they must also begin to define their system in terms of how it feels to those it is designed to serve. We have observed that, with very few exceptions, the current approach to defining and measuring early childhood systems does not adequately help systems builders make the shift toward focusing on families’ experiences. In this piece, we offer a framework for systems builders to co-define with families what it would mean for their system to be “family-centric.” In a companion piece, we highlight lessons learned from systems working to center families’ voices in their early childhood systems. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
United States

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