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Rigorous Inquiries into Trends and Impacts of The Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga

Dec 26th 2022

The Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga County (ECA) was launched in 2015 to advance a comprehensive, coordinated, well-funded system of high-quality, prenatal-to-age-five early childhood programs and supports. It is a diverse cross-section of community stakeholders with a shared vision that all young children in the county are healthy, thriving, and successful in school and life, and that all families of young children are supported in their parenting. A&O was engaged to examine two of teh ECA’s key areas of effort: funding support and parent engagement.

In 2022, we completed a study of recent early childhood funding levels and trends nationally, statewide, and within Onondaga County. The results serve as an updated baseline for monitoring future growth and to measure ECA’s advocacy impact.

Methods for this inquiry included a document review of past ECA reports, a literature review on early childhood funding levels and trends at state and national levels, interviews with ECA staff, and a spring 2022 funding survey of local anchor systems (nine key early childhood services and supports).

That report, Funding to Support A Strong Early Childhood System 2019–2021, detected an 8% decrease in funding for the early childhood ecosystem from 2019 through 2021 in Onondaga County. Several survey respondents noted that COVID-related challenges, closures, and lockdowns skewed service delivery data and, in some cases, resulted in underutilized services which could explain some of the funding decreases.

The second inquiry, also completed in 2022, examined the Parent Advisory Council (PAC), the primary mechanism for the ECA’s parent engagement work. A group of parents of young children meet regularly to discuss improving the early childhood system, leveraging their own experiences to provide the ECA with input about its initiatives.

The ECA funded this study to learn how the PAC was functioning, what impact the members have on ECA planning and decision-making, and if the parent participants perceive any value or benefit for themselves. ECA was also interested in gaining new knowledge and ideas from other parent engagement professionals and endeavors statewide and nationally to help inform their overall parent engagement strategy.

A thorough report, Parents in Partnership: An Initiative of the Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga County, offered valuable insights to the Alliance and strong recommendations and references to strengthen their early efforts.