The Colorado legislature passed a monumental bill during the 2021 session that approved the launch of a brand new state Department of Early Childhood in the Executive Branch. This makes Colorado one of a handful of states that has an entire agency dedicated to early childhood policies and programs. The development of this new agency offers Colorado a unique opportunity to address the pervasive challenge of siloed early childhood funding and programs that often frustrates early childhood providers and leaves families feeling defeated when attempting to navigate the convoluted pathways to receive necessary services for their children.
One of the major focus areas of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) transition advisory group is to build data and technology solutions that transform the family and provider experience from fragmentation to unification. A newly crafted comprehensive knowledge building strategy for CDEC informs a holistic approach to data and technology. The Colorado Lab’s Building Knowledge in Colorado’s New Department of Early Childhood: Recommendations for a Unified Early Childhood System lays out an approach to effectively support the early childhood system and allow the state to comprehensively understand which families are being served and how and where to address unmet needs.
At the request of Gary Community Ventures, Dr. Whitney LeBoeuf led development of the strategy. Dr. LeBoeuf is Director of Data Integration & Analytics for the Colorado Lab and serves as a member of the CDEC Transition Advisory Group and Co-Chair of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission’s Data Subcommittee. She also brings decades of early childhood policy research experience as well as data sharing partnership and strategy expertise through her work at Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy and her leadership launching the Linked Information Network of Colorado (LINC). The strategy was informed by the best thinking of national experts, other states that successfully developed early childhood data and technology strategies, and input from Colorado state agencies and stakeholders.
Among the key takeaways in the strategy is to focus first on USE, then DATA, then TECHNOLOGY.
“It’s tempting to jump right to technology when faced with knowledge gaps. Instead, it’s important to first determine what we need to know, the information we have and what’s missing, and who wants this information. Next, we can determine how to produce the data and only then can we identify technology solutions to get the right information to the right people.”
Read all recommendations on “how” to build knowledge to inform a holistic approach to data and technology in the Lab’s strategy report and see the just-released plan from the Transition Advisory Group and its recommendations on “what” the new department should focus on. To learn more about this effort, contact Dr. Whitney LeBoeuf.