About the Maine Children’s Growth Council
Our VISION for Maine’s Youngest Children
By 2020, Maine will provide all young children and their families with access to a high-quality early childhood comprehensive system that lays a strong foundation for children’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical development; supports healthy families; and prepares young children for success in school and as Maine’s future workforce.
The Maine Children’s Growth Council was established in statute in 2008. Charged to achieve sustainable social and financial investments in the healthy development of Maine’s young children and their families, the Children’s Growth Council is working with a diverse group of legislators, business leaders, providers, parents, researchers, community leaders and government officials to implement the plan for a unified, statewide early childhood services system.
- Review and address recommendations of legislative studies and advisory committees regarding young children and the Children’s Cabinet (when operable);
- Adopt and update a long-term plan for investment in healthy development of young children that will achieve sustainable social and financial investment in the healthy development of young children and their families;
- Monitor and evaluate progress in accomplishing the plan’s vision, goals, and performance indicators.
- Consult and coordinate with the public, the Children’s Cabinet, DOE, DHHS, advocates, community agencies, and providers of early care and education and services to families;
Invest Early for 2020, Building the Foundation for Maine’s Future, published in 2012, is the Council’s most recent state plan. It contains the Council’s current goals, objectives, and priorities being addressed by Council committees. Two historical documents: Invest Early in Maine, A Working Plan for Humane Early Childhood Systems published in 2006, revised in 2007 and in 2008 by the Council’s founding body, the Task Force on Early Childhood, provides detailed background perspective and information, much of which remains pertinent to ongoing planning for Maine’s comprehensive early childhood system.
The Council’s membership is very large, the purpose of which is to be inclusive and representative of the field of early childhood–an achievable feat in a small state. When we say we are the “voice” of early childhood it behooves us to include representatives of the early childhood system at the proverbial “table” and to give voice to anyone who is concerned about investing in early childhood. The committee structure exists to enable the Council to be even more inclusive of the many groups, organizations, providers, policymakers, and programs who support young children and their families.
PRINCIPLES AND PROCEDURES
The Children’s Growth Council uses the Future Search Principles as a guide to its work. They are: (1) get the whole system in the room; (2) think globally, act locally; (3) put common ground and future focus front and center; and (4) encourage self-management and responsibility.
Decision making among Council members is made through consensus. Decisions are generally made by the Council as a result of a recommendation from Council committees. Before the Council can take a recommendation to the Governor or Legislature it is helpful for committees to engage in an analytical process once issues are identified. Committee members are asked to “pop” the issue.
(a) determine whether the issue is a policy change and bring forth a problem statement with supporting data and a suggested course of action (P),
(b) determine if it is an opportunity for action and provide a summary of the action with timeframe and a suggested course of action (O) or
(c) determine if it is a program issue and give the Council a problem statement, data, and suggested course of action (P). Further analysis of program issues is warranted to determine if the issue can be resolved at the program level or will also require a policy change.
Much has been accomplished since 2008 and can be found in the materials of the Council on this website. Our most detailed work takes place in Council’s committees: Communication, Early Learning & Development, Health Accountability, Family, Sustainability, and Professional Development Accountability Team. Visit the Committee pages to learn about their focus, meeting schedule, and activities. Remember, the committee process is open to the public; you, too can participate without being an official member of the Council. Contact us for more information, or just attend one of the meetings and express your interest.
A quick glance of the Accomplishments of the Council as of 2011 can be found in Invest Early, 2020; earlier accomplishments are outlined in Invest Early 2006, 2007, 2008. The council’s history of Accomplishments is an ongoing list that will be added to the website during the summer, 2014.
It is never easy to capture the true origins of an organization comprised of such committed individuals with both a lofty vision and myriad perspectives. Credit is difficult to assign and much has been accomplished prior to current events. Our gratitude and appreciation goes to all whose hard work and dedication predates the Council. The Council’s current history was born out of the combined efforts of early childhood advocates, providers, policymakers and government officials who met for several years as the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet Task Force on Early Childhood. Their leadership led to a legislative study of the early childhood system and the creation of the Commission to Develop a Strategic Priorities Plan for Maine’s Young Children in 2007. It was the Commission’s recommendation and the work of the Transition Committee of the Task Force and Legislative leadership that formed the Council and lead to the statute. The Council’s first meeting was held in January, 2009.
Grant and Sponsor History: The Task Force and later the Council was sponsored and supported by the Maine DHHS Early Childhood Initiative. Funding and leadership was provided by the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) Grant from 2003-2010.
Awarded in 2003 by the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the ECCS grant gave Maine’s Title V program the impetus to use its leadership and convening powers for early childhood system planning. Of principle concern was the integration of early childhood health issues with the ongoing discussions taking place within the early care and education sector. As a result, the Council combined into its earliest priorities and systems planning: access to health care and medical homes, socio-emotional development and mental health, early care and education, parenting education, and family support that better meet the needs of young children and their families. Unlike other states, Maine was fortunate to have access to the ECCS grant for use by the Council.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) supported the development of State Advisory Councils which helped to fund the work of the Council for three years (2010-2013). ARRA’s goals or Maine’s State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care for children from birth to school entry was “to lead the development or enhancement of a high-quality, comprehensive system of early childhood development and care that ensures statewide coordination and collaboration among the wide range of early childhood programs and services in the State, including child care, Head Start, IDEA preschool and infants and families programs, and pre-kindergarten programs and services.”
Parallel to the Council’s early development was considerable priority attention growing for a nationwide early childhood investment movement. Many states and national organizations began a similar track to Maine’s experience. The Maine Governor’s Economic Summit on Early Childhood in 2007,often described as the “AHA moment” for many business and education leaders, had the support of the National Governor’s Association. The Partnership for America’s Economic Success/PEW Charitable Trusts, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the United Ways of Maine supported regional summits throughout Maine in 2008-9. The NGA and PAES/PEW were among the first “unusual voices” and national leadership for early childhood that led to Maine’s actions. The Maine Governor’s Business Roundtable on Early Childhood Investment (BRECI) met throughout 2008 and issued its report and recommendations to the Governor the following year.
Of significance to the Council’s history was the 2000 release of From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, Jack Shonkoff and D.A. Phillips eds. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.) which introduced much of the early childhood neuroscience to many Mainers. Dr. Shonkoff’s repeated visits to Maine and support of the developing work was vital to the Council’s success.
In more recent years, several statewide organizations were invaluable in their support for early childhood and the work of the Council. The Maine Development Foundation (MDF) served as the Council’s fiscal sponsor for grants, provided leadership of the Council from 2011-2013, and issued a landmark early childhood report. In July 2010, in partnership with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, MDF released Making Maine Work: Critical Investments for the Maine Economy–based on a comprehensive action plan for improving productivity, growing the economy and providing a higher quality of life for all Maine people. In January 2012, MDF and the Chamber released the third in the series of publications about the plan: Making Maine Work: Investment in Young Children = Real Economic Development. In 2011 thanks to the work of the Early Childhood Initiative and the Council, the Maine Economic Growth Council which was established by statute in 1993 to develop a long-range economic growth plan for the state, included 4th grade reading scores in its performance measures. This was a landmark decision for the early childhood community since 4th grade reading scores are a benchmark for the success of early childhood investment. In Fall 2009 the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the Margaret Chase Smith Library (housed at the University of Maine/Orono) devoted an entire issue to Early Childhood—a ground-breaking publication. Several Council members were contributing authors; others were donors (The Bingham Program, Maine Children’s Trust, and United Ways of Maine). Other organizations, many of whom are represented in Council membership, led the way for early childhood investment with publications, public hearings, research and advocacy (Maine Children’s Alliance, Maine Children’s Trust, United Ways of Maine, The Bingham Program, The Sam L. Cohen Foundation, Fight Crime Invest in Kids/America’s Edge/Mission Readiness, Educare Central Maine, and others. From 2010-2012, the Council worked to design public/private partnerships that would engage Maine business leaders in the support of early childhood investment. This was a priority recommendation of the Council and BRECI. After much work by past and present Council members, the Maine Early Learning Investment Group held its first meeting in January 2012.
We apologize for the omission of the names and deeds of many dedicated individuals, organizations and state administrations who worked tirelessly throughout history to respond to the needs of Maine’s young children and their families. The following represents just a few of the key moments in the life of the Maine Children’s Growth Council.
1995 Governor’s Children’s Cabinet established by Executive Order, in statute in 1999
2003 Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant Award establishing the Early Childhood Initiative
2004 Future Search Statewide Conference to examine early childhood systems
2005 Governor’s Children Cabinet convenes Task Force on Early Childhood
2007 Governor’s Economic Summit on Early Childhood
2007 Study Committee established by 123rd Legislature: Commission to Develop a Strategic Priorities Plan for Maine’s Young Children
2008 Maine Children’s Growth Council developed in statute
2009 Governor’s Business Roundtable on Early Childhood Investment (BRECI) Report
2009 Maine Children’s Growth Council first meeting, January
2009 Summer/Fall, Vol. 18, No. 1, Maine Policy Review, a joint publication of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the Margaret Chase Smith Library devotes an entire issue to Early Childhood
2010 ARRA grant for State Early Childhood Advisory Council awarded for Council
2012 Maine Development Foundation and State Chamber of Commerce release Making Maine Work report, Investment in Young Children = Real Economic Development
2012 Maine Early Learning Investment Group established, priority recommendation of Council and BRECI
2014 NEW Council website