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Webinar Series – What Every Policy Maker Should Know About Early Childhood Education: Dr. Cynthia Osborne on the Prennatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap

San Francisco is on the precipice of some very exciting advancements in early childhood. Prop C, and the initiatives that preceded it indicated a huge public investment in early childhood. This Webinar series, What Every Policy Maker Should Know About Early Childhood Education explores Early Childhood Education research and case studies as shifts come to San Francisco early education funding.

Webinar 1: Dr. Steven Barnett on San Francisco’s Path Less Traveled | Webinar 2: Dr. Yoonjeon Kim and Dr. Caitlin McLean on Building a Highly Qualified, Well-Compensated Early Educator Workforce | Webinar 3: Dr. Cynthia Osborne on the Prennatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap


Webinar 3: Dr. Cynthia Osborne on the Prennatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap

Watch: What Every Policy Maker Should Know About Early Childhood Education: Dr. Cynthia Osborne on the Prennatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap

Download: Webinar 3 Slide Presentation


Dr. Cynthia Osborne is the founder and director of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) and its national Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, home of the 50-state Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap and the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Clearinghouse. She joined the faculty of LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin in 2005 and has served as the associate dean for academic strategies for the last 3-1/2 years.

In the third webinar of our series on What Every Policy Maker Should Know About Early Childhood Education Dr. Osborne presents key findings from the Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap which provides guidance to state leaders on the most effective investments states can make to ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive from the start. Grounded in the science of the developing child and based on comprehensive reviews of the most rigorous evidence available, the Roadmap provides detailed information on policies and strategies that foster the nurturing environments infants and toddlers need and that reduce longstanding disparities in opportunities and outcomes among racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic statuses.


State Policy and Strategy Recommendations

Research is clear about the conditions that set infants and toddlers up to succeed. These conditions include family access to needed resources, sufficient household resources, parents able to work, healthy and equitable births, parental health and emotional well-being, nurturing and responsive child-parent relationships, nurturing and responsive child care in safe settings, and optimal child health and development. Dr. Osborne identifies five policies and six  strategies that effectively support these conditions for families:


  1. Expanded Income Eligibility for Health Insurance
  2. Reduced Administrative Burden for SNAP
  3. Paid Family Leave
  4. State Minimum Wage
  5. State Earned Income Tax Credit


  1. Comprehensive Screening and Connection Programs
  2. Child Care Subsidies
  3. Group Prenatal Care
  4. Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs
  5. Early Headstart
  6. Early Intervention Services


A Closer Look at California

Unfortunately, the 11 effective solutions are not implemented similarly across all states, leaving children and families across the US with a patchwork of benefits and unequal outcomes. While California is one of the only states in the US to have fully implemented the five effective policies and the state is also a leader across many of the effective strategies, there is still much room for growth and improvement. Dr Osborne explains, “For the most part California is implementing these strategies but because…the need is so great across the state, usually only a fraction of children who could benefit from these programs are actually receiving the programs.” For example,  California is one of three states that funds all of the evidence-based comprehensive screening and connection programs (Family Connects, DULCE, and Healthy Steps) but only a tiny fraction of those eligible for the programs are able to access them. The Family Connects program is serving only 0.2% of eligible families, or approximately 500 families across the entire state.  Similarly, California has the largest federal funding allotment for Evidence-Based Home Visiting programs but only 2.9% of eligible children under age 3 actually had access to the programs in 2021.


What Can City Policymakers Do to Support State and National Goals?

Dr. Osborne draws a distinction between policies and strategies that create a direct impact on family resources and budget versus “in-kind” programs that create more of an indirect impact and often focus on building family skills and capacity. “We know that if we can increase the resources in a household that will reduce the stressors in the household and it allows the family to increase their other capacities. If you are struggling to figure out whether you’re going to pay the rent, or eat, or keep the lights on, it’s really hard to have someone come in and tell you how to read with your child.” Dr. Osborne believes that policymakers have to provide a baseline level of funding for families with children through programs like Paid Family Leave and Earned Income Tax Credits to reduce the stressors in households so that targeted interventions and capacity building programs can be impactful. “Sometimes just trying to do capacity building programs without addressing basic needs, it’s as if you’re trying to fix folks instead of supporting them. We need to really think about how we can build up the resources and the capacity of families simultaneously.”

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