Wolf Administration Releases Ready to Start Task Force Report with Priorities to Help the Youngest Pennsylvanians
September 26, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today issued its report, “Governor’s Ready to Start Task Force: A Four-Year Framework to Support Pennsylvania’s Infants and Toddlers,” for how best to care for the state’s youngest residents.
“The report fulfills the task force’s goal to identify programs and policies to help infants and children age zero to three get a strong, focused beginning toward a healthy, happy, fulfilling life here in the commonwealth,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “The Ready to Start Task Force report prioritizes the needs of our youngest children and the framework for how we provide those needs.”
Introduced in September 2018, Gov. Wolf’s Ready to Start Task Force is comprised of six co-chairs representing various segments of the early childhood advocacy and education communities with support from members of his cabinet. The group focused on developing the strategy to address health, human services, and education policy for infants and toddlers ages zero to three.
After a series of six listening sessions across the state, the task force’s initial findings were introduced in December 2018 and expanded upon with the seven priorities presented in today’s report:
1. Increase availability of high-quality childcare and home-visiting service slots.
2. Improve early intervention quality and streamlining to enhance availability, alignment, integration and coordination of services.
3. Increase recruitment, retention, development, support and training of early childhood education professionals.
4. Better utilize Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and state regulatory powers to address the risks to infants and toddlers posed by harmful environmental contaminants, including lead.
5. Promote education, engagement, and support of parents and families as children’s first teachers.
6. Improve information, outreach, and access to services.
7. Promote sustainable systems of care to support the health and well-being of all children and women of child-bearing age.
With these priorities established, the governor’s office will now create a cross-sector Ready to Start workgroup comprised of task force members, cabinet members, and external stakeholders. The workgroup, which will meet monthly, will be responsible for establishing measurable goals and ensuring progress on the framework priorities and recommendations outlined in the report. The workgroup’s initial report is due to the governor on December 1.
“Research shows that a child’s brain develops faster in the first three years than at any later period in life, building the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health,” said Kari King, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “The Wolf Administration is an invaluable partner in helping set Pennsylvania’s youngest children on a path for future success in school and life. We look forward to continuing to advance our shared goal of expanding access to high-quality programs for infants, toddlers, and their families.”
“The early childhood years are just as important for children with disabilities and developmental delays as they are for all children,” said Sherri Landis, Executive Director of the Arc of PA. “From the time a baby is born, the brain is developing critical learning patterns. The Arc of Pennsylvania was honored to participate on the Ready to Start Task Force and we are proud of the findings and recommendations of the report and the impact it will have on the infants and toddlers.”
Read the full report.