State Early Childhood Systems

ICF International has expertise supporting states in building, integrating, and evaluating their early childhood systems and  interrelated components.



In America, most states have a least four different agencies administering various aspects of their early care and education services for children from birth to age five and their families. States are engaged in efforts to improve these services through effective and coordinated service management and delivery, often referred to as “systems building.” State systems building includes an examination of the needs of children within the context of family and community and must recognize the multifaceted and interconnected functions, processes, and content areas that impact child and family outcomes.

Systems-building efforts are influenced by the political, fiscal, and public engagement context as well. While much has been written about models, approaches, and design of systems, the work remains complex, the processes dynamic, and the structural alignment ever-changing. Challenges for state policymakers and legislators in their systems-building efforts include:

  • Bridging the differences between child care, early learning, work supports, and parent empowerment
  • Aligning services and programs to ease family participation and improve outcomes
  • Prioritizing “at-risk” children versus serving all families
  • Linking quality improvement efforts with professional development systems and support

ICF approaches systems building as a way of thinking, rather than a series of step-by-step actions that lead to a single, static, guaranteed outcome. We understand that systems evolve over time through evaluation processes that examine operational objectives, performance measures, changes in the target population, and the impact of the system itself on child and family outcomes.


Related Resources

  • Change management and organizational development
  • Data analysis and needs assessment
  • Fiscal mapping
  • Initiative planning and implementation
  • Program evaluation
  • Strategic planning
  • Subject matter expertise
  • Project

    National Child Care Information Center (NCCIC)

    ICF has operated the National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center (NCCIC) since 1994, providing broad information on early and school age care and education through its website, toll-free line, and email service on behalf of the Office of Child Care.

  • Project

    Quality Rating and Improvement System Development and Implementation

    ICF works closely with the District of Columbia's Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to redesign a system of quality improvement for child care providers, which integrates an early childhood workforce professional development system, District-wide licensing regulations, and subsidy reimbursement.

  • Project

    West Virginia Professional Development Program for Infant/Toddler Caregivers

    ICF developed a comprehensive professional training program for caregivers of infants and toddlers in West Virginia, which standardizes and enhances current state training offerings in early childhood program settings with a goal to improve overall quality of infant and toddler care statewide.

Contact Info

info [at] icfi [dot] com

+1.703.934.3603 or +1.800.532.4783

9300 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22031-1207 USA

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