Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam Press Release:

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the completion of a statewide Needs Assessment and draft Strategic Plan that were produced through the $9.9 million federal Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) announced in January. The Needs Assessment identifies gaps in Virginia’s early childhood system and the draft Strategic Plan outlines the goals and priorities for unifying and strengthening early childhood care and education in Virginia. Both documents were developed through close collaboration with stakeholders, families, and state legislators to identify and address the unique needs of Virginia children ages birth to five. Both documents are now available online to solicit feedback to help shape the final version of the Strategic Plan, which will be released later this year.

“When children have access to quality, stable, affordable care during their earliest years, they build the foundation they need for future success, not only for themselves, but for their communities,” said Governor Northam. “These collaborative efforts will drive our continued work to strengthen the Commonwealth’s early childhood system and improve the health, safety, and academic readiness of all of our youngest learners.”

The draft Strategic Plan articulates an overarching vision that all children in the Commonwealth of Virginia will thrive with the support of accessible, quality, and affordable early childhood care and education delivered in safe and nurturing environments. This vision is guided by the principles that early childhood care and education should be equitable, family focused, high quality, strategic, and innovative.

“This draft plan builds on years of work with our partners in the General Assembly, the business community, state agencies, families, and local public and private early education providers,” said Gary Thomson, Chairman of the School Readiness Committee. “We can all agree that increasing access to quality early care and education is one of the best investments we can make in the workforce of the future.”

The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation has partnered with the Commonwealth to help collect and process feedback on this draft plan. All documents may be found at www.vecf.org and feedback on the draft Strategic Plan and its findings can be provided to info@vecf.org. The deadline for providing feedback is August 31, 2019.

“Assessing need, implementing plans to move children and families forward, and focusing on classroom quality are practices that Head Start has used for years and we know it takes collaboration,” said Shikee Franklin, Director of Head Start at Hampton Roads Community Action Program. “We are anticipating the opportunity to continue engaging with a diverse set of early childhood stakeholders, including families, providers, business leaders, and advocates to strengthen our early education system.”

The PDG B-5 is also supporting innovative community work in 11 regions and communities to help improve school readiness across the Commonwealth. These communities are building relationships among family day home, child care, Head Start and preschool programs, measuring and strengthening quality and seeking to improve access for families. In recognition of the incredible efforts of early childhood educators, Virginia is providing up to $1,500 for more than 3,000 participating early childhood educators.

“Some of the most creative and innovative solutions have come from the unique experiences and insights of local communities across Virginia,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “The upcoming regional listening sessions and comment period offer an important opportunity to receive more community input to further inform our efforts to ensure all Virginia children have the opportunity to enter school ready.”

As part of Governor Northam’s Executive Directive Four, the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services and the Superintendent of Public Instruction will lead a series of regional stakeholder listening sessions. These listening sessions will also provide an opportunity to share findings, discuss shared goals and strategies, and solicit feedback from stakeholders across the Commonwealth. Dates and locations for listening sessions can be found below.