Why does Missouri need Early Connections?

Early Connections was designed to ensure coordination and collaboration between Missouri’s child-serving agencies for a more unified system for children birth through age five. A comprehensive needs assessment in 2019 resulted in families telling us they do not know what resources are available or where to go to find services for their children. Professionals told us Missouri’s system is fragmented, creating a barrier for families to be engaged in their child’s health and development.

Four themes emerged from the needs assessment (2019) as the rationale for forming Early Connections:

  1. The Early Care & Education (ECE) system in Missouri lacks a coordinated referral and enrollment process for families to enter the system.
  2. There are no warm “hand-offs” to refer or transition families to other programs.
  3. There are duplicated efforts and missed service opportunities for families, especially Missouri’s most vulnerable children (e.g., children with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, homeless, experiencing trauma or mental health issues, children with English as a second language, in foster care, or experiencing abuse or neglect)
  4. Professional development activities are not shared across programs, resulting in training in important topics such as trauma-informed care, developmental milestones, and social-emotional not being accessible to the entire birth to five community.

How is Early Connections funded?

Early Connections is funded by the Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five.

What is the Preschool Development Grant?

On December 23, 2019, Governor Parson announced that the State of Missouri received a $33.5 million grant aimed at coordinating a more effective, high-quality early learning system that better prepares Missouri children for success. “This is great news for our state that will allow our agencies and programs to come together and focus on the same goals to better serve communities across Missouri,” Governor Parson said.

The Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5) provides funding over three years to implement an interagency effort to provide regional access to coordinated early childhood services to better meet family’s needs, enhance and streamline training opportunities for ECE professionals, and improve systems to better inform decision-making about early learning.