Knowing your why: A DaSy perspective on An Unofficial Guide to the Why and How of State Early Childhood Data Systems

We know that you are being asked to join your state’s Early Childhood Integrated Data Systems (ECIDS) conversations or you are trying to work to get to the table for these conversations. That is why DaSy wants to provide resources to help you prepare for these statewide initiatives.

In August 2017, the Ounce of Prevention published An Unofficial Guide to the Why and How of State Early Childhood Data Systems, which outlines the process for states to get a start on their ECIDS. While there is difference terminology used by this advocacy organization (e.g., words like unified instead of integrated), the overall message is consistent with the federal agencies and national technical assistance centers. States need ECIDS to reach their goals of providing high-quality services to children and families. The report does a nice job of summarizing the benefits and challenges of states working to create an ECIDS.

Here we highlight some useful resources for getting started with ECIDS, and we identify some important capacity concerns identified in the report.

Knowing your “Why?”

Each state starts at a different place. Despite the fact that all states want to provide incredible services to the children and families that they serve, the way that data can support this work is often hard to articulate. As comedian Michael Jr. states in a YouTube video entitled Know Your Why, “When you know your why, you have options on what your what can be.” Do you know why your state wants an ECIDS? Do you know why you want to include your Part C and 619 data in the ECIDS? If not, check out the DaSy Framework: Purpose & Vision section for ideas and resources.

Why is it so hard to get started?

Two areas often have states struggle to get started. One, where to begin. The idea of starting with questions may not be new, but the report highlights the use of researchers to help create a statewide research agenda. Another place to start could be the DaSy Critical Questions About Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. No need to start from scratch when other states have paved the way and you can customize them to meet your unique needs. As a stakeholder, you should come prepared with your questions that are relevant to your program needs.

The second relates to matters of privacy and confidentiality, the Ounce report highlights the role of the attorneys and their potential lack of expertise in data privacy. Fortunately, there are centers like DaSy and the Privacy Technical Assistance Center that can help states develop the agreements and work with the attorneys to make the ECIDS a reality. The report highlights the difference between aggregate and disaggregate uses of data, privacy, security, and data retention.

Does your state have the capacity to do the work?

State staff are already stretched thin working to implement programs and new states initiatives. So how does anyone expect state staff to have the capacity to support early childhood data systems? To address this challenge, the report highlights the needs to build capacity to integrate data across a state. It cannot be the responsibility of one person, but multiple players. You may be one of them! The ounce report identifies six kinds of capacity for states to consider:

  1. Capacity to continue producing data
  2. Capacity for policymakers to analyze data
  3. Research capacity
  4. Advocacy capacity
  5. Community-level capacity
  6. And provider- level capacity

Have you assessed your state’s capacity? To learn more about each kind of capacity, we highly recommend that you read An Unofficial Guide to the Why and How of State Early Childhood Data Systems. Have additional questions for clarification? Contact DaSy for technical assistance.