In 2008, Governor Haley Barbour established the State Early Childhood Advisory Council (SECAC) of Mississippi to develop a strategic plan to coordinate efforts, programs, and resources supporting children birth to five years old and to identify opportunities for and barriers to collaboration and coordination among programs and agencies.
In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature passed Senate Bill No. 2395 requiring SECAC to:
- Assist the state Department of Education with the implementation of the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013;
- Ensure coordination among the various agencies and programs serving preschool children in order to support school districts’ efforts to achieve the goal of school readiness;
- Facilitate communication, cooperation, and maximum use of resources and promote high standards for all programs serving preschool children and their families in Mississippi;
- Serve as the designated council for early childhood education and care pursuant to federal Public Law 110-134; and
- Carry out any responsibilities assigned to SECAC by the governor and/or by applicable federal law.
In June of 2014, SECAC approved six goals defining its focus and efforts:
Goal 1: Improve and expand use of statewide early childhood standards that are aligned with K-3 standards and serve as the basis for all EC (early childhood) programs in Mississippi.
Goal 2: Revise and expand use of state’s QRS system at scale to provide centers the assistance they need to promote quality improvements statewide and improve access to quality EC programs for high-needs children.
Goal 3: Promote consistent and high-quality professional development opportunities for all Mississippi EC educators to assist with career planning and improve instruction for EC programs.
Goal 4: Improve knowledge among early elementary teachers, EC programs, parents, and policymakers on the implications for child outcomes on the statewide kindergarten assessment.
Goal 5: Integrate family and community engagement and parenting support throughout the EC system.
Goal 6: Build a robust EC data system that will collect key data to help inform decisions and support continuous improvement of Mississippi’s EC system.
Recognizing the need to coordinate the work of all stakeholders to advance SECAC’s six goals, in 2015 the council created a committee structure aligned with the Framework for Early Childhood Systems developed by the BUILD Initiative’s Early Childhood Systems Work Group (ECSWG) that posits that a comprehensive early childhood system requires that coordinated services are offered across the early learning, health, and family support sectors. Each of the SECAC six goals can be mapped back to the following three committees:
Early Care and Learning
The Early Learning and Care Committee works to promote quality early child education experiences for all of Mississippi’s children by ensuring that all child care and early learning programs can provide a healthy, safe, and nurturing environment. The Early Care and Learning Committee works to develop a common understanding of quality in early childhood education and investigates the supports needed for Mississippi’s early childhood programs to achieve quality. The committee is focused on understanding the different types of programs available to children ages birth through eight years old and on ensuring that gaps and duplication of services are addressed so that the system is comprehensive and available to all children across the state.
Health, Mental Health, and Nutrition
The Health, Mental Health, and Nutrition Committee works to explore best practices and indicators to aid parents, children, and providers to reach their maximum potential through aligned resources, services, and policies in the core areas of health, mental health, nutrition, safety, and physical health. The Health, Mental Health, and Nutrition Committee aims to improve the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of children and their families by improved communication and coordination of health, safety, and nutrition programs and services. The committee is focused on identifying the full scope of services available to children in the areas of health, mental health, and nutrition as well as increasing parental engagement and involvement in the daily lives of children.
The Family Support Committee works to promote an integrated network of community-based resources and services that strengthen practices that foster stability of families and the healthy development of children. The Family Support Committee seeks to develop a common understanding of “family support” across all early childhood contexts in the state and is focused on identifying innovative solutions for communications and family engagement to improve access to information and participation in services. The committee also looks to reduce gaps and duplication of family support services to improve service delivery and enhance the state’s capacity to support children’s well-being.