February 1, 2018 – The first meeting of this year’s Maine’s Children’s Caucus focused on early childhood systems in other states. Co-chairs Senator Rebecca Millett and Representative Matt Pouliot welcomed guest speakers Kristin Bernhard with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and Julie Poppe with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) .
Maine Legislators learned about Bright from the Start, Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning. Bright from the Start is responsible for meeting the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families.
Ms. Bernhard, the Deputy Commissioner for System Reform in Georgia, gave an overview of how Georgia organizes their early learning system. She shared how Georgia lawmakers worked with the Department to improve services for their youngest children. Click here to access the Georgia presentation.
Ms. Bernhard also spoke about a mental health report that was recently released by Georgia’s Governor. The report offers eight recommendations that focus on critical areas of behavioral health needs including suicide prevention and school-based mental health. As a result, Governor Deal recommended that $22 million will be invested in children’s mental health. A part of that investment ($8 million) will go towards an improvement plan for children ages 0-4 that includes the following promotion and prevention strategies:
- Screening and assessment in a range of child-serving settings
- Integration of behavioral health into primary care settings
- Mental health consultation in early care and education
- Family strengthening and parent skills training
- Enhanced home visiting through increased focus on social and emotional well-being
Ms. Poppe discussed how NCSL can assist members with research and information related to children and families. For example, state policymakers can ensure that each student has access to an effective “starting position” through state policies and practices that support high-quality early learning opportunities. More information can be found here.