July 2017 | ISSUE 34
This Early Childhood-LINC newsletter connects communities across the country as they build and strengthen systems to help children and families thrive. Click the box below and enter your email address in the Stay Informed box to sign up. 

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Using Data to Drive Change
Progress - and Disparities - in Birth Outcomes in Los Angeles
In early July, Los Angeles' radio station KPCC reported that more LA County babies are becoming born full-term and at normal weight . About 54 percent of babies were delivered at full term and normal weight in 2012 countywide, the latest year for which data is available. That's up from about 48 percent in 2007. For First 5 LA, the progress reflected in these findings is worth celebrating. As a funder of home visiting programs and other early childhood initiatives, and a partner with many others targeting birth outcomes directly, First 5 LA welcomes the news that more healthy births are taking place.
However, the study also showed continued disparities in these outcomes depending on mothers' race and ethnicity. Barbara Andrade DuBransky, director of family supports at First 5 LA, said that the agency will continue to focus on those disparities to improve birth outcomes.

Children's Data Network at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work conducted the study of birth term and weight in LA County. They found improvements across all demographic and racial/ethnic subgroups countywide, with improvements for most groups in most regions at the local level.

These gains may reflect the success of efforts in the county to increase access to prenatal care, encourage greater spacing between births, discourage smoking during pregnancy and increase the use of medical interventions known to reduce premature births. Children's Data Network expects that the outcomes may have continued to improve since 2012 with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act which, for example, further increased access to prenatal care and prenatal home visitation.

Andrade DuBransky noted that the racial and ethnic disparities in this study, combining two data points related to birth outcomes, appear less stark than they do in other analyses that only look at either low birth weight or pre-term birth. But these combined data still show that Black and Filipina women have poorer birth outcomes than other population groups.

As Andrade DuBransky explained, disparities for African-American women in particular have been persistent in multiple studies, even when controlling for predictors like health behaviors, having a social support system and accessing prenatal care. "College educated black women have poorer birth outcomes than white women with less than a high school education," said Andrade DuBransky. She attributes this difference to the stress of experiencing racism throughout one's life. "Racism really does impact people's bodies, and in this case it's affecting birth outcomes."

In partnership with the LA County Department of Public Health, First 5 LA will soon hold focus groups with Black mothers about their prenatal care and birth experiences, as part of a larger effort to focus on the groups that continue to have poorer birth outcomes and close those gaps.

Andrade DuBransky hopes to find ways for First 5 LA to support women, not just in the prenatal period but perhaps even pre-conception, to improve their chances of full-term, healthy births later on. "We don't expect that we're going to resolve racism," Andrade DuBransky said, "but we do need to keep thinking about how we can help people mitigate the stress that comes from racism."

Changing Systems & Practice to Improve Outcomes For Young Fathers, Their Children & Their Families
The Center for the Study of Social Policy's (CSSP) newest policy report highlights the need to support young fathers, and it provides recommendations on how systems can better focus on father involvement to increase positive outcomes for fathers, their children and families.

Collective Impact
Forming Strong Partnerships

Community Wealth Partners notes that meaningful partnerships across organizations is a strategy for changing systems. In this article, they walk through six steps to establish or strengthen partnerships .
Collaboration in Action
Partner for Systemic Change

The Partnerships for Early Childhood Development demonstrates how collaborative grant-making can result in innovative initiatives. It also shows how grantmakers can model collaboration as they promote cross-sector partnerships among grantees.

    • For providers. The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book provides a snapshot of how America's children and families are faring in every state and across the nation. Data indicate that unacceptable levels of children living in poverty and in high-poverty neighborhoods persist.  
    • For researchers. A new sharegraphic from Professor James Heckman shows how it pays off more when we invest in disadvantaged children from birth - not just preschool. High-quality, birth-to-five programs can deliver a 13% ROI which is substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds.
    • For policymakers and policy advocates.  2Gen Tools to Help Children and Families Thrive is intended to support Federal, State, and local program directors, policy experts, program specialists, research analysts, training and technical assistance staff, grants and budget analysts and other staff in how to embed a 2Gen approach in new funding opportunities; reviewing applications; designing programs, initiatives and priorities; developing policy guidance; and designing both internal professional development as well as providing technical assistance to grantees.
    • For funders. Stanford Social Innovation Review explores the funding concept of "inclusive prosperity," which seeks to create wealth at scale for the working poor.
    • For racial equity-focused system builders. An article from Community Wealth Partners investigates how structural racism in philanthropy impacts the grantmaking sector's ability to make the world a place where all people can thrive. 
Early Childhood-LINC is a learning and innovation network developed by and for communities.  Our mission is to support families and improve results for young children in communities across the country with a focus on accelerating the development of effective, integrated, local early childhood systems.  We are currently made up of 10 member communities across the country.