• Share this page
  • Send us an Email

State Highlights of Systems Innovations

A finger pointing to a system of gears

State Highlights
Systems Innovations

These State Highlights allow you to connect the core elements of systems building to successful practices across the country. Each profile includes background information, a description of technical assistance that was provided at the state level, and the results of the initiative.

States Menu

State Highlight

Great Starts Delaware logo

Delaware: Sustaining Success through Strategic Actions

Delaware has been strategically focused on giving its children “a great start in school and in life”. To make this vision a reality, Delaware’s strategic plan for a comprehensive early childhood system outlines four bold goals that address healthy children, high quality programs and professionals, an aligned birth through third grade system, and sustained system improvement—each of which is consistent with the Office of Child Care’s Outcomes.

Financing was secured through two major funding streams.  In 2011, Governor Markell proposed, and the General Assembly approved, an increase of 1/3, or $22 million, to shore up the rate structure for child care subsidy which was tied to levels in Stars, and to provide infrastructure and core support to the Stars program. In 2012, Delaware was awarded a $50 million Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge Grant (RttT-ELC).

Delaware Stars is a high priority for Delaware, as evidenced by both the state’s ambitious goals outlined in RttT-ELC and in the State's new early childhood strategic plan, “Sustaining Early Success: Delaware’s Strategic Plan for a Comprehensive Early Childhood System”, released in the spring of 2013. One of the state’s strategic goals that “all Delaware children will have access to high-quality early childhood programs and professionals” is accomplished by significantly increasing participation in Delaware Stars, particularly for programs that serve high needs children.

New initiatives providing financial incentives for programs and the workforce are aimed at increasing participation in Stars and rewarding and stabilizing a high quality workforce. Through the state’s child care assistance program, known as Purchase of Care, Star 3, 4, and 5 Level programs receive significant additional subsidies. The CORE Awards (Compensation, Education and Retention) support individuals in the early childhood workforce as they advance through the career lattice, providing meaningful financial awards for educational level and retention in Stars programs. The Infrastructure Fund provides capital and technology funding to programs to assist them in their ongoing quality improvement efforts through Stars.  These efforts are augmented by a statewide strategy for supporting programs in the areas of developmental screening and child formative assessment through Stars. Programs electing to work on these areas receive no-cost professional development/training on the instruments, no-cost specialized technical assistance to address implementation, and no-cost use of on-line databases to capture the results.

In FFY 2013, Delaware launched the DEL TEAMS project—a statewide strategy targeted at achieving the state’s goal to “…develop and sustain policies, programs, and partnerships that address the comprehensive developmental needs of all children.” DEL TEAMS are locally based teams charged with building strong and reciprocal linkages between early care and education programs and K-12 schools and supporting young children’s readiness for school and life. DEL TEAMS determine their local priorities for school readiness, using the school readiness formula. They are supported with investment for implementation, with the goals of empowering local leaders and communities and fostering transformative change.  The DEL TEAMS initiative is funded through a public-private partnership.

Delaware has focused on communication about child care program quality and now meets all seven QRIS benchmarks with a strong consumer education effort that includes a new website for parents at www.greatstartsdelaware.com. The website, launched by the Office of Early Learning, promotes the importance of early learning for young children (birth to age 5) and the use of Delaware Stars as a guide for families in selecting programs for their children.   Delaware also has an active community engagement process for Stars, including guides for Stars programs to promote themselves to families, activity calendars for Stars programs to get the message out to families and local leaders about the value of Stars, dedicated community outreach to educate about Stars, and a social media campaign.

As part of Delaware’s efforts to support Delaware Stars, Delaware’s Office of Early Learning wanted to understand what was working well and what barriers to participation and movement exist. Therefore, they requested technical assistance (with RttT-ELC TA and their SSS) to help gain additional perspective from key systems stakeholders.  Throughout the summer, a series of focus groups and interviews were conducted with program staff (directors and teachers), family child care providers, individuals who provide technical assistance to programs (TAs), and with Delaware Stars Assessors. A report was submitted to Delaware’s Office of Early Learning that outlined the major items identified by stakeholders. Additionally, OEL requested that the SSS present the report to two groups—a state committee whose work is focused on high quality programs and professionals and Delaware Stars Stakeholders.

For assistance with supporting the newly formed DEL TEAMS, Delaware requested a document that would provide a framework for locally based coalitions, highlighting the importance of their work and offering examples of activities from other states’ coalitions.

Stars Report

  • Major stakeholders (The High Quality Early Childhood Programs and Professionals Committee and staff from various state agencies) gained knowledge about Delaware Stars’ strengths and challenges, and the barriers to participation that the system’s customers experience.
  • Provided foundational information for long- and short-term decisions.
  • Possible solutions and next steps were identified to remove barriers to participation and increase effectiveness of TA.
  • Affirmed that the newly launched initiatives are needed and addressed issues identified by DE Stars participants.
  • The report on Delaware Stars, coupled with the other new projects and initiatives (cost modeling, community engagement campaign, launch of locally based councils), created a full picture of the current context within which the state is identifying cross-cutting solutions and making decisions that will further the state’s goals.


DEL TEAMS document

  • Provided information, examples, and resources for idea generation and implementation of locally based initiatives.
  • Helped set local efforts in the larger state context, and helped connect the importance of local work to achieving state’s goals.


For additional information, visit Great Starts Delaware at www.greatstartsdelaware.com

A State that Works logo with a silhouette of Indiana

Indiana’s Journey Toward an Integrated Child Care System

The lead agency for Indiana’s administration of the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) is the Bureau of Child Care (BCC), a division of the Department of Family Social Services (FSSA). The agency has worked strategically over the last few years on its goal of solidifying and institutionalizing a well-functioning child care system so that Indiana families have access to affordable, high quality early childhood and school-age programs for their children.  This work, both internal and external, has included: crafting a strategic direction, developing leadership skills, identifying common goals across the Bureau and with partners (such as Paths to QUALITY -the state’s quality rating and improvement system, the professional development network, and school-age and infant/toddler supports), and developing an understanding of, and willingness to, capitalize on the unique roles and responsibilities each agency and its staff members (both within and outside of BCC) fulfill.

Indicators of progress in the recent past can be seen in a number of areas. Two examples of increased access to, and funding for, higher quality programs are:

  • An evaluation of Paths to QUALITY (PtQ) found that children from Indiana families, at all income levels, were gaining access to higher quality care within PtQ.
  • For the past four years, there has been an annual increase of eight percent in funding for financial and technical support for 900+ programs pursuing national accreditation (the highest level of PTQ).

This year in particular, there have been a number of positive results; each of which is related to BCC’s cross-sector work and is supportive of the Office of Child Care’s (OCC) outcomes and goals. Indiana’s General Legislature passed, and Governor Mike Pence signed into law, four early childhood initiatives:

  • New health and safety standards will be required for child care programs that participate in CCDF. They include, among others, safe sleep practices and keeping medicine out of reach.
  • New requirement that all child care employees and volunteers undergo national criminal background checks.
  • The establishment of the Early Education Evaluation Program to gather data about the differences in school readiness of children from high-quality programs versus those of lesser quality or not attending a program, and the establishment of the Early Learning Advisory Committee.
  • Funding for a pre-kindergarten matching grant program to develop high-quality programs.

Another successful result occurred in April 2013, when the Indiana Professional Development Network, led by the BCC and facilitated by the Child Care State Systems Specialist Network in cooperation with the Center on Professional Development Systems and Workforce Initiatives, ratified Indiana’s Core Knowledge and Competencies (CKCs). CKCs define, for the first time, the skills and knowledge that professionals in the State need to work effectively with children, youth, and families. The CKCs are a set of standards, based upon current research, which serve as the foundation for decision making in multiple arenas. Expectations for assessment and evaluation of individuals from field entry through advanced degrees are included. In accordance with the principle of continuous quality improvement that the CCDF Administrator infuses in his or her work, the release of the CKCs included a notice that one year after its release, the document would undergo review.

For lasting and sustainable results to be achieved, the State Administrator (SA) knew that incremental, cumulative progress plus collaboration both within and outside of the Bureau (across the system) were essential. Change, even when initiated to achieve something better, is often met with resistance.  Therefore, the SA requested technical assistance from the Child Care State Systems Specialist Network (CCSSSN) to continue facilitating leadership development, team building, and change management, which are foundational to the Bureau’s multi-pronged, multi-year plan for achieving its results.

Building a strong team to lead change necessitates knowing strengths (individual and collective) and fostering leadership skills so that change can succeed. In systems building and in team building, two important factors have to be acknowledged. First, “purpose is the most crucial determinant of the system’s behavior”; and secondly, the relationships or interconnections between the system’s elements are critical to recognize and foster as “changing relationships usually changes behavior”.[1] (Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows, 2008) These concepts of leading change and systems building framed Indiana and CCSSSN’s work and were especially critical given that the Bureau had experienced the incorporation and consolidation of numerous other offices (local SDAs, Head Start Collaboration, and others) into the Bureau. Once there was an agreed upon common purpose(s) and strong staff relationships – these two elements could be leveraged to achieve desired outcomes.

The technical assistance provided included both on-site and remote facilitation, with each activity building upon the previous. At the heart of this work was a two-day meeting held in early FY13 with BCC staff. The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen the teams’ cohesion (relationships) and understanding of roles and responsibilities, gain clarity on a common purpose, and learn how to leverage external partnerships for an improved system. Again, this was especially important to accomplish because of the multiple office transitions.

The facilitated discussions and meeting content helped staff examine:

  • their and other’s strengths,
  • how different strengths can inform areas of continuous quality improvement,
  • how they approach change, and
  • how strengths can be an asset in supporting change and the team.

Throughout the year, the SA, BCC managers, and lead partners work with their SSS to reflect and consider “course corrections” and improvements for their collective work. At these regular “check-ins” the group uses data to sets goals, benchmarks, and outcomes.


[1] Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing. 

At a systems level the following results can be documented:

  • A strategic direction for BCC that includes a vision and mission to guide Indiana’s systems and sectors in their shared work. Areas and topics include, but are not limited to, QRIS improvements and establishing a statewide professional development network.
  • Articulation of a common understanding of roles and joint leadership to promote greater progress toward common goals.
  • Coordination and alignment within and across service sectors to improve quality, delivery, and accountability.
  • Strengthening existing, and forming new, strategic, collaborative relationships at state and local levels, which should continue to yield additional positive results for Indiana’s children and families.

More directly visible results include:

  • The State’s FSSA and BCC staff have more detailed knowledge of each other’s work, which is resulting in more efficient service delivery.
  • Staff built knowledge regarding their work and its relationship to FSSA and other statewide BCC priorities.
  • Working relationships and an understanding of tasks and assignments have improved.
  • Four new initiatives funded and signed into law; other new initiatives (e.g. CKCs) have launched. Collectively, they address issues across the child care system.
  • A newly funded position for Early Head Start and Head Start/Child Care Partnerships.
  • An increase in both Paths to QUALITY participation rates across all program types and in level advancement.
  • An increase in the number of Head Start programs obtaining licensure and participating in PtQ.
  • An increase in the number of Certified Ministry settings participating in PtQ (identified as an area for improvement in the FY12 CCDF Plan.)

For additional information, visit the Indiana Bureau of Child Care at http://www.in.gov/fssa/2552.htm

South Carolina Childcare Services: happy. healthy. safe.

South Carolina–In Pursuit of a Unified Early Childhood System

South Carolina has worked to establish a unified early childhood system in the State; one that is more efficient and effective. The Child Care Development Fund Administrator’s (CCDF) vision for Child Care Services was that it be both viable and visible to the citizens of South Carolina.

In order to create an early childhood system, programs and services that were not part of the Child Care Services had to be integrated, the division had to be reorganized, and a strategic plan that included all the new programs and services had to be developed.  The initial steps in this work included the development of a strategic plan, the integration of several offices (Child Care Licensing Program and the ABC Child Care Program (subsidy program) and Quality program into the Division—and centralization of the ABC Child Care Program).

For FY 2013, South Carolina wanted to continue the work of establishing a systemic approach to early care and education.  Therefore, the SA requested technical assistance to facilitate a strategic planning meeting that would build on the strengths of the leadership (individually and collectively) and to assess the current status of the strategic plan.

During a two-day facilitated meeting, leadership of the various offices met to focus exclusively on their joint work. Two tools (StrengthsFinder™ and the Gregorc Style Delineator™) were used to assist participants in understanding each other’s capabilities and leadership strengths. To identify existing and potential linkages, efficiencies, and gaps and opportunities in meeting their goals, the group mapped the State’s early care and education system.

The State’s child care services have more detailed knowledge of each other’s work, which will result in more efficient service delivery.

  • Working relationships between individuals were improved.
  • Individuals identified their strengths and how those strengths contribute to and support the work.
  • Efficiencies were identified.
    • Identified opportunities for program staff to conduct visits for multiple departments. For instance, licensing is executing the health and safety monitoring for licensed Level C centers (ABC Child Care).
    • Pilot programs used subsidy staff to performs Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) monitoring visits
    • Developed plans for ABC Child Care program quality staff to conduct health and safety visits for family child care homes participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • Streamlined communications through more efficient and effective messaging and consumer education. Previously, three different sets of communications went out to families. This is now consolidated; there is a single common message disseminated. This has resulted in better use of the state’s resources, less confusion for consumers, and better coordination between licensing, quality, and subsidy.
  • Identified the need to incorporate the Child and Adult Food Care Program into the Child Care Program.
  • Developed a common, shared understanding of vision, mission, and roles/responsibilities in supporting and working with families and providers across both State teams.
  • Improved understanding of tasks and assignments through the use of the strengths and assets approach to management.


For additional information, visit South Carolina Department of Social Services, Division of Child Care Services at http://childcare.sc.gov/main/Default.aspx