Centering Indigenous Early Childhood Initiatives

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In 2021, in partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), ECFC established a working group to provide a forum for centering indigenous early childhood and exploring grantmaker strategies to support and advance Native and Tribal led early childhood programs.

The workgroup consists of ECFC members as well as invited Native voices, and  ECFC and NAP share leadership for the group, which is co-chaired by: Shannon Rudisill, ECFC Executive Director; April Luong, ECFC Program Associate; Greg Masten (Yurok), NAP Vice President of Tribal Nations Engagement & Special Projects; and Rose David (Anishinaabe, Beausoleil First Nation), NAP Program Manager, Tribal Nations Initiative.

In its first year, the group has led a public-private partnership opportunity with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to support their Tribal Early Learning Initiative, which is designed to:

  • Support tribes to coordinate tribal early learning and development programs;
  • Create and support seamless, high-quality early childhood systems;
  • Raise the quality of services to children and families across the pregnancy-to-kindergarten-entry continuum; and
  • Identify and break down barriers to collaboration and systems improvement.

ACF is a uniquely positioned federal partner because they administer three of the largest federal programs for early childhood in Tribal Nations: the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), the American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start program, and the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.   ACF is working with Tribal grantees to facilitate technical assistance and flexibility so that Tribal Nations can use their ACF programs, particularly CCDF, to build early childhood systems in their communities.

There are several opportunities for private funds (national and state-based funders) to enhance the effort, including sponsoring peer learning convenings, providing grants to participating Tribal Nations to bolster parent or educator participation, and funding research and communications.

Exciting upcoming next steps for the workgroup:

  •  The workgroup recently hired Roanhorse Consulting, an indigenous and woman owned firm, to help facilitate and strategize how we move forward as a group in joint and aligned funding for indigenous early childhood.
  • In partnership with ECFC members in New Mexico, ECFC is exploring ideas for a 2023 member meeting in New Mexico focused on lessons we can learn from indigenous early childhood initiatives and partnerships, and centering Native voices.

Learn more about this workgroup:

If your imagination is sparked by the ACF TELI opportunity, or you are interested in learning more about indigenous early childhood initiatives and how funders can support this work, ECFC would love to hear about your interests.  The ECFC/NAP Indigenous workgroup is open to all interested foundations.  The group meets bi-monthly with occasional other opportunities for opportunities for shared learning.  Contact ECFC for more information about the workgroup.


Photo credit: Photo by Austin Wade on Unsplash

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