About the Conference
The goals of ACF's National Research Conference on Early Childhood are to identify and disseminate research relevant to young children (birth to 8 years) and their families and to encourage collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in order to build upon the evidence base for policy and practice. The conference emphasizes research that focuses on low-income families with young children. The 2016 Conference will present the latest research surrounding child care, Head Start, Early Head Start, home visiting, child welfare, and other early childhood programs. Further, the conference welcomes submissions from all relevant fields including education, child development, political science, psychology, sociology, public and allied health, psychiatry, nursing, social work, dentistry, anthropology, law, and economics.
The theme of ACF's National Research Conference on Early Childhood is increasing access to high quality early care and education: building the evidence base for policy and practice. Over the past decade, there has been substantial public investment at the national, state, and local levels aimed at improving the quality of early care and education (ECE) and expanding services, including Head Start, child care, Home Visiting and pre-kindergarten.
National efforts include new Head Start Program Performance Standards, Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization, Early Head Start-Child Care partnership grants, Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants, Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting Initiative and Evaluation, and a newly integrated early childhood training and technical assistance system. Complementing these efforts to improve the quality of services are initiatives that help families access readily interpretable information about the quality of ECE to inform their decision making, such as states' Quality Rating and Improvement Systems.
From these range of investments, it is clear that quality in early childhood is a multidimensional construct, involving workforce training, practice improvement, curriculum and measurement development, parenting supports and parent engagement, fiscal management, accountability, progress monitoring, community engagement, and development of an evidence base to feed into continuous quality improvement.
When considering families' access to quality care and education, questions remain about the extent to which high quality ECE is available in different geographical areas, how families obtain and use information in order to inform their decision making about ECE, and what factors constrain and facilitate the use of different types and quality of ECE. Further, many questions remain about conceptualizing, measuring and evaluating quality services, and building sustainable, effective, high quality program models that can be readily accessed by families with young children.
Research presented at the 2016 Conference will address these knowledge gaps across service delivery systems. Sessions may focus on improving understanding of the quality factors that impact programs and families, evaluation of approaches for improving quality, and obstacles and solutions regarding families' access to high quality care and education. Methods and measurement development for examining quality and family decision-making regarding ECE also will be consistent with this theme.