Toddler Chewing on Toy(April 16, 2019) LITTLE ROCK, AR. – A coalition of Arkansas organizations and agencies is among the winners of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI) Prenatal-to-Age-Three State Grant Competition, which has awarded cross-sector coalitions in 11 states planning grants to develop and strengthen high-quality prenatal-to-age-three services.

With research showing that a child’s brain develops faster in the first three years than at any later period in life, building the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health, PCI opened the grant competition to identify states with a strategic vision for supporting infants, toddlers and their families.

The Arkansas coalition – which includes the Natural Wonders Partnership Council coalition, the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the Arkansas Association for Infant Mental Health and the Invest Early Coalition – presented a bold and innovative plan to put the state’s youngest children on a path for future success in school and life. The Natural Wonders coalition is convened by Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which also acts as the fiscal agent for the award.

The states named in the announcement include: Arkansas, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

By the February deadline, 42 of 44 eligible states plus the District of Columbia submitted applications identifying strategies to expand high-quality early childhood services through innovative and collaborative efforts. Those states that weren’t eligible for this competition were those where the foundation is already working with stakeholders to bring forward a coordinated prenatal-to-age-three agenda – California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon.

“This planning grant will allow us to develop a well-informed plan to create a better foundation for babies and toddlers in our state,” said Anna Strong, Arkansas Children’s Hospital executive director of Child Advocacy and Public Health. “We’re excited to start building a healthier tomorrow for these families by connecting them to high-quality services and supports through a partnership determined to do what’s best for Arkansas children.”

In Arkansas, the prenatal-to-age-three coalition will leverage public and private partnerships to build on the critical ongoing investments for the 116,000 infants and toddlers across the state, 68,000 of which are low-income. By focusing on 1) connecting children to early supports and services that improve health and education outcomes for young children, 2) increasing the availability of home visiting for infants and toddlers, and 3) improving availability of high-quality early care and education, the coalition believes it can establish a detailed strategy to serve an additional 25 percent of low-income families with children prenatal-to-age-three.

Recipients of the grants have each been awarded $100,000 to establish a coalition of state- and community-level partners inside and outside government to develop an ambitious prenatal-to-age-three policy agenda and action plan, focused on expanding access to high-quality programs designed to support children’s healthy development and build a strong foundation for future learning. These Planning Grant recipients will also be eligible for Implementation Grants based on the quality of the plan they develop over the next six to nine months.

“This grant competition has illuminated the nation’s commitment to supporting infants and toddlers. We knew that there was widespread agreement on the importance of the earliest years in a child’s life, but we were delighted to see the innovative thinking by states to significantly expand services to families with infants and toddlers,” said Gerry Cobb, director of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative. “The most promising applications integrated approaches that build on locally-driven efforts and maximize the best practices across child care, health, early childhood education and human services to address new challenges facing infants, toddlers and their families. Arkansas submitted a bold proposal that brings diverse leaders to the table to coordinate across fields and establish a unified policy agenda and action plan supporting infants, toddlers and their families.”

The unprecedented interest and clear demand from the field indicates both the need and growing momentum around investing in prenatal-to-three efforts that will support families. Due to the overwhelming demand and quality of the proposals submitted, PCI will also support continued planning work in three additional states that are showing great promise:  New Mexico, New Jersey and South Carolina.

To ensure the innovations, policies and best practices developed in state coalitions are shared and effectively implemented, grant winners will also join the PCI-funded National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT). Through critical community-based approaches and a shared commitment to the healthy development of our youngest children, NCIT can invest deeper in state and local programs and policies across the country.

Research shows that when we invest in the first three years of a child’s life the returns for states are the highest, and we can reduce the need for more expensive interventions later in life. In addition to the economic benefits, high-quality early childhood development programs can reduce chronic disease and health care costs, and their benefits include better education outcomes and higher incomes as adults.  Healthy development in early childhood helps prepare children for the educational experiences of kindergarten and beyond. When infants and toddlers get what their growing brains need, they become healthy kids who are confident, empathetic and ready for school and life.

About the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI)

The Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI), a project of the J.B. and M. K. Pritzker Family Foundation, is committed to building a promising future for our country by investing in and supporting
solutions in early childhood development for children prenatal to age three, with the goal of every child reaching kindergarten ready to learn. More information about PCI can be found here.

About The National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT)

The National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT) is committed to advancing policies and programs that ensure families have the support they need to give their infants and toddlers the foundation for a strong start in life. Funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a program of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, this effort brings together national partners, early childhood leaders, policymakers and practitioners inside and outside state and local government to create and strengthen promising policies and programs and share what works so that more states and communities can support the healthy development of our youngest children. More information about NCIT can be found here.

About Arkansas Children’s

Arkansas Children's, Inc. is the only healthcare system in the state solely dedicated to caring for Arkansas' 710,000 children, giving the organization a unique ability to shape the landscape of pediatric care in Arkansas and transform the health of children throughout the region. The private, non-profit organization includes two pediatric hospitals, a pediatric research institute and USDA nutrition center, a philanthropic foundation, a nursery alliance, statewide clinics, and many education and outreach programs.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) is a 336-bed, Magnet-recognized facility in Little Rock operating the state’s only Level I pediatric trauma center; the state's only burn center; the state's only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit; the state's only pediatric intensive care unit; the state’s only pediatric surgery program with Level 1 verification from the American College of Surgeons; and the state's only nationally recognized pediatric transport program. Additionally, ACH is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report in five pediatric subspecialties (2019-2020): Cardiology & Heart Surgery, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics and Pulmonology. Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW), the first and only pediatric hospital in the Northwest Arkansas region, opened in Springdale in early 2018. ACNW operates a 24-bed inpatient unit; a surgical unit with five operating rooms; outpatient clinics offering over 20 subspecialties; diagnostic services; imaging capabilities; occupational therapy services; and Northwest Arkansas' only pediatric emergency department, equipped with 30 exam rooms. Generous philanthropic and volunteer engagement has sustained Arkansas Children's since it began as an orphanage in 1912, and today ensures the system can fundamentally transform the health of children in Arkansas and beyond. To learn more, visit