States and local communities may braid, blend, or layer multiple federal funding streams to increase the supply of quality early care and education (ECE) and increase access to comprehensive early childhood and family support services within a coordinated, comprehensive early childhood system. This tool will help those interested in braiding better understand what the process entails and how to find existing resources that can help with the process.

Braiding Funding Details

Braiding Funding Diagram that lists the eight aspects of the braiding process included in this tool: identify funding streams, identify eligible populations and compare requirements, build integrated data systems, align requirements of funding streams, develop shared goals and a plan for collaboration, build state or local programs that use multiple funding streams, develop governance structures to support collaboration, and support braiding at the provider level

States and local communities may braid, blend, or layer multiple federal funding streams to increase the supply of quality early care and education (ECE) and increase access to comprehensive early childhood and family support services within a coordinated, comprehensive early childhood system.

Definitions of braiding, blending, and layering

There are multiple ways that state and local governments can use different sources of public funding to achieve specific objectives, including braiding, blending, and layering funds. For simplicity, this tool refers to all three of these processes as “braiding”:

Braiding. With braiding, funds from multiple funding streams are used to support the total costs of a common goal (for example, to expand access to child and family services). Each individual funding stream maintains its specific program identity, meaning that funds from each specific funding source must be tracked separately. This requires that shared costs of services are allocated to specific funding streams in a way that ensures that there is no duplicate funding and that the appropriate amount of program and administrative costs are charged to each funding stream (Butler et al. 2020).

Blending. With blending, multiple funding streams are mixed together to support the total costs of a common goal. Funding sources lose their program-specific identities, meaning that costs do not have to be allocated or tracked separately by funding source. This approach is less burdensome from an administrative perspective than braiding. It can be challenging to blend federal funds, however, because of regulatory and accounting requirements typically associated with federal funding (Butler et al. 2020).

Layering. With layering, different funds are used to support the costs of a common goal. Typically, foundational layers of funding that support core child care services are supplemented with additional layers of funds that support other program-, family-, or child-level services. An advantage of this approach is that one layer of funding can be removed without affecting the provision of services covered by other funding sources (Fonseca 2017).

The braiding process

The approach states and localities take to braid funding streams will vary based on their goals and other aspects of the state or local context, including the specific funding streams and stakeholders involved (for example, leaders of agencies or departments that manage key ECE funding streams and the degree to which various funding streams are siloed in different agencies). In this tool, we describe key aspects of the braiding process. We note, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to braiding. The braiding process for a particular state or locality may not progress in the exact order described in this tool. For example, some states and local communities may find it useful to develop shared goals and a plan for collaboration as a first step, where others may choose to do this soon after identifying relevant funding streams. Other states and local communities may first seek to learn more about eligibility and reporting requirements for various funding streams to assess the feasibility of braiding before engaging in collaborative planning. States and localities can take the approach that makes the most sense for their context.

References

Butler, S., T. Higashi, and M. Cabello. “Budgeting to Promote Social Objectives – A Primer on Braiding and Blending.” Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, April 2020. Available at https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/BraidingAndBlending20200403.pdf., opens in a new window

Fonseca, M. “Braiding, Blending, And Layering Funding Sources To Increase Access To Quality Preschool: State Technical Assistance Report.” Herndon, VA: AEM Corporation, 2017. Available at https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED583129.pdf., opens in a new window

This tool will help those interested in braiding better understand what the process entails and how to find existing resources that can help with the process. This tool is intended for users at the state and local community level.

Users who are new to the braiding process may find it useful to answer the guiding questions included in this tool to find relevant resources. Users can also download a PDF version of the tool. A PDF version of the tool is available here, opens in a new window.

Direct links to resources.

You can also skip the guiding questions and go directly to resources for each aspect of the braiding process here:

I. Identify funding streams.Redirects to Resources for Step 1 A fundamental step in the braiding process is to identify your state or local community’s goals and desired outcomes, scan available federal funding streams that are consistent with these goals and outcomes, and identify gaps between existing funding streams being used in your state or locality and those that are available. Fiscal mapping can help states and local communities identify a strategy to take advantage of federal funding opportunities.

II. Identify eligible populations and comparing requirements.Redirects to Resources for Step 2 Another fundamental step in the braiding process is identifying the populations of children and families that are eligible for services funding through different funding streams. States and local communities should also understand if there are differences in eligibility and reporting requirements of the various funding streams.

III. Build integrated data systems. Redirects to Resources for Step 3 Building integrated data systems between various early childhood programs can facilitate sharing of information to determine eligibility and fulfill reporting requirements. These data systems can provide a more comprehensive understanding of young children's needs and history, avoid duplication of efforts, support referrals between programs, and limit the number of forms families must complete.

IV. Align requirements of funding streams.Redirects to Resources for Step 4 Although states or localities typically cannot modify or control funding stream requirements, there may be some areas of flexibility. Aligning eligibility and other requirements of funding streams, where possible, can help promote continuity of care for children and families, reduce burden for program administrators seeking to use multiple funding streams, and support braiding. State and local governments should also engage in conversations with federal program administrators to ensure understanding of the limitations of different funding streams, and to share information about barriers to aligning funding streams.

V. Develop shared goals and a plan for collaboration.Redirects to Resources for Step 5 To facilitate ongoing and sustainable coordination throughout the braiding process and beyond, it is helpful to articulate shared goals and institute a collaborative planning process involving multiple funding streams, agencies, or departments.

VI. Build state or local programs that use multiple funding streams.Redirects to Resources for Step 6 Finding opportunities to braid upstream at the state or local agency level, rather than braiding downstream at the individual provider level, can simplify the process for providers. This section of the tool describes resources on lessons learned and recommended best practices for building programs, initiatives, and systems at the state level that leverage multiple funding streams.

VII. Develop governance structures to support collaboration.Redirects to Resources for Step 7 States have used governance structures to support ongoing collaboration between agencies and other key players in state or local ECE systems.

VIII. Support braiding at the provider level.Redirects to Resources for Step 8 Providers and program administrators might seek to combine funds from multiple sources to better serve children and families. State and local users can provide technical assistance, training, and other supports to providers in their state or locality to help in their use of multiple funding streams.

1. Identifying funding streams

 

A fundamental step in the braiding process is to identify the funding sources available in your state or locality. The available funding sources may depend on your goals for braiding. Fiscal mapping can help states and local communities develop an inventory of funding streams that are aligned with their goals.

Another fundamental step in the blending and braiding process is identifying eligible children and families and understanding the differences in eligibility and reporting requirements of the various funding streams available in your state or locality. The tables below show resources that can help users identify eligible children and families as well as key differences in the requirements of different funding streams. For the latter, we also include a table that focuses specifically on differences in requirements between Child Care and Development Fund and Head Start and Early Head Start.

For many funding streams, there are rules and fiscal constraints that govern the use of funds. The resources provided in this section provide information about funding stream requirements. However, this tool does not provide information about the allowable uses of funding streams in specific states or local communities. Users should talk to program experts in their state or local community about how funds can be used in their state or local community, and to identify specific constraints that can or cannot be removed regarding the use of funds.

Building integrated data systems between various early childhood programs can facilitate sharing of information to determine eligibility and fulfill reporting requirements. The Policy Statement to Support the Alignment of Health and Early Learning Systems, opens in a new window recommends developing integrated data systems at the state- or community-level to provide a more comprehensive understanding of young children's needs and history, avoid duplication of efforts, support referrals between programs, and limit the number of forms families must complete.

A toolkit on blending and braiding developed by Start Early, Budgeting to Promote Social Objectives – A Primer on Braiding and Blending, opens in a new window, describes how users can support these integrated data systems through steps such as creating data-sharing agreements and establishing centers for evaluation that can help build support for collaboration and coordinated budgeting. The table below describes resources for developing integrated data systems. We also describe examples of state and local efforts to build integrated data systems.

Aligning eligibility and other requirements of funding streams can help promote continuity of care for children and families, reduce burden for program administrators seeking to use multiple funding streams, and support blending and braiding the streams. Regulatory differences between funding streams such as in eligibility criteria and enrollment processes can prevent children from receiving consistent and continuous services and increase burden on program administrators who must track eligibility data and conflicting regulations (Wallen and Hubbard 2013). Programs seeking to use multiple funding streams to provide comprehensive services for children, such as partner programs in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, often have to identify dually eligible children (Administration for Children and Families 2014). Regulatory differences between funding streams can make it difficult to identify these children.

State and local governments should also engage in conversations with federal program administrators to ensure understanding of the limitations of the limitations of different funding streams. State and local governments should also share information about barriers they perceive to using different funding streams to achieve desired goals or outcomes, and barriers they have encountered in using different funding streams, so that federal program administrators can consider whether these barriers can be addressed through administrative actions or in future policy development opportunities.

A collaborative planning process involving multiple funding streams, agencies, or departments can help coordinate throughout the braiding process. Facilitating coordination between funding streams upstream at the state level can help simplify the braiding process for providers, children, and families (Wallen and Hubbard 2013). States can use cross-sector, interagency, or interdepartmental councils or organizations to support this coordination. For example, state Childrens Cabinets can provide opportunities for states to establish high-level interagency planning groups to coordinate funding and programs across agencies (Butler et al. 2020). States might also seek to establish a task force, council, or committee that includes program representatives with decision making authority to lead collaboration efforts (Cate and Peters 2018).

The tables below show sources of information to support a collaborative planning process. The tables also show sources of information that can provide guidance on developing venues for interagency or interdepartmental collaboration.

Finding opportunities to blend and braid upstream at the state level can simplify the process for programs. In this section, we describe resources that describe lessons learned and recommended best practices for blending and braiding at the state or local level. These resources also provide case studies and examples that users may refer to as they develop state or local initiatives and programs that leverage multiple funding streams.

States have used governance structures to support collaboration between agencies and other key players in state or local early care and education systems. Having a single agency, department, or other organization oversee multiple funding streams can break down siloes and support coordination of funding at the state level.

A single funding source often does not adequately address children and families’ needs for high-quality early care and education. As a result, individual providers and program administrators might seek to combine funds from multiple sources to offer the programming children and families need (Fonseca 2017, Wallen and Hubbard 2013).

In this section, we highlight resources that illustrate approaches to facilitate braiding funding streams at the individual provider level. State and local users can employ these resources to provide technical assistance, training, and other supports to providers in their state or locality to help in their use of multiple funding streams.

Common challenges to braiding at the individual provider level

Multiple resources have highlighted the challenges of braiding at the individual provider level (also known as braiding downstream). For example, braided funding approaches can require significant staff time and resources to manage each funding stream’s requirements, which might not align (Wallen and Hubbard 2013). The requirements of funding streams can differ and using multiple funding streams often requires complex cost allocation methods (Illinois Early Learning Council 2019). In addition, providers might not have adequate resources or training to meet the tracking and reporting requirements of multiple funding streams.

When seeking to use multiple funding streams, administrators of early care and education providers must be able to determine that funds from a specific stream follow its particular regulations and that funds are only used for eligible children and families (Fonseca 2017). Providers that typically rely on one funding source might not be familiar with the requirements associated with other funding streams, making it difficult to identify additional funding streams that could serve to support children and families in their program (Illinois Early Learning Council 2019).

Review Your Answers

References

Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. “Fiscal Mapping for Early Childhood Services: How-To Guide and Data Collection Tool.” Hamilton, NJ: Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Available here, opens in a new window

Resources on comparing requirements of early childhood funding streams

The table below shows resources users can refer to find to find information about the differences in the requirements of federal and state funding streams for early childhood. Some of these resources include information about multiple funding streams for early childhood.

Resource Section or pages Description of information included in resource Funding sources covered
Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs (2013), opens in a new window Part II Section B, pages 10-13 Table 1 of this toolkit from Start Early compares the key federal, state, and local funding sources, including Head Start, Early Head Start, CCDF, TANF, state pre-K, state infant–toddler programs, and local programs. The table describes the following information for each funding source: source of funds and payment process, parent co-pay, primary service, length of day and year, child and family eligibility, child age range, and length of eligibility. Head Start, Early Head Start, CCDF, TANF, state pre-K, state infant–toddler programs, local programs
Checklists and worksheets on pages 74- 81 These worksheets help users identify available public funding streams in the state and regulatory differences across funding streams:
  • The first worksheet, Assessing Federal, State, and Local Public Funding Streams, lists major early childhood funding streams, separate quality enhancement funds, other state and local funding streams, training and consultation funds, and others. Users can fill out the worksheet to indicate the funding streams that exist in their state
  • The second worksheet, Identifying Regulatory Differences Across Early Childhood Funding Streams, asks users to fill out different areas of edibility and enrollment, programmatic issues and funding by Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care Subsidy. The worksheet also has space for notes to be taken regarding child care licensing, state pre-K, state 0 to 3 programs, and other programs
It includes space to enter information about major early childhood funding streams, separate quality enhancement funds, other state and local funding streams, training and consultation funds, and others
Putting it Together: A Guide to Financing Comprehensive Services in Child Care and Early Education (2012) , opens in a new window Pages 21 to 26; Funding Streams: The Nuts and Bolts of Federal Sources; Appendix B This section of a larger CLASP report reviews federal funding streams with the most potential for offering services and supports within child care and early education settings. It also provides an overview of each funding stream, including background, use of funds, and additional considerations. Eligibility for each funding stream is described at a high level. Although reporting requirements are not included in this section, links to other sources of information about each funding stream are available in Appendix B. CCDF, Head Start; TANF, CBCAP, Title V MCH, ECCS, Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children, MIECHV, Medicaid, Title I, McKinney-Vento, IDEA Part B and C, SNAP, Project LAUNCH, CDBG

CBCAP = Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Grants and Programs; CCDF = Child Care and Development Fund; CDBG = Community Development Block Grant; ECCS = Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Collaborative; IDEA = Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; MIECHV = Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; n.a. = not applicable; SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Title V MCH = Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program.

Resources on comparing requirements of CCDF with Head Start and Early Head Start

The table below shows resources focused on the differences between CCDF and Head Start and Early Head Start. These resources could be particularly relevant for users seeking to support Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships and other partnerships to support collaboration between Head Start and child care in their state or locality.

Resource Section or pages Description of information included in resource Funding sources covered
Side-by-Side Comparison of Federal and State Requirements for Early Childhood Education Services , opens in a new window n.a. This table compares key requirements of Early Head Start and CCDF across nine general areas. These include family eligibly and income requirements; child eligibility in terms of age, citizenship, and alien status; eligibility periods and duration; length of day and year; and service components across both Head Start and Early Head Start. This table also includes a blank column for states to enter in their own state-funded early childhood services. Early Head Start, CCDF
State Initiatives to Promote Early Learning: Next Steps in Coordinating Subsidized Child Care, Head Start, and State Prekindergarten , opens in a new window Section C; pages 14 to 22 Section C of this report discusses regulatory differences between Head Start, CCDF, and TANF, including the programs' eligibility requirements, how the funds are distributed, and fund requirements and standards. The resource also describes how three states (Georgia, Massachusetts, and Ohio) have responded to these differences in the course of blending these funds to support ECE initiatives in their states. Head Start/Early Head Start, CCDF, TANF
Top Ten Ways CCDF Can Support Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships , opens in a new window Sections 1 to 5, pages 1 to 5 These sections describe how, by partnering Early Head Start, CCDF, and Head Start, agencies can take advantage of Head Start provisions that allow a percentage of families with income above the federal poverty level to be served. This in turn, could help such partnerships more effectively meet their enrollment goal. In addition, under the 2014 reauthorization of CCDBG, state agencies can help ensure continuity of care by aligning the beginning and end dates of EHS-CC partnership eligibility dates with Early Head Start enrollment dates, thereby easing reporting requirements; allow special eligibility considerations for children in need of protective services; and maintain access to child care for parents by allowing parents to continue eligibility for care after a job loss. Head Start/Early Head Start, CCDF

CCDBG = Child Care and Development Block Grant; CCDF = Child Care and Development Fund; ECE = early childhood education; EHS-CC = Early Head Start - Child Care; n.a. = not applicable; TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Resources to support the development of integrated data systems

The table below describes resources that provide information about how to build integrated data systems.

Resource Section or pages Description of key components
A Sourcebook on Medicaid's Role in Early Childhood (2018), opens in a new window Part 7, Page 99 to 107 Part 7 of this sourcebook discusses how states can create and collect a common set of early childhood health measures that can be used across Medicaid, Title V MCH grants, MIECHV, and other early childhood programs to support a shared accountability system.
Serving Children Experiencing Homelessness with CCDF Subsidies (2018), opens in a new window Page 3 This resource describes four strategies that CCDF lead agencies can use to coordinate child care for children experiencing homelessness with other ECE and community-based programs as specified under the CCDBG Act and Final Rule. One of these strategies includes adding questions to child care applications that would help identify families meeting the McKinney-Vento Act definition of homelessness and to include these data in case-level reports to the Office of Child care.
State Initiatives to Promote Early Learning: Next Steps in Coordinating Subsidized Child Care, Head Start, and State Prekindergarten (2001) , opens in a new window Section E; pages 28 to 32 This resource provides some information about how states can collect and track data across ECE programs. This includes steps that three states have taken to understand the various ECE data systems in their state and efforts to track children over time across program settings: increasing cross-cutting capacity, analyzing and publishing reports on available data on early care and education across programs and funding streams, and incorporating child outcome measures across specific early education initiatives from existing process or outcomes studies of those initiatives.
Policy Statement to Support the Alignment of Health and Early Learning Systems (n.d.), opens in a new window Pages 8 to 10 This resource recommends developing integrated data systems at the state or community level to provide a more comprehensive understanding of young children's needs and history, avoid duplication of efforts, support referrals between programs, and limit the number of forms families must complete. The resource links to a report that highlights how states and local communities designed and implemented early childhood integrated data systems. The resource also recommends using strategies such as Medicaid's Express Lane Eligibility and Presumptive Eligibility to accelerate and streamline enrollment.
10 Ways WIC and Head Start can collaborate (2019), opens in a new window "Partnership agreements"; Page 1 This section provides specific guidance on establishing memoranda of understanding between collaborating state agencies. It briefly encourages states to record clearly how and why confidential eligibility data are shared across programs. It also provides a linked example of a guide about best practices in information sharing developed jointly by Arizona's WIC and Head Start programs.
Cost Allocation Methodologies (CAM) toolkit (2015), opens in a new window n.a. This Excel-based toolkit helps state, Tribal, and local agencies allocate costs for planning and developing integrated IT systems that simultaneously administer federal and state public assistance programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, child care, child support enforcement, Medicaid, and child welfare programs. Specifically, it provides a methodology for distributing costs across the federal and state programs that benefit from the IT system and the Excel tool implements this methodology. The toolkit can help develop a cost allocation plan for the advanced planning document that is required for several major federal public assistance programs.
Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (2019). Virginia Early Childhood Integrated Financing Toolkit (2019), opens in a new window Page 24 The toolkit discusses how jurisdictions might want to connect with other sources of existing data on child outcomes and collect new data such as those necessary for fiscal mapping. The toolkit provides samples of data-sharing memoranda of understanding and lists resources for fiscal mapping.
TC Study 3: Financing structures and strategies to support effective systems of care—A self-assessment and planning guide: developing a comprehensive financing plan (2006), opens in a new window Section VII; pages 32 to 35 Section VII of this guide includes a series of strategies that sites or systems can use to develop a strong accountability system for the system of care. Several of these strategies relate to data collection and monitoring.

CCDBG = Child Care and Development Block Grant; CCDF = Child Care and Development Fund; ECE = early childhood education; MIECHV = Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; n.a. = not applicable; SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Title V MCH = Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program; WIC = Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Examples of state and local efforts to build integrated data systems

Some of the resources described above provide state and local examples of integrated, connected data systems. We describe some of these examples below.

  • Budgeting to Promote Social Objectives - A Primer on Braiding and Blending., opens in a new window This report highlights some examples of state and local governments that have worked to integrate data. These highlights cite specific data-sharing and evaluation efforts, such as the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s cross-sector impact analyses of the Communities in Schools and Nurse Family Partnership programs. Other examples include Actional Intelligence for Social Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, which developed integrated data systems that link administrative data across state and local agencies. Other examples highlighted in the tool include the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities and Montgomery County in Maryland's Thriving Germantown Community HUB pilot. These are examples of agencies that worked together to create data-sharing agreements to study programs, share data, or both.

  • Joint Statement: State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood Education and Care: Advancing Work Beyond Federal Financing., opens in a new window This document briefly describes the Utah Early Childhood Statewide Data Integration Project, which is building an integrated early childhood data collection system across ECE programs, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, Part B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, and public primary schools. Other examples described were Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems and Early Childhood Integrated Data Systems created by states including Texas, Delaware, and Colorado and designed to link data from Kindergarten Entry Assessments and quality rating and improvement systems. States with these data-sharing mechanisms in place received a more complete picture of program and participant needs and were better able to target resources as a result.

  • 10 Ways WIC and Head Start Can Collaborate., opens in a new window Resource provides a linked example of a guide about best practices in information sharing developed jointly by Arizona's WIC and Head Start program. The guide was designed to help streamline administrative procedures for program staff and participants and ensure service coordination and confidentiality simultaneously.

  • State Issues and Innovations in Creating Integrated Early Learning and Development Systems. , opens in a new window The report mentions an effort in progress, spearheaded by the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology, to integrate data systems across more than 20 programs in five agencies and create a “universal application” for all agencies and programs related to early care and education.

State supports for blending and braiding at the provider level

Below, we describe a report from the Illinois Early Learning Council that provides recommendations about specific types of supports states can provide to facilitate blending and braiding at the program level.

Resource Description of information included in resource
Ensuring Equitable Access to Funding for All Birth-to-Five Classroom-Based Early Childhood Programs: Illinois Early Learning Council Integration and Alignment Committee Mixed Delivery System Ad Hoc Committee Report and Recommendation , opens in a new window A 2019 report from the Illinois Early Learning Council provides recommendations about specific types of supports states can provide to facilitate blending and braiding at the program level. This report describes the recommendations from a committee tasked with promoting a mixed delivery system in Illinois. The committee recommends that the state create a system to individualize support, technical assistance, and mentoring to promote community-based organizations' participation in the state infant/toddler and preschool program delivery system. The supports can help providers understand the state program requirements and how to manage combining funding streams.

Resources that describe different approaches to using multiple funding streams at the individual provider level

Below, we describe resources that provide information about different approaches that can be used to facilitate the use of multiple funding streams at the provider level. These include resources that provide an overview of different blending and braiding approaches, shared services approaches, and detailed examples of how administrators have managed multiple funding streams.

Resource Section or pages Description of information included in resource
Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs , opens in a new window Part II, Sections C and D; pages 14-15

Sections C and D of this toolkit, from Start Early, provide an overview of why blending and braiding is needed and describes the evolution of blending and braiding approaches. These sections describe the two types of collaboration models that have emerged to support braiding and blending early childhood funding streams:

  • One agency, multiple funders model: A single program or agency braids or blends funding from multiple sources at a single site. For example, a center may use state prek funding, child care funding, and other revenue sources to provide full-day, full-year services.
  • Multiple agencies model:Two or more agencies partner to serve children at one site. Agencies may co-locate, share space, and/or share programming and/or funding. Costs may be covered through subcontracts, purchase or services, or other agreements. For example, a Head Start program may contract with a child care center to provide full-day, full-year services.
Braiding, Blending, and Layering Funding Sources to Increase Access to Quality Preschool , opens in a new window Pages 4-7 PDG brief examines blending, braiding, and layering as strategies to support and sustain high quality preschool. This section presents findings from structured interviews with program administrators in multiple states. Findings include details about how administrators, including school district personnel, a Head Start director, and the owner/director of a child care program, managed multiple funding streams.
Financing High-Quality Center-Based Infant-Toddler Care: Options and Opportunities , opens in a new window Section 6; pages 15 -20 Section 6 of this report from OCC and OHS highlights approaches to encourage and support systems-building at the provider level for high-quality, center-based infant and toddler care. Provides four examples of shared services models that pool key administrative functions across multiple centers/programs to improve quality and efficiency. The topic is introduced to state leaders as a potential model to consider.
Preschool Inclusion Finance Toolkit , opens in a new window Pages 12-15

The toolkit from ECTA provides an overview of how braiding and blending funds can increase access to inclusive high-quality preschool programs for all children. It provides examples of funding strategies to increase inclusion of special needs children in high quality programs. These examples include:

  • Cost sharing in which each program pays the same amount per child
  • Cost sharing in which cost contribution occurs when a funding source contributes money to the program
  • Specific cost sharing in which funds are contributes for a specific funding source;
  • fee for service or private pay
  • In-kind sharing; class size waivers and funded enrollment.
Virginia Early Childhood Integrated Financing Toolkit , opens in a new window Early Childhood Integrated Financing , opens in a new window The toolkit links to information and resources about Virginia's Coordinated Enrollment initiative which seeks to simplify early childhood enrollment processes and reduce the burden on families and providers. The initiative aims to coordinate eligibility criteria across early childhood programs, use a common application, and create a shared waitlist. The online toolkit includes links to resources related to the Coordinated Enrollment initiative, such as a self-assessment tool and an information sheet, that local communities can reference to support coordination between programs and providers.

Resources that can provide in-depth guidance on blending and braiding for program administrators

Below, we describe resources that are aimed at program administrators that aim to provide in-depth, step-by-step guidance about how to blend and braid funds from multiple funding sources.

Resource Section or pages Description of information included in resource
Blended and Braided Funding: A Guide for Policy Makers and Practitioners , opens in a new window Chapter V and VI, pages 17-21 Chapter VI of this report from the Association of Government Accountants includes a decision framework--a series of general questions--that programs can use to determine if their program is a candidate for braided and blended funding. Chapter V also includes a few recommended practices for programs implementing braided and blended funding, including conducting a needs assessment and developing a consolidated project plan and budget.
Blending and Braiding Toolkit , opens in a new window The toolkit from the Spark Institute can be used directly by program administrators. The toolkit is set up as a free, online course. The toolkit is written in plain language and offers a step-by-step guide for programs to implement fiscal braiding and blending. The guide takes a comprehensive view of the process from identifying a vision and partners to developing and implementing a coordinated financing plan. The toolkit is supported by checklists, templates, and case studies.
Early Childhood Guide to Blending & Braiding in New York: A “How To” Guide , opens in a new window A how-to guide produced by the Sparks Policy Institute for the New York State Early Childhood Advisory Council. This tool was developed a practical tool for organizations and communities to help them undertake the planning process for blended and braiding funding models. This guide provides definitions of blending and braiding as well as actionable information intended to help users develop blended and braided funding models. The guide include provides hypothetical examines of braiding and blending funding approaches.
Blending and Braiding Funds to Support Early Childhood Education Programs: Your "How To" Guide , opens in a new window N.A. A how-to guide produced by the Sparks Policy Institute for the New York State Early Childhood Advisory Council that is intended as a supplement to the Early Childhood Guide to Blending and Braiding in New York . This tool was developed a practical tool for child care providers, Head Start/Early Head Start grantees, and other ECE programs to support the planning process for blending and braiding. This guide provides specific, concrete examples of best practices in blending and braiding funding sources, including calculation and reporting strategies, that users could directly map on to their own programs by "plugging in" the necessary values/eligibility information/reporting requirements.

References

1. Fonseca, M. “Braiding, Blending, And Layering Funding Sources To Increase Access To Quality Preschool: State Technical Assistance Report.” Herndon, VA: Preschool Development and Expansion Grant Technical Assistance (PDG TA), AEM Corporation, 2017. Available at https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED583129.pdf.

2. Illinois Early Learning Council. “Ensuring Equitable Access to Funding for All Birth-to-Five Classroom-Based Early Childhood Programs: Illinois Early Learning Council Integration and Alignment Committee Mixed Delivery System Ad Hoc Committee Report and Recommendations.” Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, June 2019. Available at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/OECD/Documents/Early%20Learning%20Council%20Mixed%20Delivery%20System%20Report%20and%20Recommendations.pdf

3. Wallen, M. “Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs.” Chicago, IL: Start Early, November 2013. Available at http://qrisnetwork.org/sites/all/files/resources/mrobinson%40buildinitiative.org/2014-01-17%2011%3A36/Blending%20and%20Braiding%20Early%20Childhood%20Program%20Funding%20Streams%20Toolkit.pdf

Resources to help states align requirements of Head Start, Early Head Start, and CCDF

The table below describes resources available to help states align eligibility and reporting requirements for Head Start, Early Head Start, and CCDF.

Resource Section or pages Description
Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs (2013), opens in a new window Section III and 4; pages 16 to 27 The toolkit from Start Early includes several resources meant to enable a state administrator to begin braiding or blending funding streams. Part III provides policy recommendations for aligning regulatory requirements of key early learning funding streams, including Head Start, Early Head Start, subsidies (CCDF and TANF), and state-funded programs. These policy recommendations address eligibility and enrollment issues, programmatic issues (such as ages of children served and length of day and year), and funding issues. Part VI includes a series of tables that highlight various policy strategies that states use to align requirements for CCDF and state-funded programs with Head Start and Early Head Start. These strategies aim to facilitate braiding and blending of funding to provide high-quality, comprehensive full-day and full-year services] for young children from families with low income.
Side-by-Side Comparison of Federal and State Requirements for Early Childhood Education Services (2014), opens in a new window Pages 7 to 9 This resource from ACF shows elements of Early Head Start and CCDF legislation and regulations with the option to add state-funded program requirements. This document can facilitate side-by-side comparison of these funding streams and provide insight about how to change requirements to better coordinate funding streams and improve access for families for these services.
Top Ten Ways CCDF Can Support Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (2017), opens in a new window n.a. This resource from ACF describes strategies to bridge differences in policy, operations, and funding requirements between Early Head Start and CCDF. The document includes 10 areas of CCDF policy that can support Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, such as aligning eligibility policies so that more families are eligible for both Early Head Start and child care subsidies as well as aligning Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships eligibility dates with Early Head Start enrollment dates. Both sections of this resource describe how lead agencies can use Head Start provisions that allow a percentage of families with income higher than the federal poverty level to be served. This, in turn, could help such partnerships more effectively meet their enrollment goal.
Expanding High-Quality Child Care for Infants & Toddlers Lessons from Implementation of Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships in States (2012), opens in a new window n.a. This report from Start Early provides multiple examples of how states participating in the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships revised their subsidy eligibility rules to meet its eligibility requirements. For example, states gave children eligible for a Partnership slot categorical eligibility or prioritized them to secure a subsidy.
Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships: Growing the Supply of Early Learning Opportunities for More Infants and Toddlers (2016), opens in a new window Section IV; pages 24 to 31 This report from ACF describes how states participating in the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program are implementing more flexible CCDF eligibility policies. For example, one state allows children enrolled in a partnership slot to be determined eligible for a subsidy for the length of enrollment in the partnership (up to three years for child care centers and up to four years for family child care). Other states have waived co-payments for families at or below the poverty level.
The Importance of Continuity of Care: Policies and Practices in Early Childhood Systems and Programs (2015), opens in a new window Pages 10 to 12 This brief from Start Early discusses recommendations for states to align eligibility rules between child care subsidies and other programs including Head Start, Early Head Start, and state pre-K.

ACF = Administration for Children and Families; CCDF = Child Care and Development Fund; n.a. = not applicable; TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Resources to help states align requirements of CCDF and TANF

The table below describes resources available to help states align eligibility and reporting requirements of CCDF and TANF.

Resource Section or pages Description
Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs (2014), opens in a new window Section III and 4; pages 16 to 27 The toolkit from Start Early includes several resources to enable a state administrator to begin an approach towards braiding or blending funding streams. Part III provides policy recommendations for aligning regulatory requirements of key early learning funding streams, including Head Start/Early Head Start, subsidies (CCDF & TANF), and state-funded programs. These policy recommendations address eligibility and enrollment issues, programmatic issues (such as ages of children served and length of day and year), and funding issues. Part VI includes a series of tables that highlight various policy strategies that states are using to align requirements for CCDF and state-funded programs with Head Start/Early Head Start. These strategies aim to facilitate braiding and blending of funding in order to provide high-quality, comprehensive, full-day, full-year for young children from families with low income.
Collaboration Between CCDF and TANF to Meet the Needs of Low-Income Working Families (2018) , opens in a new window n.a. This resource from ACF shows elements of Early Head Start and CCDF legislation and regulations with the option to add state-funded program requirements. This document can facilitate side-by-side comparison of these funding streams and provide insight about how to change requirements to better coordinate funding streams and improve access for families for these services.

Resources to help states align requirements of state prek and federal funding streams

The table below describes resources available to help states align eligibility and reporting requirements for state pre-K and federal funding streams.

Resource Section or pages Description
Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs (2013), opens in a new window Section III and 4; pages 16 to 27 The toolkit from Start Early includes several resources to enable a state administrator to begin an approach towards braiding or blending funding streams. Part III provides policy recommendations for aligning regulatory requirements of key early learning funding streams, including Head Start/Early Head Start, subsidies (CCDF & TANF), and state-funded programs. These policy recommendations address eligibility and enrollment issues, programmatic issues (such as ages of children served and length of day and year), and funding issues. Part VI includes a series of tables that highlight various policy strategies that states are using to align requirements for CCDF and state-funded programs with Head Start/Early Head Start. These strategies aim to facilitate braiding and blending of funding in order to provide high-quality, comprehensive, full-day, full-year for young children from families with low income.
Side-by-Side Comparison of Federal and State Requirements for Early Childhood Education Services (2014), opens in a new window Pages 7 to 9 This resource from ACF shows elements of Early Head Start and CCDF legislation and regulations with the option to add state-funded program requirements. This document can facilitate side-by-side comparison of these funding streams and provide insight about how to change requirements to better coordinate funding streams and improve access for families for these services.
Layering Funding for Quality ECE (2018), opens in a new window n.a. This short article lists questions stakeholders can ask to assess the alignment between CCDF plans and the state pre-K system. For example, one question asks whether CCDF eligibility rules ensure 12-month eligibility for families.

Resources to help states align Medicaid eligibility with other programs

The table below describes resources available to help states align Medicaid eligibility with other programs.

Resource Section or pages Description
Blending, Braiding, and Block-Granting Funds for Public Health and Prevention: Implications for States (2017), opens in a new window Pages 9, 10, 16, 22 This report from the National Academy for State Health Policy, the de Beaumont Foundation, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials describes how Medicaid eligibility can be expanded to overlap with safety net programs. The report provides examples of models that states can use.

Examples of how states have aligned eligibility requirements


  • The Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit, opens in a new window from Start Early provides several examples of how states have aligned eligibility requirements between funding streams.
    • In the Illinois Child Care Collaboration program, the state extended the eligibility period (annual eligibility versus six months), job search period (90 days versus 30 days), and maintained indefinite eligibility when children’s or families’ participation in the program is part of their TANF Responsibilities and Services Plan. A 2007 evaluation of this program found that the program led to longer eligibility periods and increased provision of services in one location, increased program quality, increased daily attendance, and increased community partnership and collaboration.
    • Washington State passed legislation to expand subsidy eligibility from 6 to 12 months before it was required by the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. In July 2011, Washington piloted a 12-month eligibility cycle for families receiving Working Connections Child Care subsidies for recipients who participate in Head Start, Early Head Start, or state preschool programs. In spring 2012, the Washington legislature passed legislation that expanded the extended eligibility to all current Working Connections Child Care participants.
  • An article called Layering Funding for Quality ECE, opens in a new window (Reidt-Parker and Wallen 2018), describes how states have implemented CCDF in ways that support capacity for braiding and blending funds at the local level.
    • For example, some states define participation in Head Start or Early Head Start as work for the purposes of subsidy eligibility to reduce barriers to families’ receipt of services. States can make similar decisions to align definitions of parental work, education, and training; family income eligibility and processes for eligibility determination; priorities for categorical eligibility; and payment rates and policies.
    • Some states have also involved boards of education in the development of the CCDF plan to increase alignment between CCDF and state pre-K. For example, in California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oregon, the state board of education is involved in the development of the CCDF plan. During public comment periods for CCDF plans, state boards also have the opportunity to review their state’s CCDF plan and comment on alignment between the plan and the state pre-K system. State boards of education can also review the CCDF plan to determine the state’s priorities for professional development and encourage policies for cross-system professional development.

References

1. Administration for Children and Families. “Aligning CCDF and EHS Eligibility.” Washington, DC: Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, October 2016. Available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/policy-guidance/aligning-ccdf-and-ehs-eligibility
2. Reidt-Parker, J. and M. Wallen. “Layering Funding for Quality ECE.” Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of Education, September 2018. Available at https://nasbe.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/2018/09/Reidt-Parker-Wallen_September-2018-Standard.pdf.
3. Wallen, M. “Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs.” Chicago, IL: Start Early, November 2013. Available at http://qrisnetwork.org/sites/all/files/resources/mrobinson%40buildinitiative.org/2014-01-17%2011%3A36/Blending%20and%20Braiding%20Early%20Childhood%20Program%20Funding%20Streams%20Toolkit.pdf

Resources to support collaborative planning between agencies and departments

The table below shows resources that provide guidance on how to support collaborative planning between different agencies or departments, including how to develop project plans with braided funding models, as well as worksheets and self-assessment tools.

Resources Section to pages Description of information inclued in resource
Blended and Braided Funding: A Guide for Policy Makers and Practitioners (2014), opens in a new window Chapter V and Chapter VI; pages 17-21

This guide from the Association of Government Accountants provides guidance for partners in the planning process of implementing blended and braided programs. Chapter V describes how to develop project plans by doing the following:

  • Conducting a needs assessment, including a link to the U.S. Department of Education’s Designing Schoolwide Programs – Non-Regulatory Guidance, opens in a new window, which provides an overview of how states can comprehensively assess their needs.
  • Developing a consolidating project plan in collaboration with project stakeholders. The guide provides an overview of key stakeholders to include in collaborative planning, and links to the GAO report Managing for Results, opens in a new window, which includes the GAO’s recommended approaches to enhance collaboration in interagency groups.
  • Developing a consolidated budget to specify the amount of funding coming from each program.
  • Monitoring accountability by evaluating key outputs, outcomes, and performance measures.

Chapter VI includes a decision framework that users can use to determine whether projects are suitable candidates for braided or blended funds and to identify issues that might have been previously overlooked in the decision making process. This includes key questions stakeholders should ask to determine whether projects are suitable candidates for blended and braided funding and to identify key barriers or challenges.

Preschool Inclusion Finance Toolkit (2018), opens in a new window Early Childhood Program Comparisons Worksheet, opens in a new window This toolkit from the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center includes a worksheet, the Early Childhood Programs Comparison Worksheet, opens in a new window, that agency partners can complete to describe the crucial requirements and elements of programs funded by various funding stream. The worksheet prompts partners and teams to identify state, regional, or local agencies and the leads of each funding stream. In addition, the worksheet prompts partners and teams to identify key elements of program structure and oversight, program operations (such as eligibility and enrollment), program requirements (such as class size and teacher–child ratio), child development and learning (such as learning standards and curriculum), and behavior supports and requirements (such as positive behavior supports and suspension and expulsion). The worksheet can help compare programs such as the state pre-K, the Preschool Development Grant, Head Start, Special Education, Title I, and Child Care.
QRIS Resource Guide - Cost Projections and Financing (2019), opens in a new window Initial Design Process This tool, which focuses on creating a QRIS, speaks directly about partnership and working together to identify key stakeholders. The initial design process, opens in a new window process section of the guide discusses establishing a shared QRIS vision and goals by working to clearly define it, using QRIS as a framework for quality improvement efforts, education and building support among policymakers and state and community leaders, education and building support among private funders and businesses, building the design process and the key role that partners play in that, and strategic planning.
State Initiatives to Promote Early Learning: Next Steps in Coordinating Subsidized Child Care, Head Start, and State Prekindergarten (2001), opens in a new window Section II.A; pages 5 to 9; Appendix A; Appendix B; Appendix C Section II.A of this report, opens in a new window from the Center for Law and Social Policy provides guidance on how states can develop a comprehensive vision for coordinated early learning services that encompasses the need for early education and family work supports. This section describes how policymakers in three states, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Ohio, re-envisioned how these services fit together. It includes a brief discussion of how early education leaders in each state communicated with other key stakeholders. Appendices A to C provide detailed information about the teams that operated in each of these three states.
Virginia Early Childhood Integrated Financing Toolkit (2019), opens in a new window Pages 23, 25 to 28 This toolkit from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation recommends jurisdictions develop a community-wide early childhood plan and identifies some issues for communities to consider, such as potential stakeholders to include in the plan development. The toolkit links to the Financing Self-Assessment Tool, opens in a new window to help communities evaluate how they are using available early childhood education resources. The self-assessment tool guides communities in identifying assets and gaps, developing steps to address challenges, and fostering commitments to expand and sustain coordination.

QRIS = quality rating and improvement system.

Resources on developing venues for interagency or interdepartmental collaboration

The table below shows resources on developing and utilizing venues for interagency or interdepartmental collaboration.

Resource Section or pages Description
Budgeting to Promote Social Objectives - A Primer on Braiding and Blending (2020), opens in a new window Pages 25 to 31

This guide from the Brookings Institution highlights the role that interagency planning groups can play in coordinating funding for specific objectives across agencies. This section offers guidance to states looking to create an infrastructure of collaboration and coordination. This section provides guidance about five ways that states can support these efforts:

  • Agency planning and coordination, including the use of interagency planning groups such as children’s cabinets and interagency homelessness councils.
  • New bodies and powers for collaboration, in which states establish new bodies to act as managers of braided or blended funds
  • Locally established bodies, in which special local institutions carry out coordinated planning and funding functions outside a formal state framework
  • Making use of federal waivers as a platform for granting permission to lower levels of government
  • Data sharing and evaluation, to promote the value of evaluation and describing the net impact of cross-sector collaboration.

The various approaches states can use to establish these entities, such as through legislation or through governor's executive order, are discussed.

Policy Statement to Support the Alignment of Health and Early Learning Systems (n.d.), opens in a new window Pages 7 to 8 This policy statement from HHS and ED recommends that states and communities build on existing infrastructure to support coordination across health and learning programs and systems. It lists a number of potential councils and coordinating bodies that could be tapped to help align health and learning programs and systems.
Joint Statement: State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood Education and Care: Advancing Work Beyond Federal Financing (2016), opens in a new window N.A. This policy statement from HHS and ED provides guidance to State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood Education and Care on activities that the councils can undertake to support coordinated, high quality, and comprehensive systems of early childhood education in states. It includes recommendations for activities to keep current and relevant; to revise statewide plans to meet identified needs; and to align policies and leverage funding across early childhood programs.

ED = U.S. Department of Education; HHS = U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; n.a. = not applicable

References

1. Butler, S., Higashi, T., and Cabello, M. “Budgeting to Promote Social Objectives – A Primer on Braiding and Blending.” Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, April 2020. Available at https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/BraidingAndBlending20200403.pdf.

2. Cate, D. and Peters, M. L. “Preschool Inclusion Finance Toolkit.” Washington, DC: Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, 2018. Available at https://ectacenter.org/~pdfs/topics/inclusion/preschool_inclusion_finance_toolkit_2018.pdf

3. Wallen, M. “Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs.” Chicago, IL: The Ounce, November 2013. Available at http://qrisnetwork.org/sites/all/files/resources/mrobinson%40buildinitiative.org/2014-01-17%2011%3A36/Blending%20and%20Braiding%20Early%20Childhood%20Program%20Funding%20Streams%20Toolkit.pdf

Resources describing general lessons from programs, initiatives, and systems that use multiple funding streams

Below, we describe resources that provide general lessons learned and best practices from prior state and local efforts to braid and blend funding streams in order to expand access to ECE.

Resource Sections or pages Description of information included in resource
Blended and Braided Funding: Sharing Costs Across Multiple Sectors (2020), opens in a new window Pages 6 to 10 This document provides several examples from different states to show the variety of ways state and federal initiatives have leveraged multiple funding streams to support children and families. It describes common challenges and provides a brief list of recommendations to consider when blending and braiding public and private funds at the state level.
Blended and Braided Funding: A Guide for Policy Makers and Practitioners (2014), opens in a new window Pages 17 to 18 This guide from the Association of Government Accounts provides lessons learned based on case studies that can broadly inform efforts to implement programs with blended or braided funding. It offers recommendations that can apply to programs with braided or blended funding models as well as programs with blended funding models specifically.
Blending, Braiding, and Block-Granting Funds for Public Health and Prevention: Implications for States (2017), opens in a new window n.a. This report from the National Academy for State Health Policy focuses on Medicaid and the ways in which the program itself is a partnership between states and the federal government, with both parties bearing a portion of the cost. The guide highlights different scenarios in which states could respond strategically to reduce the structure of block grants and categorical funding to work toward greater flexibility in response to changing federal funding for public and population health.

Resources describing lessons from programs, initiatives, and systems that use multiple funding streams to expand access to early care and education

Below, we describe resources that provide lessons learned and best practices from prior state and local efforts to braid funding streams in order to expand access to early care and education.

Resource Sections or pages Description of information included in resource
Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs (2013), opens in a new window Part IV; pages 22 to 26 Part IV of this toolkit from Start Early discusses promising strategies states are using to blend and braid early learning funding streams. It includes examples of how states have supported coordination between child care subsidies, Head Start, EHS, and state pre-K.
Expanding Access to Early Head Start: State Initiatives for Infants and Toddlers at Risk (2012), opens in a new window Pages 5 to 12 This report from the Center for Law and Social Policy describes the various funding sources and policy strategies that states are using to expand EHS services. These state-level initiatives include extending the day or year of EHS services, expanding the capacity of EHS programs, providing resources and assistance to child care providers to achieve EHS standards, and supporting partnerships between EHS and other ECE providers to improve quality. To support these initiatives, states leveraged a variety of funding sources, such as CCDBG, TANF, MIECHV, state general revenues, tobacco settlement revenues, gaming revenue, and private funding. The report concludes with recommendations to states.
State Initiatives to Promote Early Learning: Next Steps in Coordinating Subsidized Child Care, Head Start, and State Prekindergarten (2001), opens in a new window Part III; pages 33 to 36; Appendix A - C This report from the Center for Law and Social Policy provides general recommendations to states interested in developing ECE initiatives to coordinate Head Start, child care subsidies, and state pre-K. The recommendations are supported by appendices that include detailed profiles of three state initiatives: (1) Georgia's universal pre-K initiative, which uses state lottery funds to programs to supplement CCDF, Head Start, and Title I funding among other funding sources, with a local match; (2) Massachusetts's Community Partnerships for Children model, which is a state-to-local grant program funded through state dollars and TANF that can be combined with Head Start and CCDF funding to expand access to high quality preschool services; and (3) Head Start's Targeted Head Start Expansion Initiative that draws on state appropriations and private funding to expand Head Start services.
Using Contracts and Grants to Build the Supply of High-Quality Child Care: State Strategies and Practices (2016), opens in a new window n.a. This paper from the Administration for Children and Families provides a comprehensive review of how states are using contracts and grants with CCGBG funds—often in conjunction with state quality rating and improvement systems and federal funding streams including Head Start, EHS, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, TANF, and Title I preschool programs—to increase the supply and quality of child care. Payment practices, approaches to monitoring and oversight, general lessons learned, and best practices for using contracts and grants are discussed.
Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education (2018), opens in a new window Pages 210 to 213 The report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that states act as the coordinator for most federal and state revenue streams and financing mechanisms. It highlights New York City's Early Learn initiative as a successful example of such coordination. The resource briefly describes this model, which includes three ECE programs and combines four funding streams (CCDBG, Head Start, state pre-K, and city tax levy).

CCDBG = Child Care and Development Block Grant; CCDF = Child Care and Development Fund; ECE = early care and education; EHS = Early Head Start; MIECHV = Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting; n.a. = not applicable; TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Resources describing lessons from state and local efforts that use multiple funding streams to expand access to comprehensive child and family services

The resources below describe general lessons learned and best practices from state and local efforts to braid funding streams to expand access to comprehensive child and family services.

Resource Sections or pages Description of information included in resource
Adding It Up: A Guide for Mapping Public Resources for Children, Youth and Families. (2006), opens in a new window Pages 14 to 19 This guide from the Forum for Youth Investment briefly describes how states are using Medicaid to finance statewide home visiting programs, often in conjunction with other federal funding streams such as MIECHV, Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, TANF, Child Welfare, and Head Start. The guide describes the focus of each program and funding stream and briefly discusses how states overcome challenges to braiding federal funding sources.
Coverage of Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Services (2016), opens in a new window Entire report (state example is on page 9) This Joint Information Bulletin from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services discusses how Medicaid can fund some components of home visiting services and provides and an example of one state's efforts. On page 9, the report provides an example of how South Carolina received approval to implement a home visiting pilot for pregnant women and children called the South Carolina Enhanced Prenatal and Postpartum Home Visitation Pilot Project.
Expanding Access to Early Head Start: State Initiatives for Infants and Toddlers at Risk (2012), opens in a new window Pages 5 to 12 This report from the Center for Law and Social Policy describes the various funding sources and policy strategies that states are using to expand EHS services. These state-level initiatives include extending the day or year of EHS services, expanding the capacity of EHS programs, providing resources and assistance to child care providers to achieve EHS standards, and supporting partnerships between EHS and other ECE providers to improve quality. To support these initiatives, states leveraged a variety of funding sources, such as CCDBG, TANF, MIECHV, state general revenues, tobacco settlement revenues, gaming revenue, and private funding. The report concludes with recommendations to states.
Financing Guidance for IECMHC (n.d.), opens in a new window n.a. This report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes how states, tribes, and communities can conduct needs assessments, consider the key gaps in services a program aims to fund, identify the cost of these services, and identify what funds align best with IECMHC services. It recommends that a program should identify its messenger, gather all of the relevant information and develop the ask, and schedule the ask. It also provides guidance on making the request by demonstrating real-life needs and making the ask. The resource then suggests that a program follow up by debriefing with the team, following up with the funder within 24 hours and asking for feedback if the request is not accepted. It concludes by advising a program to continue to champion IECMHC and prepare for the next ask.
Policy Statement to Support the Alignment of Health and Early Learning Systems (n.d.), opens in a new window Pages 8, 9, 11, 12-13, 17 This policy statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education recommends expanding evidence-based home visiting programs and provides a high-level discussion of ways home visiting can be funded, such as through MIECHV, Medicaid, and CHIP. This resource also recommends embedding health supports in early learning settings by leveraging funding from the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program, exploring place-based initiatives to support early childhood efforts, and collaborating to implement nutrition and physical activity strategies by using the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Putting it Together: A Guide to Financing Comprehensive Services in Child Care and Early Education (2012), opens in a new window Pages 13 to 20 This guide from the Center for Law and Social Policy offers state and local case studies of successful efforts to deliver comprehensive services to children in child care settings. Each case study details the specific funding streams used and how states implemented the partnership. The examples are organized into states that are working to connect children to preventive health services and treatment (Arizona, Iowa, New York and Maine), states and programs that are supporting children's social, emotional, and cognitive development (Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and a program in Michigan); and states and programs that are focusing on promoting family support, engagement, and leadership (Tennessee and Washington State).
A Sourcebook on Medicaid's Role in Early Childhood: Advancing High Performing Medical Homes and Improving Lifelong Health (2018), opens in a new window Part Five; pages 71 to 84

Part 5 of this sourcebook from the Child and Family Policy Center States provides an overview of the mechanisms within Medicaid to finance social-emotional or mental health supports for young children and their parents (for example, early childhood mental health consultation, parent–child therapy). The report includes ways states or pediatric medical homes can braid Medicaid with other federal programs to pay for the following:

  • Home visiting programs (braided with MIECHV funds)
  • Early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with physical, developmental, or mental disabilities (braided with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B and C and Title V funds)
  • Mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including home visiting, for children who are candidates of foster care or their parents (braided with funds from the Family First Prevention Act)

The sourcebook also describes how Medicaid alone could also be used for prevention or treatment services within primary care practices (such as by hiring a parent educator).

CCDBG = Child Care and Development Block Grant; CHIP = Children’s Health Insurance Program; ECE = early care and education; EHS = Early Head Start; IECMHC = Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation; MIECHV = Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting; n.a. = not applicable; TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Resources describing lessons from state and local efforts that use multiple funding streams to improve early care and education quality

The table below lists resources describing lessons learned and best practices from state and local efforts to braid funding streams to improve ECE quality.

Resource Sections or pages Description of information included in resource
Expanding High-Quality Child Care for Infants & Toddlers Lessons from Implementation of Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships in States (2020), opens in a new window Pages 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 19, 23, 27, 31, 34, 39, 43 This report from Start Early provides examples of how states used EHS, CCDBG, and EHS-Child Care Partnership funds to support quality improvement and professional development needs of Partnership programs. For example, some states made EHS training available to community providers. Others used CCDBG set-aside funds to help providers earn a higher credential. Some states raised the payments to subsidized providers participating in the Partnership to reflect the higher standards they had to meet.
Layering Funding for Quality ECE (2018), opens in a new window Shared professional development; page 30 This article from Reidt-Parker and Wallen describes how state boards of education can advocate for the inclusion of early childhood system providers in state-level pre-K professional development investments. Specifically, it suggests that state boards of education can ask local districts to consider how they can use Every Student Succeeds Act funds to support collaborative professional development between the pre-K and early childhood systems.
State Issues and Innovations in Creating Integrated Early Learning and Development Systems (2011), opens in a new window pages 6, 39, 45 This report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education describes state efforts to leverage federal investments in and build infrastructure to support an integrated professional development system. For example, the resource recommends integrating federal training and technical assistance resources with state systems and highlights foundation-funded programs to support professional development. The resource also discusses efforts to increase the access to high quality care for vulnerable children from families with low income. For example, one state uses federal Child Care and Development and state funding to provide grants to Head Start and EHS programs to partner with local providers.
BQRIS Resource Guide - Cost Projections and Financing (2019), opens in a new window Step 3 This section of the QRIS Resource Guides says that state QRIS should be a collaborative effort among various stakeholders that aim to come together to leverage multiple funding streams. The guide discusses that QRIS funding strategies mean leveraging, in most cases, more than one funding stream. It discussed the need for a road map of potential sources and a strategy for securing those funding streams. This section of the guide suggests that those hoping to implement a QRIS asses the resources at their disposal, which may be in different state agencies. This section also links to the Initial Design Process, opens in a new window section of the guide, which offers guidance as to which stakeholders or entities should be at the table. it also offers guidance about ways in which key partners can be vested in the process.

CCDBG = Child Care and Development Block Grant; EHS = Early Head Start; QRIS = quality rating and improvement system.

Resources to help states develop collaborative governance structures

The table below shows resources for users to find recommendations and examples of governance structures that can support the implementation of coordinated early care and education systems.

Resources Page Description of information inclued in resource
State Initiatives to Promote Early Learning: Next Steps in Coordinating Subsidized Child Care, Head Start, and State Prekindergarten (2001), opens in a new window Section II.A; pages 5 to 9; Appendix A; Appendix B; Appendix C This report from the Center for Law and Social Policy describes the governance structures that three states, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Ohio, have used to implement their coordinated early care and education early learning initiatives or child care services. For example, Georgia's universal pre-K program is run by an independent agency that oversees pre-K, licensing of pre-K providers, federal food funding (including the Child and Adult Care Food Program) and other initiatives. Massachusetts has consolidated licensing and subsidy functions under one agency, the Office of Child Care Services, which also oversee TANF block grant funds.
State Issues and Innovations in Creating Integrated Early Learning and Development Systems (2011), opens in a new window Chapter 1; pages 15 to 23 This report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education describes how states can adapt state governance to coordinate and align early development services. This chapter highlights some examples of how states have aligned their systems among themselves, including sharing authority across state-level sectors and agencies by creating a Children's Cabinet or memoranda of understanding, as well as with local public or private boards or partnerships to support coordination. The report also describes approaches states can take to leverage opportunities presented by early childhood advisory councils.
Ensuring Equitable Access to Funding for All Birth-to-Five Classroom-Based Early Childhood Programs (2019), opens in a new window Page 22 This report from Illinois Early Learning Council recommends creating a new governance structure for each childhood funding stream that provides a single entity with the responsibility and authority for publicly funded classroom-based early learning services. The report argues that lack of coordination and alignment across funding streams at the state level has placed the burden of navigating complex funding and compliance systems on providers of early childhood services and family supports. It recommends ways the state can develop and implement a coordinated governance approach. These recommendations might inform other state’s efforts to implement similar coordinated governance structures.

Resources describing state supports for braiding at the provider level

The table below describes a report from the Illinois Early Learning Council that recommends specific types of supports states can provide to facilitate braiding at the program level.

Resource Description of information included in resource
Ensuring Equitable Access to Funding for All Birth-to-Five Classroom-Based Early Childhood Programs: Illinois Early Learning Council Integration and Alignment Committee Mixed Delivery System Ad Hoc Committee Report and Recommendation (2019), opens in a new window A 2019 report from the Illinois Early Learning Council recommends specific types of supports states can provide to facilitate braiding and blending at the program level. This report describes the recommendations from a committee tasked with promoting a mixed delivery system in Illinois. The committee recommends that the state create a system to individualize support, technical assistance, and mentoring to promote community-based organizations' participation in the state infant–toddler and preschool program delivery system. The supports can help providers understand the state program requirements and how to manage combined funding streams.

Resources that describe different approaches to using multiple funding streams at the individual provider level

The table below describes resources about different approaches to facilitating the use of multiple funding streams at the provider level. These include resources that provide an overview of different braiding approaches, shared services approaches, and detailed examples of how administrators have managed multiple funding streams.

Resource Section or pages Description of information included in resource
Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Program Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs (2013), opens in a new window Part II, Sections C and D, pages 14 to 15 Sections C and D of this toolkit, from Start Early, provide an overview of why braiding and blending is necessary and describe the evolution of blending and braiding approaches. These sections describe the two types of collaboration models that have emerged to support braiding and blending early childhood funding streams:
  • One agency, multiple funders model. A single program or agency braids or blends funding from multiple sources at a single site. For example, a center might use state pre-K funding, child care funding, and other revenue sources to provide full-day, full-year services.
  • Multiple agencies model Two or more agencies partner to serve children at one site. Agencies can co-locate, share space, and share programming and funding. Costs might be covered through subcontracts, purchase or services, or other agreements. For example, a Head Start program might contract with a child care center to provide full-day, full-year services.
Braiding, Blending, and Layering Funding Sources to Increase Access to Quality Preschool (n.d.), opens in a new window Pages 4 to 7 The Preschool Development Grant brief examines blending, braiding, and layering as strategies to support and sustain high-quality preschool. This section presents findings from structured interviews with program administrators in multiple states. Findings include details about how administrators, including school district personnel, a Head Start director, and the owner and director of a child care program, managed multiple funding streams.
Financing High-Quality Center-Based Infant-Toddler Care: Options and Opportunities (2015), opens in a new window Section 6, pages 15 to 20 Section 6 of this report from Office of Child Care and Office of Head Start highlights approaches to encourage and support systems-building at the provider level for high-quality, center-based infant and toddler care. It provides four examples of shared services models that pool key administrative functions across multiple centers and programs to improve quality and efficiency. The topic is introduced to state leaders as a potential model to consider.
Preschool Inclusion Finance Toolkit (2018), opens in a new window Pages 12 to 15 The toolkit from ECTA provides an overview of how braiding and blending funds can increase access to inclusive high-quality preschool programs for all children. It provides examples of funding strategies to better include special needs children in high-quality programs. These examples include the following:
  • Cost sharing in which each program pays the same amount per child
  • Cost sharing in which cost contribution occurs when a funding source contributes money to the program
  • Specific cost sharing in which funds are contributed for a specific funding source
  • Fee for service or private pay
  • In-kind sharing; class size waivers and funded enrollment
Virginia Early Childhood Integrated Financing Toolkit (n.d.), opens in a new window Early Childhood Integrated Financing, opens in a new window The toolkit links to information and resources about Virginia's Coordinated Enrollment initiative, which seeks to simplify early childhood enrollment processes and reduce the burden on families and providers. The initiative aims to coordinate eligibility criteria across early childhood programs, use a common application, and create a shared waitlist. The online toolkit includes links to resources related to the Coordinated Enrollment initiative, such as a self-assessment tool and an information sheet, that local communities can reference to support coordination between programs and providers.

Resources that provide in-depth guidance on braiding for program administrators

The table below describes resources for program administrators that provide in-depth, step-by-step guidance on how to braid funds from multiple sources.

Resource Section or pages Description of information included in resource
Blended and Braided Funding: A Guide for Policy Makers and Practitioners (2014), opens in a new window Chapter V and VI, pages 17 to 21 Chapter VI of this report from the Association of Government Accountants includes a decision framework (that is, a series of general questions) that users can employ to determine whether their program is a candidate for braided and blended funding. Chapter V also includes a few recommended practices for programs implementing braided and blended funding, including conducting a needs assessment and developing a consolidated project plan and budget.
Blending and Braiding Toolkit (n.d.), opens in a new window n.a. The toolkit from the Spark Institute can be used directly by program administrators. The toolkit is set up as a free online course. It is written in plain language and offers a step-by-step guide for programs to implement fiscal braiding and blending. The guide takes a comprehensive view of the process from identifying a vision and partners to developing and implementing a coordinated financing plan. The toolkit is supported by checklists, templates, and case studies. This toolkit is provided as a free online course: users are required to register for an account with the Spark Institute to access the toolkit.
Early Childhood Guide to Blending & Braiding in New York: A “How To” Guide (2013), opens in a new window n.a. This is a how-to guide produced by the Sparks Policy Institute for the New York State Early Childhood Advisory Council. It was developed to be a practical tool for organizations and communities to help them undertake the planning process for blended and braiding funding models. This guide provides definitions of blending and braiding as well as actionable information intended to help users develop blended and braided funding models. The guide includes hypothetical examines of braiding and blending funding approaches.
Blending and Braiding Funds to Support Early Childhood Education Programs: Your "How To" Guide (n.d.), opens in a new window n.a. This is a how-to guide produced by the Sparks Policy Institute for the New York State Early Childhood Advisory Council that is intended as a supplement to the Early Childhood Guide to Blending and Braiding in New York., opens in a new window It was developed to be a practical tool for child care providers, Head Start and Early Head Start grantees, and other early childhood education programs to help them plan for blending and braiding. This guide provides specific, concrete examples of best practices in blending and braiding funding sources, including calculation and reporting strategies, that users could directly map on to their own programs by plugging in the necessary values, eligibility information, and reporting requirements.

n.a. = not applicable.

References

1. Fonseca, M. “Braiding, Blending, And Layering Funding Sources To Increase Access To Quality Preschool: State Technical Assistance Report.” Herndon, VA: Preschool Development and Expansion Grant Technical Assistance (PDG TA), AEM Corporation, 2017. Available at https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED583129.pdf.
2. Illinois Early Learning Council. “Ensuring Equitable Access to Funding for All Birth-to-Five Classroom-Based Early Childhood Programs: Illinois Early Learning Council Integration and Alignment Committee Mixed Delivery System Ad Hoc Committee Report and Recommendations.” Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, June 2019. Available at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/OECD/Documents/Early%20Learning%20Council%20Mixed%20Delivery%20System%20Report%20and%20Recommendations.pdf
3. Wallen, M. “Blending and Braiding Early Childhood Funding Streams Toolkit: Enhancing Financing for High-Quality Early Learning Programs.” Chicago, IL: Start Early, November 2013. Available at http://qrisnetwork.org/sites/all/files/resources/mrobinson%40buildinitiative.org/2014-01-17%2011%3A36/Blending%20and%20Braiding%20Early%20Childhood%20Program%20Funding%20Streams%20Toolkit.pdf