Policy Recommendations

2024 Policy Recommendations of the Vermont Early Childhood State Advisory Council Network


On October 23, 2023, the State Advisory Council (SAC) formally endorsed the Policy Recommendations of the Vermont Early Childhood State Advisory Council Network for 2024. These recommendations represent the most pressing and actionable priorities for early childhood stakeholders throughout the Building Bright Futures Network.

BBF also released a new Policy Playbook explaining what the recommendations mean, why they matter, and some of the ways they can be put into action. The Policy Playbook outlines the process for developing recommendations and provides more information on each recommendation.

The State Advisory Council (SAC) is Vermont’s Governor-appointed, primary advisory body on the well-being of children from the prenatal period through age 8 and their families. In partnership with Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan (VECAP) Committees and the Regional Councils, the SAC sets priorities and strategic direction for statewide initiatives using the VECAP and up-to-date data. The annual recommendations are developed with input across all BBF Network gatherings and seek to identify the current gaps and needs in policy, promote action in strategic areas for the coming year, ensure recommendations are measurable, and move Vermont toward a more equitable early childhood system.

While the Policy Recommendations can be leveraged in a variety of ways, their foundational goal is to provide a common agenda and unifying vision for the state’s early childhood system and its partners. The Policy Recommendations are a tool that requires both championing and monitoring in order to be successful.

The value and purpose of the Policy Recommendations of the Vermont Early Childhood State Advisory Council Network:

  • Elevate urgent, statewide issues and priorities that need to be addressed from across the Network and Vermont’s early childhood partners more broadly 
  • Provide common language to inform decision-making and support advocacy efforts
  • Communicate about cross-sector early childhood needs and priorities to decision-makers
  • Create accountability for policy change toward the vision outlined in Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan (VECAP)

How does Building Bright Futures develop its Policy Recommendations?

The annual Policy Recommendations are developed with input from across the BBF Network. The recommendations seek to highlight the current gaps and needs in early childhood policy, promote achievable and measurable action in strategic areas for the coming year, and move Vermont toward the vision for the early childhood system as outlined in Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan. 

Annually, the Policy Recommendations are developed and formalized through the following steps:

    1. Continuous Identification of Needs: Throughout the year, as part of our work to monitor the early childhood system in Vermont, the BBF team collects data and stories related to the well-being of young children, families, the early childhood workforce, and system as a whole in multiple ways. Regional Councils and VECAP Committees work together on a monthly basis to collectively identify needs, challenges, and opportunities for children and families and problem-solve how to meet the goals of the strategic plan. Needs are identified in a number of other ways, including Regional Councils’ work to identify annual priorities, Family Needs Assessments led by our Families and Communities Committee, and more.
    2. Potential Priority Area Identified: When a critical need, ongoing and persistent challenge, or inequity in the system is identified, our team considers next steps for elevating and advising. In some cases, the priority is well situated to move forward as a policy recommendation and moves along the following steps. In other cases, the BBF team identifies other strategies to elevate the issue.
      a. Other Ways to Elevate or Prioritize an Issue: When a challenge that has been identified does not move forward as part of the policy recommendation process, the team and partners identify other ways to elevate or prioritize the issue. This may include providing one-on-one advisement to key agency leaders and other partners, identifying opportunities to further study or evaluate a potential strategy, tracking incidences of the issue through our emerging priorities tracker, and more.
    3. Review of Best Practices and Additional Data Collection: Once an issue has been identified, the BBF team works in collaboration with partners to better understand the issue and potential solutions by reviewing or collecting additional state and national data (both quantitative and qualitative) and reviewing best practices identified by vetted sources (see more below).
    4. Collaborative Development of Recommendation: Next, BBF works in partnership with early childhood partners with expertise related to a priority to identify a potential recommendation or strongest next step. When considering whether something is a good fit for the policy recommendation process, the team prioritizes recommendations that call on the Legislature or Administration to take specific action. The team also considers factors such as political and collaborative will, the level of urgency, the degree to which a recommendation is achievable and measurable, and the effect of a State Advisory Council endorsement on the priority.
      a. Re-Elevating Former State Advisory Council Recommendations: In some cases, it is apparent that little to no progress has been made on a policy recommendation elevated through BBF’s process in a previous year. If this recommendation is still part of the collective vision for the system and early childhood partners continue to see it as a priority, it can be renewed formally as part of the policy recommendation process or re-elevated by BBF through testimony or advisement opportunities.
    5. Endorsement: Once a priority has been workshopped by partners and developed into a potential policy recommendation, the BBF team shares drafts for review by network partners, including the State Advisory Council. The Network has a month to provide feedback for consideration (via a survey and public State Advisory Council meeting). BBF then reviews this feedback and makes changes to reflect the views of the majority of the Network, while staying in alignment with best practices. In October, the State Advisory Council formally votes on the recommendations on behalf of the Network.
    6. Advisement: Early childhood partners, including the BBF team, use the Policy Recommendations to advise and advocate on behalf of the early childhood system throughout the year. While previous Policy Recommendations inform advisement as well, a current year’s Policy Recommendations most directly inform how the team prioritizes their time to support priorities that have been elevated as timely by early childhood partners.

When does BBF’s Policy Recommendation process take place?

While data collection and the elevation of needs are happening continuously throughout the BBF Network, the Policy Recommendation process formally begins in the spring. Throughout the course of the spring and summer, the BBF team works with Regional Councils, VECAP Committees, and other early childhood partners to understand the most pressing statewide needs and opportunities. These conversations help the BBF team develop a formal draft of recommendations to bring to the State Advisory Council in September. The Network and its partners then have a month to provide feedback before the recommendations are voted on in October.

How does BBF make sure that its Policy Recommendations are data-driven and based on best practices?

  • Potential Policy Recommendations are considered first and foremost in alignment with Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan, the state’s strategic plan and collective vision for strengthening the state’s early childhood system.
  • BBF considers the data or evidence-base behind a potential policy or programmatic strategy. This is done by reviewing the latest data available at the state level, including Vermont’s Early Childhood Data and Policy Center’s data portal, the latest State of Vermont’s Children report, Family Needs Assessments and other relevant Needs Assessments, Regional Council priorities, our data on emerging priorities, and more. It also includes reviewing national data and evidence including rigorous studies, and partners’ publications about promising strategies for supporting families during the early childhood period.
  • Qualitative data and experiences of Vermont families and the early childhood workforce are highly valued to inform and drive BBF Policy Recommendations.  

How does BBF decide whether to engage on a policy issue that isn’t explicitly part of the current year’s Policy Recommendations?

Urgent priorities will sometimes come up after BBF’s Policy Recommendation process has finished for the year. In this case, the BBF team works to determine how best to provide advisement. This process includes:

  • Providing relevant data and resources to the Legislature, Administration, or other partners 
  • Testifying or advising based on a proposal or challenge’s alignment with Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan and/or previous year’s Policy Recommendations
  • Working with a VECAP Committee, a Regional Council, or the Executive Committee to determine how or if the SAC can work to put more weight behind a potential timely/emerging recommendation outside of the usual schedule to elevate the urgency of an issue

Read Previous Policy Recommendations:


2023 Policy Recommendations 2023 Policy Playbook

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