Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Early Childhood Advisory Council?

The New York State Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) is a group of public and private sector leaders appointed by the Governor to develop a comprehensive and sustainable early childhood system in New York. Established in 2009, the ECAC is working to create a path for every child to succeed, by focusing on four key areas:

Why was the Early Childhood Advisory Council created?

The Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) was established in 2009 to build and implement a comprehensive, sustainable early childhood system in New York State. Additionally, the ECAC was created to meet a federal requirement, set forth in the federal Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, for Governors to establish state advisory councils on early childhood education and care, and was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In New York State, the ECAC addresses human services, social-emotional development, and health care supports and services for young children, beginning with pregnancy.

To date, the ECAC has implemented QUALITYstarsNY (New York's quality rating and improvement system for early care and learning programs), developed and disseminated Early Learning Guidelines,  strengthened New York’s early childhood education professional development system (New York Works for Children), and developed a number of resources to support professionals working with young children meet their social-emotional development needs.

What is the mission of the Early Childhood Advisory Council?

The mission of the Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) is to provide strategic direction and advice on early childhood issues in the State of New York.  By monitoring and guiding the implementation of a range of strategies, the ECAC supports New York in building a comprehensive and sustainable early childhood system that will ensure success for all young children.

Who are the members of the Early Childhood Advisory Council?

Members of the Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) include representatives of early childhood education, health care, child welfare, family support, and mental health programs, advocacy organizations, foundations, higher education, unions, state agencies and others involved in provision of services to young children and their families, beginning in pregnancy.

The work of the ECAC is enriched by the inclusion of the Head Start Collaboration Project and the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Impact initiative, both of which have a cross-systems early childhood focus.

What is a comprehensive early childhood system?

The Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) defines a comprehensive early childhood system as a unified network of public and private supports and services that together prepare young children for success in school and life. Essential components of New York's system include early childhood education, physical health, social-emotional development, and family support and education.

What does the term “early childhood” include?

The prenatal period through age eight is generally considered “early childhood.” Over the past few decades, advances in brain research have shown that early childhood is an active and vital learning time – when the brain builds the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Early childhood includes the care and learning of children – both in and outside the home.

Why is early childhood considered an important learning time?

Brain research has shown that 75% of brain growth and 85% of intellect, as well as personality and social skills develop before age five. The brain’s foundation – which allows a person to continue to learn and grow – is established in the first years of life. Exposure to quality early childhood education has proven effective at closing the achievement gap among low income children, while also offering a significant return on investment, by reducing costs in areas such as remedial education, criminal justice and health care.

How many children are included in the “early childhood” category in New York State?

There are approximately 1.5 million children under age six in New York State. This is 8% of the state’s population.

How have attitudes toward early childhood changed over the years?

In recent years, the President of the United States and Nobel-prize-winning economists have recognized early childhood as a key to economic success, as well as a smart investment with an impressive return on investment.

James J. Heckman, a Nobel Laureate in economics, has proven that investment in early childhood education is an efficient, cost-effective strategy for economic growth, which also provides a solid return on investment. In New York State, research has shown the return on investment (ROI) can be up to $14 for every $1 spent, delivering savings through reduced costs in remedial education, criminal justice and health care.

According to Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, “Economically speaking, early childhood programs are a good investment, with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs estimated to reach 10% or higher. Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return.” 

What is a “sustainable and comprehensive early childhood system?”

The Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) defines a comprehensive early childhood system as a unified network of public and private supports and services that together prepare young children for success in school and life. Essential components of New York's system include:

  • early childhood  education
  • physical health
  • social-emotional development
  • family support and education

In developing this sustainable and comprehensive system, members of the ECAC are guided by the following principles:

  • Diversity: New York's plan will encompass all children and families, recognizing diversity of cultures, languages, abilities, and family structures.
  • Comprehensive Health: Healthy development begins before birth and includes physical, oral, cognitive, and social-emotional health.
  • Family Empowerment: Parents and families play the most influential role in a child's life. The term 'parent' includes all people with primary responsibility for nurturing children.
  • Family Support: Families are best supported by strong public policy and services, promoting economic stability, self-sufficiency, and strong and resilient relationships.
  • Responsive Services: Children and families do best when state and local programs are coordinated and able to respond to their specific needs.

If I am not a parent of young children, why is early childhood education important?

The impact of a stronger early childhood system in New York State is not limited to parents and children. It affects everyone. High quality early childhood programs can help communities supply a reliable, skilled workforce to attract good jobs and new employers. It also provides a return on investment, driving local economic activity while reducing the need for costly services as a child grows.

A strong early childhood system is also important to New York’s future. As our state continues to compete in a more global economy, our workforce will be expected to possess the analytic and critical thinking skills that begin developing in young children.

What is home visiting?

Home visiting is a voluntary program where trained professionals visit mothers and families, beginning during pregnancy and continuing after birth. Typically, the program targets needy and at-risk mothers and has proven highly effective in increasing the stability, safety, health and learning for both children and parents  – while reducing child abuse and neglect, postpartum depression, and short and long-term use of costly services.

New York State is considered a national model for home visiting, with measurable outcomes for services. However, the mix of stand-alone and community-based programs currently serves only a small segment of New York’s neediest families. The Early Childhood Advisory Council works with Home Visiting advocates and providers to find ways to expand Home Visiting statewide and implement universal screenings and assessments of children.

What is QUALITYstarsNY?

QUALITYstarsNY is New York’s quality rating and improvement system to support improvements in the quality of services and to communicate to parents in an effective and efficient way essential information about each program, so they can make an informed decision about what program to use for their young children.

What is the role of the ECAC in Implementing QUALITYstarsNY?

The Early Childhood Advisory Council’s (ECAC) major work in the early learning area is establishing QUALITYstarsNY as New York State’s quality rating and improvement system for all early care and learning programs across settings (homes, schools and centers). 

How does the ECAC work with Head Start?

The New York State Head Start Collaboration Project is a federally-funded program designed to build partnerships between Head Start programs and a wide range of state and local programs that provide quality early childhood education and family support to low-income children and their families. These partnerships are important for maximizing resources and developing comprehensive, efficient, and effective service delivery systems. In addition, the New York State Head Start Collaboration Project Director is the co=chair of the ECAC, helping to lead policy discussions regarding the development of comprehensive service delivery systems for young children and their families.

How can I learn more?

Visit the Resources and Publications section of this website for more in-depth research and resources on early childhood and New York State’s Early Childhood Advisory Council.