Learning from Starting Points: Findings from the Starting Points Assessment Project

Knitzer, Jane; Adely, Fida J.

In 1994, the Carnegie Corporation of New York issued a report titled Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children. Calling its findings “a quiet crisis,” the report urged the federal government, states, community leaders, educators, health care decision-makers, service providers, business, leaders, parents, and the philanthropic community to actively work toward four broad goals: promoting responsible parenthood, guaranteeing child care choices, ensuring good health and protection, and mobilizing communities to support young children and their families. Heeding its own call, in January 1996, the Carnegie Corporation made the first awards for the Starting Points States and Communities Partnership for Young Children Grants, a four-and-a-half year, $7 million initiative. Focusing on program improvement, policy development, and public engagement and awareness, the aim was to serve as a catalyst to seed activities to spur both short and long-term systems change within selected states and communities. In 1999, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) was asked to undertake an assessment of Starting Points to document the variations in context, structure, activities, and accomplishments across the 11 sites that were funded throughout the initiative, including four city sites: Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco; and seven states: Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. The cross-site assessment focused on the following questions: • What were the variations in the structure, auspices, and leadership across the sites? • How did the demographic, policy, economic, and political contexts vary across the sites? • What was the range of activities and accomplishments across the sites? • What were the most common positive and negative mediating factors across the sites? • How did the sites perceive the strengths and limitations of the Starting Points initiative? • What were the collective lessons and implications for future multisite early childhood systems change initiatives? Findings from the assessment, based on reviews of written materials, interviews and debriefing of key informants, and analysis of the data, are highlighted below. The full report is available on the Internet at and in paper from the Publications Department of NCCP. Profiles of the individual Starting Points sites are also on NCCP’s Web site.


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National Center for Children in Poverty
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February 22, 2019