Nevada's Early Childhood System

Nevada's Early Childhood System includes all the programs and services that young kids and their families need to be healthy and grow to their fullest potential.

Three toddler-aged children of different races walking and smiling.

A diagram with circles, arrows and other shapes that describes the flow of early childhood legislation.

What is an Early Childhood System?

An “early childhood system” is comprised of all of the programs, services and supports that young children and their families need to enhance optimal health and development. The system includes both direct services, as well as governance and support structures that enable programs and services to be delivered effectively.

A “comprehensive early childhood system” is a well-organized network of programs, services, and resources designed to support children prenatally through their early years. This system is designed to provide a holistic approach to child development and early education, addressing the various needs and stages of a child's growth. It includes the following program elements, which are often referred to as “early childhood sectors”:

  1. Early Care and Education: Quality preschools, child care, and early education programs to support cognitive and social development. This includes programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start, Child Care Subsidy, and Nevada Ready! PreK, among others.
  2. Health, Mental Health and Nutrition Services: Access to health and mental health screenings, regular medical check-ups, early intervention services, immunizations, and related health services to ensure both pregnant persons and children are healthy and growing well. This also includes programs to ensure pregnant persons and young children have access to proper nutrition. This includes program such as Medicaid and Nevada Check Up, WIC, NV Immunization Program, Nevada Early Intervention Services and more.
  3. Family Supports: Programs to assist parents and caregivers in providing a nurturing and supportive environment for their children. This includes parenting education programs, home-visiting programs, family resource centers, child abuse prevention programs and others.
  4. Economic Well-Being: Programs to provide financial support to families, as well as programs that focus on long-term economic stability. This includes programs such as credit counseling, job placement and training services, SNAP, TANF, and housing and utility assistance, among other programs.

In addition to the program elements, a comprehensive early childhood system also includes governance and support elements:

  1. Leadership and Governance: This includes key decision-making for programs and services, as well as how the agencies which run the programs and services work together to create equitable access that meets the needs of children & families. This also includes how government entities include parents and families in decision-making.
  2. Partner Engagement: This focuses on communication and engagement of all key partners including government agency staff, service providers from across all programs and services, parents and families, academic experts, and other community leaders. This element addresses how these partners work together and communicate to align programs and services that meet the needs of children and families.
  3. Financing and Budgets: This component addresses how programs and services are funded and how those funding decisions are made. Funding plays a critical role in how these programs and services are delivered and to whom and where.
  4. Laws, Policies and Standards: This element includes all of the laws, regulations, policies and standards that are enacted by elected officials and/or developed by agency or programs at the federal, state and local levels. Policies and standards often control which publicly funded programs are developed, how they are funded and where they can operate, in addition to who is eligible. At the program level, policies can include hiring and training of staff, hours of operation, and other details of how a program is run on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Technology and Networks: This includes how information is collected, shared and used to support programs and services, including the ability to determine which programs are working well, and which are not. At the program level, technology is needed to communicate with clients, support case management and report activities to funders. At the system level, technology is used to make key funding and policy decisions. Effective and aligned technology and support structures (how different technology programs connect and/or ‘talk to each other’) are setup to support a seamless flow of information across programs and agencies, and also reduce administrative burdens for providers and families (for example, having common or universal applications so families do not need to complete separate applications for every program/service they need).
  6. Workforce: This component addresses how the early childhood workforce is developed and supported to meet the needs of programs and services in the early childhood system.

A comprehensive early childhood system aims to provide a seamless, unified, and coordinated approach to early childhood development, recognizing how various factors (health, safety, learning, etc.) that influence a child's well-being and potential must work together. The “system” is basically all of the pieces in the background that make early childhood programs work. When these pieces are working well, we generally see better services (easy to access and use, meeting the needs of children and families). When these pieces are not well designed, it can make programs and services more difficult to access and can impact the ability of children and families to get the programs and services they need, in the way that they need them. Parents and families play an important role in creating a system that works for them. To learn more about ways that you can help improve Nevada’s early childhood system, visit “Get Involved”.

Why Early Childhood Matters

Years of research on early childhood development confirms that providing quality early care and education from the prenatal period through age eight is essential for the healthy development of our children and families. It is also important to the economic vitality of our communities, our state, and our nation. However, in communities across Nevada, many families lack awareness of and access to quality early childhood services that will support their needs.

The science is clear. Children’s brains develop at their fastest pace during the early years when brain connections form at a rate of 1 million new neural connections per second. This intense period of learning and development means that the youngest brains are highly flexible and responsive to the environment as their foundational architecture is established. Ongoing advances in neuroscientific research reinforce what we now know – the early years are the most effective time to influence brain development and put children on a path to healthy development and lifelong well-being and achievement.

Adapted from the Nevada Early Childhood Advisory Council’s 2022-2024 Strategic Plan

Nevada Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Project – The Children’s Cabinet

The Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) project aims to build integrated maternal and early childhood systems of care that are equitable, sustainable, and inclusive of the health system. It promotes early developmental health and family well-being and increases family-centered access to care and engagement of the prenatal-to-three-year-old population.

A maternal and early childhood system of care brings together health, early care, education, child welfare, and other human services and family support program partners. ECCS strives to collaborate with community leaders, families, and other stakeholders to achieve agreed-upon goals for thriving children and families. The website includes a link to Nevada’s ECCS Strategic Plan and additional resources on current efforts to improve Nevada’s early childhood system.


Nevada Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5)
Nevada Department of Education, Office of Early Learning and Development

The purpose of the PDG B-5 Grant is to strengthen Nevada's Early Childhood Comprehensive System through collaborative partnership with stakeholders and families. Many early childhood serving agencies and organizations are united under the work of the Early Childhood Advisory Council and its statewide strategic vision: Nevada's children will be safe, healthy, and thriving during the first eight years of life, and the system will support children and families in achieving their full potential. The PDG B-5 Vision, Goals and Activities specify our aim to use this funding to reimagine the statewide supports and opportunities that are available for young childrenand their families. To learn more about the grant, including the 5 goals of this project, visit


Build Initiative
Strong Foundations for Our Youngest Children

The BUILD Initiative partners with state leaders to promote equitable, high-quality child- and family-serving systems that result in young children thriving and learning. BUILD envisions a time when all children reach their full potential and when race, place, and income are no longer predictors of outcomes. The website provides a range of resources to support early childhood systems efforts across the country, including a video to help explain what an early childhood system is.


In Brief: The Science of Early Childhood Development
Harvard University – Center on the Developing Child

This brief is part of series from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child which addresses the importance of early childhood development and the science that explains why this period of development is critical. The site includes a high level overview of the brain science, as well as links to a videos that help explain the research. Videos and reports are available in English and Spanish.

Top Stories

In Nevada, there are hundreds of programs and services to support you and your child. But finding them, determining if you are eligible and applying can be difficult. First 5 Nevada puts them all in one place so families can find the services they need, when they need them!

How did our children and families fare in 2023? In Nevada, our legislators meet once every two years to make critical decisions on funding, programs, and other policies that impact children and families. Read more about key pieces of legislation, some that passed and others that failed, impacting Nevada’s early childhood population.

The overall purpose of the Nevada ECAC is to strengthen state-level coordination and collaboration among the various sectors and settings of early childhood programs. The Nevada ECAC focuses on improving the system to increase access to the programs and services young children and families need.