Building a High Quality Early Learning System

As part of the Secretary’s Strong Start, Bright Future back-to-school bus tour, I had the opportunity to meet with early learning providers, parents, and children in Las Cruces, N.M. Las Cruces, situated near the Mexico border, has a large Hispanic community and is surrounded by small rural farming villages. It was chile harvest time and the smell of roasting green chile was in the air.

Michael Yudin during school visitLas Cruces and Doña Ana County are served by three early intervention agencies under contract with the New Mexico Department of Health, Family Infant Toddler (FIT) Program. The FIT Program is the lead agency for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part C) and ensures that families of children birth to age three with, or at risk of, developmental delays and disabilities have access to quality early intervention services, no matter where they live. In New Mexico, that can mean serving families in large urban areas, rural towns and small villages, tribal communities, and those families living on ranches separated by long dirt roads. I was thrilled to personally witness the passion, commitment, and dedication of the individuals and organizations involved in making sure that families get the supports and services they need, in the language and culture appropriate to the family.    

Of course, children receiving Part C services are children first, and have the same need for high-quality early care and learning opportunities as their nondisabled peers.  Fortunately, for the children and families in Doña Ana County, providers of Part C services, Head Start, Early Head Start, home visitation, child care, and the public preschools all work together to ensure that some of our most vulnerable babies have access to high-quality early learning.

For New Mexico, it starts with rigorous outreach, public awareness, and home visitation to identify infants and toddlers who are eligible for early intervention services.  According to Andy Gomm, the State FIT Director, “we make sure families know that early intervention can make a lifetime of difference.” Part C early intervention services provide critical supports and services to our youngest children with disabilities or delays so they too can enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

But Part C services are not an educational placement. Young children with disabilities need these services as part of their early learning experience. To be most effective, these services should be delivered in inclusive early care and education settings.

With scarce resources, the providers in Doña Ana County work collaboratively and share those resources, tools, professional development, and training to make sure that families get the early care and education their children need. Parents expressed how important it is for these providers to work together so their children can experience seamless, high-quality early learning.

During the trip, I also had the opportunity to visit with the amazing folks at “Jardin de los Niños,” who provide early care and education, as well as parent support services, to homeless families. One of the highlights was playing in the sand box with a little girl who offered to “bake me a chocolate cake” out of sand. These educators and other providers are truly creating new possibilities for homeless and near homeless children and families.

The dedicated and passionate early care and education providers of Doña Ana County are working together to meet the diverse needs of young children and families in their community. They’re building a high-quality early learning system, giving our children the best opportunity for a strong start and a bright future.

Michael Yudin is acting assistant secretary for ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services


  1. Please do be aware, if you aren’t already (I see by your biography that you are not and have not been a classroom educator), that Early Childhood encompasses children through EIGHT YEARS OLD. This is only one year after countries like Finland begin formal education, yet my 8YO in the States has had a lot of developmentally inappropriate material shoved at her thanks to CCSS and is routinely spending over an hour on homework NIGHTLY instead of being what an 8YO should really be.

    Kudos to any work done in Early Intervention – but remember, PLEASE! that “early intervention” should not stop at Kindergarten. Please – INTERVENE!

  2. Assistant Secretary Yudin,
    Thank you for your recognition and attention to Early Intervention, Part C, as an important support to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Early Intervention lays the foundation for lifelong success.

  3. Assistant Secretary Yudin,
    Thank you for bringing attention to the important work of Part C Early Intervention Services. I know every state’s approach is a little different, but the end goal of supporting families to support their child is universal and important work. I too am a coordinator within a birth to 3 program in Wisconsin and would welcome you to visit any time. We may not have cake, but we have cheese:)

  4. Thank you for your support and taking the time and effort to see “hands on” the “difference” early intervention makes for the lifetime. Hope you will visit Wisconsin – not sure if we can gurantee chocolate cake but . . .

  5. Assistant Secretary Yudin,
    Thank you for supporting early intervention! It is so meaningful for our leaders to experience our work with families first hand and to see the difference that support delivered in the context of the family home can make! This article was brought to my attention by the coordinator of the Wisconsin Birth to 3 program.

  6. I received the link to your blog from Wisconsin’s Birth to 3 Program Coordinator. Assistant Secretary Yudin, thank you for not only taking the time to visit a Part C Early Intervention program, but for speaking on behalf of infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities. I believe that our program offers parents and caregivers support and validation that strengthens the family, while parents allow us to be partners helping them strengthen the foundations of strong development. Thank you again.

  7. Assistant Secretary Yudin, Thank you for taking the time to visit a Part C Early Intervention program! The work of our state’s program is hard but so meaningful to the families served. It is nice that you were able to see the work and meet some of the families served by this wonderful program. It is so important to support the families of young children in order to influence the children’s lives from the start.

  8. As the director of a Birth to 3 (Part C) program in Dane County, Wisconsin, I received the link to your blog from our Birth to 3 Program Coordinator. I’m quite pleased to have been given this opportunity to read your strong words about the importance and value of the work that the staff of New Mexico’s FIT Program do and to be able to thank you for doing your bus tour to explore that value. Of course you are able to multiply that value many times over to describe the value of early intervention through Part C around the country because it is happening! I believe that we are offering parents and caregivers support and validation that strengthens the family while parents allow us to be partners helping them strengthen the developmental foundation of their child’s life.

  9. There needs to be more opportunity for individuals in government to take the time as you did to see the importance early intervention has on the impact of many families and children. It is nice to see what other states are doing to make great citizens.

  10. Thank you Mr. Yudin for speaking on behalf of infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities. The very young child deserves all of our attention and energy to ensure their future lifes have a bright outcome. Part C is the program that ensures infants and toddlers with disabilites and their families have a solid base of support. We need your support to ensure the stability and growth of Part C of IDEA. Thank you again!

  11. Thank you for highlighting your experience with early intervention programs during the bus tour. We really appreciate your support of the early intervention program.

  12. Thank you for taking the opportunity to highlight the wonderful work of Early Intervention. Unfortunately, many do not realize the tremendous benefit of EI, but attention from officials like yourself, and social media really help to raise the publics awareness. Thank you!

  13. Assistant Secretary Yudin,
    Thank you for your thoughtful observations and, most importantly for taking the time to learn more about the array of services provided to young children and their families in southern New Mexico. The providers in Dona Ana County have worked long and hard for many years to coordinate their efforts. Their focus has been to integrate health, development, education, family support and infant/early childhood/family mental health supports and services in culturally and linguistically appropriate ways. Clearly, these communities know that children learn and grown in the contexts of their families and neighborhoods.

  14. We have to develop our teaching profession and develop our teaching – learning system in the class room.

  15. Mr. Yudin: Thank you for coming to New Mexico to see our early learning programs collaborate to provide for the individual needs of our children. We are honored to have you share our enthusiasm and understand our diverse challenges.

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