Governor Parson Announces New Office of Childhood

JANUARY 28, 2021

 — Today, Governor Mike Parson and the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Health and Senior Services (DHSS), and Social Services (DSS) announced the consolidation of several early childhood programs across state government into a single Office of Childhood.

The new office will be housed by DESE and provide a comprehensive approach to early childhood care and education, including all state programs related to child care, home visiting, early learning, and early intervention.

“Missouri families deserve the best early childhood system our state can provide,” Governor Parson said. “This is also a critical area of workforce development for our state. We must see to it that the workforce of tomorrow starts off on the right foot, and that means better support for Missouri children and their families.” 

Currently, DESE, DHSS, and DSS each provide various services for children and families. The transition to one office will streamline early childhood work across state government and ensure all Missouri children and families have access to more consistent, quality programs and services.

A cornerstone of this initiative, and a top priority for each participating department leader, is ensuring Missouri’s children are safe, healthy, and successful learners. 

“Safe, stable, and nurturing environments are essential to prevent child abuse and neglect in the early years of a child’s life,” DSS Acting Director Jennifer Tidball said. “Feeling safe allows young children to build strong relationships, be confident, and reach their full potential.”

“Having good mental and physical health impacts children’s ability to be successful in school and in life,” DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams said. “Social and emotional wellness allows young children to be resilient, to cope, and to grow into well-rounded adults. That all begins in early childhood.”

“The early years of a child’s life are truly the foundation for lifelong learning,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said. “We know that children enrolled in high-quality early learning programs achieve greater success in school and have improved health and lower crime rates as adults. To finish strong – with a capable future workforce – we must provide children with a strong start.”

The Office of Childhood will consist of approximately 145 employees across the state. No state employee positions are being eliminated due to this consolidation. Current funding will remain unchanged for the programs involved as well as private child care providers and public schools. The Office of Childhood will have an estimated Fiscal Year 2022 budget of approximately $660 million.

Governor Parson today signed Executive Order 21-01 officially establishing the new office, which will take effect on August 28, 2021, unless disapproved by the state legislature within 60 days.

For more information on the new Office of Childhood, please click here.