Recognized by Children and Families First of Delaware for his "relentless work around early childhood," University of Delaware Prof. Dan Rich received two honors in December -- the organization's Muriel E. Gilman Family Advocacy Award and the less publicized, intangible honor of seeing his public policy efforts contribute to the nearly $50 million of Race to the Top funding for early childhood initiatives.
"It is an honor to receive an award named after a dear friend who was the epitome of advocacy," says Rich, University Professor of Public Policy and former provost and dean. "It has truly been my privilege to serve as a voice around the importance of quality early education."
As chair of the state's Early Childhood Council and board member for various child-focused organizations, including Vision 2015, Nemours Health and Prevention Services, and the Delaware P-20 council, Rich has long believed that achieving early childhood reform requires policy changes.
Research—much of it done by faculty in UD's College of Education and Human Development—has shown that children who attend quality early education programs do better in school, score higher on tests and experience greater quality of life measures as adults.
"Experts in early childhood understood what needed to be done," Rich says. "But, in the past, we didn't have the policies or political support to produce what was needed."
As an example, Rich highlights the wide variety of unaligned education policy across different state organizations.
The Department of Education is responsible for establishing early learning standards; the Department of Children, Youth and Families handles the licensing of early learning programs; and the Department of Health and Social Services provides the money for early learning programs for children from low-income families. In the past, there was often little communication or coordination among agencies.
A public policy expert, Rich made it his goal to strengthen and align the policies, while garnering political support for increased funding for quality improvement of early education programs.
He credits Gov. Jack Markell, in particular, for being a "believer and driver of early learning improvements," citing the most recent legislative session in which early childhood education and quality care were among the few areas for which the governor, with the support of the General Assembly, increased funding.
But experts in early childhood education credit Rich for making the issue of early care and education/child care quality a priority.
"Dan Rich has done more in the short time he has been the chair of the Delaware Early Care and Education Council than many of us have done spending a lifetime working for children birth to five," says Martha Buell, UD professor and director for the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood. "And because he has helped raise the issue of early care and education/child care quality to its current level in our state, the nation has now taken notice."
About Dan Rich
A member of the UD faculty since 1970, Dan Rich served as University's provost from 2001 to 2009 and as college dean for a decade. He is now University Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public Policy and Administration.
About Children and Families First of Delaware
Children and Families First strengthens Delaware families by delivering an innovative and effective continuum of community-based social services. In existence for more than 125 years, CFF builds the foundation for strong communities, with child-centered and family-focused programs, providing services statewide and serving over 30,000 people annually.