Dear Colleague Letter on Mixed Delivery | The Administration for Children and Families – The Administration for Children and Families

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Publication Date:
February 26, 2024

Dear Colleagues,  

We are writing to encourage you to work with local educational agencies and early childhood partners in your states and communities to serve more of our youngest learners in high-quality preschool1 through a mixed delivery approach. A mixed delivery approach involves a coordinated effort on the part of States and local communities to support preschool programs across a range of quality settings, building on the expertise and capacity of existing providers and leveraging existing Federal, state, and local funding. 

There are several Federal funding streams available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education highlighted in this letter that can be coordinated to expand high-quality preschool services. Improving access is particularly critical for young children impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency and for families who continue to struggle to find affordable, high-quality preschool opportunities. In fact, only 17% of three-year-olds and 41% of four-year-olds in the United States attend a public preschool.2 

Mixed delivery preschool approaches should be inclusive of the full range of high-quality early care and education settings including community-based child care providers, schools, Head Start programs, and family child care homes. A successful mixed delivery approach requires careful planning, collaborative decision-making, and state and local coordination across Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) administrators, school leaders, State educational agencies (SEAs) and local school districts, Head Start leaders, providers of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) services, early childhood providers (including family child care), early childhood professional organizations and labor unions, among others.  

We encourage stakeholders across preschool-serving settings to take additional steps to coordinate their efforts, including coordinated enrollment, and identify ways a mixed delivery approach can be used to improve access to high-quality preschool experiences and meet the needs of more children and families.   

By forging these partnerships, early childhood leaders have an opportunity to amplify the benefits of a mixed delivery approach, which include: 

  • Expanding preschool services to reach additional children and families by leveraging and maximizing Federal, State, and local funding, and using facilities and resources already available in the community; 

  • Improving quality in a range of early childhood programs by providing access to preschool funding and supports for meeting developmentally appropriate preschool standards, and leveraging the expertise of all early childhood providers with experience supporting developmentally appropriate practice with our youngest learners in community-based centers and homes, as well as in schools; 

  • Supporting parents in selecting a setting and location that best meets their child’s and family’s needs, such as providing a longer program day or more flexible scheduling offered in many child care programs, or allowing older and younger siblings to attend the same site;  

  • Improving access to early intervention and early childhood special education in inclusive early childhood settings to provide more seamless experiences for development and learning for children with disabilities; 

  • Creating culturally and linguistically responsive environments and services for students identified as dual language learners and/or English learners;  

  • Ensuring children and families have access to an array of child development, health, mental health, family support, and other comprehensive services (such as those offered by Head Start); and  

  • Supporting smooth transitions between preschool and kindergarten, laying a path for success in the early elementary years. 

As States and communities are designing or refining their mixed delivery approaches to preschool, we encourage them to consider the diverse and comprehensive needs of children and their families and ensure that their needs are fully met regardless of the setting in which they receive preschool services. This includes ensuring children and families have access to inclusive early childhood programs with early intervention and early childhood special education services; providing supports for retaining a child’s home language and building English proficiency and fluency; ensuring supports based on financial needs; and delivering other services for which they are eligible in schools, Head Start, and/or child care programs.  

To bolster the supply of high-quality preschool services, it is essential that early educators are paid a wage that honors and reflects their skills, experience, and qualifications whether they are in a school, community-based child care, Head Start, family child care home, or other setting. Providing competitive, equitable wages to providers regardless of the setting in which they work is a foundational part of ensuring both equity and high-quality programming. We encourage State and local leaders to examine opportunities to leverage early care and education funding to increase compensation and improve pay equity for early educators across all settings. 

Federal funds, when effectively layered and braided, can support greater access to preschool, provide full-day, full-year high-quality services to meet families’ needs, provide adequate wages and benefits to staff, and improve quality across programs. The Federal programs, detailed in the appendix, generally can be used to support preschool activities, though allowability determinations may vary depending on the program.  

We encourage all States and communities to consider how they can implement mixed delivery preschool or expand their mixed delivery system including engaging new partners in this work. We are grateful for all your efforts to ensure more of our youngest learners can participate in high-quality preschool.  


Swati Adarkar 

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning  

U.S. Department of Education 

Katie Hamm 

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

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