Kids Win Missouri’s work is making an impact on the lives of children and families. Below are a few cases studies that detail our wins and how we worked to achieve them.

Why Is This Issue Important?

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a national think tank focused on advancing solutions to the nation’s challenges, identifies two reasons why a cohesive early child system is important:

  • “Support for early childhood programs can only be sustained if the programs are viewed as effective and efficient in their use of public funds.”
  • “Fragmentation, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of coordination in the administration of ECE programs creates real obstacles to access and results in many children—often including those who are already the most vulnerable—missing out on the support they need. When families have to apply to multiple programs, housed across multiple agencies, often with duplicative paperwork requirements and inconsistent eligibility criteria, many simply give up.”

Up until 2021, Missouri’s early childhood programs were administered by three departments, resulting in a fragmented system that didn’t work well for anyone.  


Kids Win Missouri’s Impact:

Governor Parson announced the creation of the Office of Childhood at his State of the State address in January of 2021. The Governor’s Executive Order will consolidate leadership across departments who work on child care and early childhood governance, monitoring, and regulations, including the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Department of Social Services (DSS). The newly-merged office will be housed at DESE and will provide leadership, coordination, and a strategic vision for all programs encompassing child care, preschool and pre-Kindergarten, home visiting, workforce support and professional development, and other early intervention services that support parents and children in the earliest years of childhood. The new office will improve coordination and collaboration among programs that support children and families. 


Governor Parson shares is support for early childhood policies and investments at a summit co-hosted by Kids Win Missouri and the National Conference of State Legislatures in January 2021.


How We Accomplished This Win:

  • Kids Win Missouri advanced policies (including the establishment of the Quality Assurance Report pilot program in 2016 and state investment of Pre-K funding in 2017 and 2018) that would prove to be critical for Missouri to compete for and secure a $7 million federal Preschool Development Grant (PDG), which gave Missouri the resources to create a needs assessment and strategic plan for Missouri’s early childhood system. The strategic plan revealed the complications that come with having early childhood programs administered by three state departments as well as other agencies, reinforcing what we already knew about early childhood system governance in Missouri. 
  • In 2018, Kids Win Missouri began to intentionally develop relationships with key allies and decision-makers, including policy staff from the Governor’s office, state legislators, and leaders at Children’s Trust Fund, which would prove crucial in securing the change.
  • In 2019, Kids Win Missouri became a partner of the Alliance for Early Success, which helped provide strategic guidance and technical assistance from a network of early childhood experts. 
  • Through an initiative of Zero to Three, Kids Win Missouri and Children’s Trust Fund identified early childhood governance as an issue to dedicate focus and attention and led a workgroup of stakeholders from inside and outside of government in reviewing research, developing options and sharing findings and analysis with the Governor’s office. 

Why Is This Issue Important?

Missouri’s criminal justice system previously defaulted to trying 17-year-olds as adults instead of as minors. Additionally, just last year, Missouri policymakers proposed to expand the ability of courts to try juveniles as adults. These policies are not in the best interest of youth.

  • Trying juveniles as adults exacerbates racial inequities. 
  • Confining juveniles in adult settings increases their risk of physical and sexual abuse and leads to higher rates of recidivism than the juvenile system. 
  • Prosecuting youth as adults leads to higher rates of recidivism when compared to youth who were adjudicated in a youth court setting.

Kids Win Missouri’s Impact:

  • Kids Win Missouri successfully advocated to “Raise the Age” of adult prosecution from 17 to 18, ensuring youth are adjudicated through Missouri’s juvenile justice system, not through its adult courts.
  • In 2020, Kids Win Missouri prevented a proposal from advancing that would have expanded the ability for courts to try juveniles as adults. 

How We Accomplished These Wins:

  • In 2018, momentum for “Raise the Age” was growing. Kids Win Missouri recognized the need to bring stakeholders together to develop a policy that worked for all parties. Using relationships the Kids Win Missouri team had with stakeholders, we led collaborative efforts to forge a compromise and build support among policymakers to approve the policy.  
  • In 2020, the General Assembly convened in an extraordinary session to debate criminal justice proposals, including one that would expand the ability of courts to try juveniles as adults. Kids Win Missouri recruited partners, including the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Missouri KidsFirst, to educate policymakers and build opposition to prevent the proposal from becoming law. Read our open letter to policymakers that detailed our concerns with the proposal HERE.


Why is this Issue Important?

Investing in early learning is critical to ensure that children are ready to succeed in school and life. Equity-centered, quality early learning opportunities improve students’ long-term school success, leading to higher achievement test scores and rates of graduation and college attendance, increased employment rates and higher earnings in adulthood.

Kids Win Missouri’s Impact:

Kids Win Missouri, and our partner Aligned – an organization of business leaders focused on workforce issues – successfully advocated for state funded Pre-K and, subsequently, changes to Missouri’s Pre-K policy to allow school districts to contract with community providers to provide Pre-K services. In the 2019-2020 academic year, more than 5,000 pre-K students were served by this change. This change has sparked the creation of Pre-K collaboratives in Kansas City and St. Louis that are now maximizing equity-centered state Pre-K investments.   

 How We Accomplished this Win:

Over the course of several years, Kids Win Missouri and Aligned advocated for equity-centered state Pre-K funding for three- and four-year olds:

  • In 2014, we worked to educate policymakers and build their support to get the policy into law, which would only take full effect once policymakers fully funded K-12 education.
  • In 2017, we worked collaboratively with legislators to defend against state budget stakeholders’ proposed changes to weaken or eliminate the Pre-K policy as policymakers worked to fully fund the education formula.
  • Throughout 2018 and 2019, we worked collaboratively with stakeholders to draft and advance this change to the Pre-K policy.

Why Is This Issue Important?

Child care is essential in ensuring children have a safe place to play and learn while parents work or go to school. During the stay-at-home orders in the spring of 2020, nearly 50% of providers closed to adhere to public health guidelines, and later in August, nearly 30% of providers remained closed. As we work to restart our economic engines, child care is increasingly fragile. Affordable, accessible, high-quality child care is not only essential to the success of children and families, but also critical infrastructure for an economy that works for, and includes, everyone.

Kids Win Missouri’s Impact:

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kids Win Missouri has worked to support child care providers. This work has included:

  1. Collaboratively developing a “Preparedness and Planning for Child Care Programs,” a guide to help child care programs implement safety protocols and safely reopen to serve families. 
  2. Through federal advocacy, securing hundreds of millions in public funding dedicated to support child care in Missouri. 
  3. Working with state administrators to shape pandemic relief to help meet the needs of children, families and the providers that serve them.

Our work is far from over, and we are now focused on building child care back stronger, so it is more accessible and affordable for Missouri’s families. 

How We Are Working to Accomplish This Win:

  • Kids Win Missouri regularly convenes an early childhood workgroup, consisting of more than 70 stakeholders from across the state. The workgroup meets to collaboratively research, develop and advocate for policies that support young children and their families.
  • We reach out to families and providers to gain a better understanding of their needs and communicate their stories and feedback to decision-makers.  
  • Kids Win Missouri connects child care providers with state administering agencies through an advisory group that meets monthly, ensuring stakeholders have a voice in the programs and policies that impact their ability to serve children and families.  
  • We recruit community leaders to take part in policy advocacy efforts, and we connect them with policymakers to communicate how child care impacts our communities, economy and the future well-being of our children. 
  • Kids Win Missouri leads statewide advocacy on this issue, cultivating policymaker champions, developing relationships with decision-makers, connecting and aligning stakeholders and building the political will to drive action.   

Why Is This Issue Important?

Our partners at SchoolHouse Connection summarize the issue well:

“Homelessness is a traumatic experience for children and youth… Students experiencing homelessness are more likely to drop out of high school, and have high school graduation rates that are well below graduation rates of students who are poor, but who have stable homes.” 

Homelessness threatens the ability of youth to access the health and education supports they need to be happy and successful. 

Kids Win Missouri’s Impact:

Because of Kids Win Missouri’s leadership, the General Assembly approved and the Governor signed HB 1414 in 2020, providing additional supports for youth experiencing homelessness, including: 

  • A birth certificate free of charge, which is often required to access other supports.
  • Health insurance through Medicaid (pending a state plan amendment and federal approval).
  • Expanded eligibility of who can verify a youth is homeless through a letter from an education agency, nonprofit or attorney.
  • Access to mental health services.
Read a National Conference of State Legislatures article on our win HERE

How We Accomplished this Win:

  • In the summer of 2019, Kids Win Missouri convened organizations, including Missouri School Boards Association, Missouri Primary Care Association, St. Louis Foster Care and Adoptive Coalition, Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, and others from across the state to develop a common understanding of the challenges that youth experiencing homelessness face. 
  • Kids Win Missouri led the group to become an ongoing coalition that collaboratively develops and advances priorities to support vulnerable youth, including many of the provisions included in HB 1414 from the 2020 legislative session.