Investing in Quality Early Care for All Children
We know that investing in quality early care for all our community’s children reaps large dividends in the long run. Children raised in poverty often enter school behind their peers and, without quality childcare and early learning experiences, this gap only grows wider, affecting many areas of the child’s life. Studies show that this trend can be reversed when children receive quality childcare.
Study after study tells us that the quality of care a child receives from birth to age three is a strong predictor of success in life. The University of North Carolina ’s “Abecedarian Project” and many others like it demonstrated that quality early childhood education can greatly enhance the development of children in low-income families and those at risk for living in poverty. Nobel Prize economist James Heckman has shown investment in quality childcare is extremely cost effective — for every $1 invested in quality childcare, the return is at least $7. Watch this video from his website to learn more: “Why Early Investment Matters.” Dr. Heckman argues that by investing dollars in high-quality early childhood education, taxpayers receive a high average return — labor productivity increases while the cost of crime decreases.
Early Brain Development
The most critical stage of brain development occurs during the earliest years. Between ages 0-3 the brain experiences its most rapid growth and forms the foundation for all subsequent learning and development. “The brain develops very rapidly in the first years of life, and in this period of rapid development is likely vulnerable to the adverse effects of poverty.” (UNC Early Brain Development Study.) “The first years of life are a very busy and crucial time for the development of brain circuits. The impact of experiences on brain development is greatest during these years—for better or for worse. It is easier and less costly to form strong brain circuits during the early years than it is to intervene or ‘fix’ them later.” (2007 publication from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child)
Stress and the Developing Brain
The developing brain is highly vulnerable to the effects of chronic or severe stress – the kinds of stress that conditions like homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, loss of a parent, abuse, neglect, and depressed parents can engender. Toxic stress responses can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ system increasing the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, for a life time. Click here to learn more about Toxic Stress in Children. Fortunately, research indicates that supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress response.
The Science is Clear
Infants, toddlers and preschoolers living in adverse circumstances – homelessness, poverty, family violence, abuse, neglect – have a very special need for quality childcare. Quality care is crucial during the child’s earliest years when the foundation for school and life success are laid.