Strengthening children and their families is essential to a healthy community and economy. Early Care and Education is the full range of services used by families to educate and nurture children, particularly those from birth through 5, and those that allow parents to work and/or attend school. Family Support services focus on ensuring parents have the skills, mindsets, connections, and physical resources they need to provide children with a safe, enriching environment to grow. The impact of early care and education on children and their families has far-reaching implications for issues of gender equality, economic outlook, local and national politics, and ultimately, our global community.
Benefits of High Quality Early Care and Education and Family Support Services
Research shows that high quality early care and education environments can dramatically impact a child’s success in school and in life. Early experiences directly affect the way a child’s brain connections develop [F5 SBC Brain Science page] which provides the foundation for future cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. High quality early care can reduce the impact of toxic stress from adverse childhood experiences on brain development. Teaching families the prevention-focused Protective Factors Framework, with an emphasis on social connections, parental resilience, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support, and social and emotional competence of children, reduces the risk that outside stressors jeopardize the health and development of children.
Parents are their children’s first teachers. Case management and referrals primarily support family and child needs, particularly concrete support such as referrals to address basic needs, childcare, education, job training, financial assistance, or health and wellness. Helping parents meet their pressing needs reduces the rate of child abuse and neglect and increases the likelihood that children will be academically and socially prepared to succeed in school.
Parents need high quality, consistent, affordable child care in order to be productive workers. Most children today are growing up in families without a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver. Low-income families spend up to half their income of child care expenses. (Data Source: Center for American Progress)
Participating with quality care providers increases the likelihood that family members are trained and given materials to help them stimulate their children’s cognitive development, handle discipline and health problems, and develop vocational and home management skills.
Investing in high quality early care and education pays off economically. For every dollar invested in high quality early care and education services, a return of $7 or more dollars can be gained through reductions in juvenile crime, teen pregnancies, welfare, and other social services. (Data Source: National Dropout Prevention Center) Ensuring that children and families have access to health care coverage means more children complete well baby checkups, receive immunizations, complete developmental screenings to address developmental concerns- all things that have been proven to save emergency care costs now and chronic disease costs as children grow into adults.
Family-friendly employers that address workforce child care needs report improved employee recruitment, retention and productivity as well as decreased employee turnover and absenteeism.
Early care and education promotes a high quality workforce- because parents can more reliably work now and children will develop the higher cognitive thinking and social skills that last a lifetime. In the short-term, access to free or low-cost reliable childcare increases the employment rates of parents up to 20 percent. (Data Source: Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission) A key factor in economic growth is the quality of the workforce. Children who attend quality pre-kindergarten are more likely to be employed and have higher earnings, thus positively contributing to the tax base. Annual rates of return on preschool investments are estimated at 10 percent or higher each year over the students’ lifetimes, exceeding the 6 percent to 7 percent average rate of return typically expected of government programs and the stock market. (Data Source: Committee for Economic Development)