I have been thinking a lot lately about the impact of positive early childhood experiences. Studies continue to show investing in early childhood significantly aids in reducing crime, raising earnings, and promoting education. Although not as deeply researched we do have evidence of the importance of raising children from pre-birth in a faith community to support their moral, ethical, decisions as well as rooting them in a positive self-identify. Preferably, every young child should have access to high caliber early-learning experiences before kindergarten, despite the financial circumstances of that child’s family. Preschool can cost as much as $1,000 a month; sometimes it costs even more. In most states, daycare costs more on average than college . The high cost helps explain why more than half of the country’s 3- and 4-year-olds miss out on preschool. During the 2012-13 school year, only 28% of the country’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded pre-k programs, according to data from the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER. As I sit in local Community Action Committees I hear no discussion of how to provide quality education programs for vulnerable groups such as homeless fragile families .
I recently toured the Missouri State Penitentiary. I witnessed many positive productive programs leading towards rehabilitation. I am haunted that the majority of those inmates will never be rehabilitated again for life outside those prison walls. I talked to 5 men, all convicted for violent crimes, all who live the reality that they can never make up for lost time from their victims or their families. I believe strongly in consequences for our behavior and do not doubt their punishments fit the crimes. However, what I can’t get out of my head is what intervention was needed not just 20 years ago when they committed their crime but 15 years before that when they were toddlers and preschoolers? What investment was made into their brain development, educational attainment, and social expectations? Long term studies show us the positive impact preschool and school readiness programs have on deterring adverse behaviors in drug and alcohol abuse which can eventually lead to prison.
And yet we can’t find the money to fund proven programs like Head Start and Parents As Teachers. These are the conclusions that my brain cannot accept especially when I cannot get those 5 inmates faces out of my heart.
I have no solutions other than supporting early child hood programs that are available to all through our schools and churches.
What are your thoughts? How do we fund this? Is this a priority for our children?