Monday, September 12, 2011

Jail Cells Planned for 2nd Graders?? No!

Many years ago, at the start of my career, I was at an event where the guest speaker was the man in charge of prison planning for the state in which I was living. At the end of his presentation, someone said "But I still don't understand HOW you plan prison cells." His answer was very matter-of-fact (and bureaucratic); "It's simple. We take the number of at-risk 2nd graders and age them out 10 years." I was stunned to realize that, by the age of 8, we already had jail cells planned for children. There had to be a better way.

The good news is that there is a better way. High-quality child care can thwart that plan. The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project reported that, at the age of 27, participants who had been at-risk children and who had participated in a high-quality preschool were 5 times less likely to be "frequent offenders" than children who did not attend a high-quality preschool. Additionally, those who participated in the high-quality program achieved a 44% higher high school graduation rate and were 26% less likely to have received government financial assistance (welfare, food stamps, etc.).

The number crunchers went to work and figured out that the financial return-on-investment was about $16 for every dollar spent on the child care program. Michigan's "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" program just announced their support of the decision of the Governor and state lawmakers "for the $6 million funding increase over last year to support high-quality early education as a critical strategy to reduce crime, lower prison costs, and save taxpayers money". Hopefully other states will "get it" too.

Of course, those of us who provide care, realize that the money is nothing compared to the positive impact on the lives of these children. all of you who provide high-quality child care....well done, thank you, and keep up the good work! It truly does make a difference.


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