We’ve been talking about the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success” and the low academic scores of American third-graders. The Foundation’s first recommendation to improve outcomes for our children is to “Support parents as they care for their children”. This week, we will talk about the second recommendation, “Improve access to quality early care and education, health care and other services.”
Most child care providers don’t have the resources available to increase access to early care and education, but we can make sure that our programs are of excellent quality. The benefits that children receive from attending high-quality programs is well documented and the return on investment is generally acknowledged to be about $7 for each $1 invested. The problem is that, according to one well-regarded study, less than 10% of early childhood programs are of very high quality. We can’t control a family’s financial situation or their ability to gain subsidized care, but we can control the quality of our program.
Part of operating a high-quality program is providing a developmentally-appropriate education. This means that the classroom teachers need to know the developmental level of each child; their strengths and challenges. Regular developmental screenings can help make sure your program is meeting each child’s needs and that each child is developing appropriately. In the case of a child with some delays, our early identification can help the parent get appropriate early interventions for their child.
Our high-quality programs also provide nutritious meals and snacks for children. Along with feeding children well when they are in our care, we model healthy eating and help teach parents about nutrition. Again, we can’t provide comprehensive health care for the children in our program, but we can provide their parents information about community resources. If you don’t already provide hearing and vision screenings in your program, perhaps a local professional would be willing to provide free screenings.
Next week we’ll talk about the recommendation to “Ensure that care is comprehensive and coordinated for all children from birth through age 8.”