First Steps: Investing in Early Childhood Education
Our children's first steps toward a healthy, happy future happen well before they learn to walk. Early childhood education plays a vital role in shaping a child’s future. Rich interactions with adults and other children help create a highly coordinated, integrated, and resilient brain, but chronic stress early in life can lead to lifelong struggles with behavior and learning.
The evidence for the importance of early childhood education is staggering. When children enter kindergarten ready to learn, it results in increased graduation rates, higher earnings, better test scores and lower crime rates. For every $1 invested in high-quality early childhood education it saves taxpayers $7 in future costs spent on special education, public assistance, unemployment, and prison costs.
Understanding the Need:
- The NRV has lower rates of kindergarten readiness and a higher percentage of children needing special education services compared to the state average
- 22% of children in the NRV live in poverty, with as high as 32% of children in Pulaski County
- Only 29% of children under the age of 5 underwent standardized screening for developmental delays. Children screened for developmental delays before entering kindergarten produce higher rates of academic and social success
- Expanding access to high-quality early education will help attract new businesses and business leaders the NRV, and will enable more parents to fill job opportunities as our region continues to grow
Building a Network of Support:
First Steps, an initiative of the Fund for the NRV, works to understand and strengthen the network of partners who provide programs, services, and opportunities for our region’s young children as well as their parents and providers. Through an innovative partnership with Virginia Tech researchers, the CFNRV is currently mapping existing programs of all kinds focusing on young children and families, and working with program leaders to identify specific ways that philanthropy can help them pursue their missions collaboratively. Learn more about the Early Childhood Education & Development Network here.
Our goal is to:
Develop a comprehensive understanding of the early childhood landscape from prenatal care to high-quality childcare options, to child abuse prevention, to the various programs that support physical, emotional, and social well-being as well as academic achievement
Build awareness among organizations of available opportunities, connections between organizations, and identify priority needs in order to incentivize collaboration, share best practices, and fill gaps.
Strengthen the early childhood network via targeted financial investments in collaborative planning and implementation.
To support First Steps, make a contribution to the Fund for the NRV here.