Federal, state, and local governments have been working together with early childhood advocates to provide the nation’s most vulnerable children with better lives and end the continuous poverty cycle. With a strong and healthy beginning children are more likely to have lifelong gains that lead to upward mobility. The number of children and families being reached has grown tremendously due to Head Start, Early Head Start, Home Visiting Services and other Child Care programs. However, many children still grow up without early education opportunities.
This past Tuesday, The National Kids Count team at the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual KIDS COUNT Data Book. This year’s study focuses on child well-being trends over the past 6 years as the country continues to recover from the 2008 recession. KIDS COUNT delivers data on children and families’ economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The Data Book offers statistical information and policy recommendations to continue the upward trend of high-quality and far-reaching early childhood education.
The Data Book discloses many promising things about early childhood development. The rate of children without health insurance has improved by 40% since 2008, with state health insurance covering close to 3 million children. There have also been noted gains in reading proficiency for children entering the 4th grade. Nonetheless, the National Kids Count Team found that there are an increasing number of children not enrolled in school compared to recent years and the percent of children living in poverty has increased (18% in 2008 to 22% in 2014). The report cites that the United States continues to have significant opportunity and achievement gaps by race and income. Children of color continue to face significant barriers in achieving a proper early education and in turn later success. By giving all children opportunities for early childhood education it gives children a better chance of moving up the economic ladder, pursing longer academic careers and having their own healthy families.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation offers an array of recommendations for how policymakers can ensure that the nation’s most vulnerable children are educated and prepared for the future. The Data Book suggests focusing on expanding opportunity by increasing access to high-quality pre-k and early childhood services, so that all children are prepared to succeed in school. It also recommends expanding access to higher education and training for primary caretakers. A child’s first teacher is their parent, so to set a pathway for success in the future, the parent needs access to tools to help their child’s healthy development. By providing caretakers with paid family leave, the child has an opportunity to learn and grow with their primary caretakers, while families have help balancing their obligations at home and at work.
Read the full report here.
Get additional information about the study here.