The latest KIDS COUNT policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation presents a strong case for investing in the early years of a child´s life. Decades of brain and child development research show that kids who enter kindergarten with below-average language and cognitive skills can catch up - but only if they are physically healthy and have strong social and emotional skills.
The report includes plenty of evidence to back up this assertion. A newly released analysis from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study shows that just 19 percent of third-graders in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level and 50 percent of those in families with incomes above that level had developed age-appropriate cognitive skills. This picture is particularly troubling for children of color, with 14 percent of black children and 19 percent of Hispanic children on track in cognitive development.
Children who don't meet these key developmental milestones often struggle to catch up in school and graduate on time and are less likely to achieve the kind of economic success and stability necessary to support a family themselves.
For children to succeed they need both great schools and positive integration of their classroom experience on their daily lives. The need social, emotional and physical stability that enables them to learn in a nurturing environment. The report makes the following policy recommendations:
- Support parents so they can effectively care and provide for their children.
- Increase access to high-quality birth-through-age-8 programs, beginning with investments that target low-income children.
- Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems to address all aspects of children's development and support their transition to elementary school and related programs for school-age children.
CAHS, as a KIDS COUNT member organization, has advocated and will continue advocating for these programs and policies. You can find the full report here; we will soon publish a companion report focusing on how these issues affect Connecticut, and the targeted investments the state needs to achieve these goals.