Low-quality child care can have lasting impact

by Rob Stein
Behavior, academic problems persist through age 15, major study finds

Low-quality care in the first few years of life can have a small but long-lasting impact on a child's learning and behavior, according to new results from the largest, most authoritative assessment of child rearing in the United States.

The federally funded study, which has been tracking more than 1,300 children since 1991, found that obedience and academic problems among those who received low-quality care in their first 4 1/2 years of life persisted through their 15th birthdays, suggesting the potential for lifelong difficulties.

The differences between teens who received low- and high-quality care when they were very young were relatively small, and the endurance of these disparities startled researchers.

"The fact that you have this persistent association is pretty remarkable," said James A. Griffin of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is funding the research being reported Friday in the May-June issue of the journal Child Development.

Several experts praised the findings, saying they underscore the urgent need for local, state and federal governments, employers and others to improve access to high-quality child care.

Don’t Cut Crucial Preschool Learning Program


CHARLOTTESVILLE State government, localities, and families are facing the toughest economic times in memory. Our governor and legislators are wrestling with the challenge of making billions of dollars in cuts to education, health care, and other critical services for children and families, at the very time that the economic downturn is pushing families into greater financial distress at alarming rates. Among the critical decisions our political leaders need to make is how to direct very precious resources toward programs that are critical investments for the future.

Thankfully, both Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposed changes to the budget and the Senate Finance Committee's budget proposal stand strongly in support of one of the commonwealth's most effective programs and wise investments, the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI), the public preschool program targeted to low-income 4-year-olds across Virginia. VPI was started by Gov. George Allen and has seen continued expansion supported by legislatures and governors of each party. This bipartisan support comes no doubt because state leaders understand the program makes a real difference to our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, their families, and the communities in which they live.

Keep Momentum for Early Learning

The Roanoke Times - OpEd Piece
By Elizabeth Strother

Alongside the many millions of dollars Virginia is considering shearing off of its support of public schools is a little nick that would have an outsized impact on children's education.

The $1.5 million a year the state now puts into the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation is a small investment in a big initiative, a public/private partnership dedicated to making sure youngsters reach school ready to learn.

Its support of local and regional Smart Beginnings collaboratives around the state has helped to bring businesslike accountability to a small but growing number of child care centers, in large part by helping them implement Virginia's Star Quality Initiative.

This voluntary rating system can and should be a godsend to working parents who need day care for their children, but who have little way to judge program quality. Yet solid research shows high-quality early learning experiences, from birth to age 5, greatly enhance children's future success, in school and in life.

A Renewed Commitment to Quality Early Childhood Education for the Roanoke Valley

Kim P. Gregory
Associate Professor and Program Head, Early Childhood Development
Virginia Western Community College

As the Program Head for the Early Childhood Development Program at Virginia Western Community College, every day I work with students who see themselves as makers of change in the lives of young children. They have a passion for children and truly understand that a strong early childhood foundation builds a capable and competent adult, one who is a positive contributor to society. I teach them that the early years matter, that it is our responsibility to provide children with a high quality early childhood experience, that it is crucial to later school success. Waiting until kindergarten is too late. We know that 85% of brain development happens before age 5. Research demonstrates that children enrolled in high quality early childhood education programs do better - they are more likely to complete higher levels of education, have higher earnings, be in better health and in stable relationships, and are less likely to commit a crime or be incarcerated. Isn’t it better to build preschools instead of prisons?

Early childhood development students frequently reflect on their own teaching practices, questioning and sometimes criticizing. They are learning, examining, applying, and thinking about how to meet the many needs of young children today. I reassure them, supporting their critical thinking and self reflection, sometimes quoting a former student, “if we knew better, we’d do better.” I work to teach them to “know better,” and to aspire to “do better.”

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Early childhood education is critical to our community's future economic well being. It's a question of pay-now or pay-later. Research indicates that if children are prepared when they start school and reading on grade level in their early years, they're far more likely to stay on track and finish school rather than become a costly drain on the community's social service system. Those who finish school are much more likely to become contributing members of our workforce.

Joyce Waugh, CEcD
President, Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce

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The United Way of Roanoke Valley serves as the fiscal agent for Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke.

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