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Our country is at its best when we recognize that children, particularly our youngest, are our greatest resource.
We cannot expect a healthier, more resilient, more prosperous country in the future if we don’t invest in our children now.
Every child deserves a strong start in life
The foundation we provide for children in the early years shapes their future and the future of our communities. We have to get it right.
Early experiences during the prenatal period and first three years after birth shape brain development and the development of all other systems in the body—with substantial effects on learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
Parents play the lead role in their child’s healthy development, but all parents are stretched in the earliest months and years of their child’s life.
When we support them in their earliest years, infants grow into healthy kids who are confident, empathetic and ready for school and life—and our communities, workforce and economy become stronger and more productive.
Early Investments Matter
Prenatal to age three is critical for lifelong health and development.
A child’s early experiences during the prenatal period and first three years after birth shape brain development and the healthy development of all other systems in the body. What happens during this early period can have substantial effects on both short- and long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
- Biological systems, including brain development, heart and lung function, digestion, energy production, fighting infection, and physical growth, are all interconnected and influence each other’s development and function.
- Toxic stress, the excessive activation of stress response systems that can occur when a young child does not have supportive, caring adults, can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
- The socio-emotional, physical and cognitive capacities that are built in the first three years are all important for later success in school, the workplace and the larger community.
- Supportive relationships and positive learning experiences begin at home but can also be provided through a range of effective programs and policies.
- All families with young children—especially first-time parents and those with both parents in the labor force—are stretched for time and resources.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has added additional hardship and stress for families during this already challenging time.
- High-quality child care is often unavailable or unaffordable for parents, and many are not connected to early care supports that can offer guidance to navigate the earliest months and years.
- More women in the United States die in childbirth than in any other developed country, and Black women are more than twice as likely to die as White women.
- Nearly 25% of all U.S. women start prenatal care late in pregnancy or do not receive the recommended number of prenatal visits. This number rises to 34% among Black women and to 41% among Indigenous or Alaska Native women.
- There is a great discrepancy between what families need and the affordability and access of what is available. It is imperative that government works to fill this gap.
- Supporting families requires elected officials, policymakers, and multiple systems coming together—health care, child care, and family support services—to ensure that all parents, particularly those with high need, get what they need to nurture their children’s healthy development from the very beginning.
Early Investments Work
It’s not just infants, toddlers, and their families who benefit when we start early—it’s the entire community.
When we invest in the first three years of a child’s life, the returns for communities are the highest, and we can reduce the need for more expensive interventions later.
Research from Professor James Heckman at the University of Chicago found that investments in high quality programs that support young children starting at birth deliver a 13 percent annual return—significantly higher than the 7 to 10 percent return delivered by preschool alone.
Supporting American’s babies today will ensure a prosperous tomorrow
Investments in high-quality early childhood education starting at birth provides taxpayers with a return of $7.30 for every dollar invested.
This return has compounding benefits, driving a 13% year return on investment through better education, health, social and economic outcomes later in life.
Early investments support a strong economy and workforce
Programs and policies that support healthy brain development from birth to age three result in better social, economic, and health outcomes and build a more productive workforce that strengthens our economy—now and in the future.
Birth-3 investments are needed to prepare our children
for the ever-changing workforce
48% of low-income children arrive in kindergarten underprepared to succeed
The growing American skills gap will lead to 6 million unfilled jobs by 2020
Birth-3 investments in high-quality child care bolster the economy TODAY
Companies providing child care decrease employee absences by 30% and job turnover by 60%
83% of millennials say they would leave their jobs for ones with more friendly benefits