1999 Early Education and Care Assessment


 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Experts on child development widely agree that the early years are critical for building the foundation for future development. Attachment theory and brain development research have served as the dominant frameworks for understanding critical components of early development. Research in early brain development shows that age zero to three is the most crucial time. "By the age of three, the brains of children are two and a half times more active than the brains of adults - and they stay that way throughout the first decade of life" (Shore, 1997, pg. 21). The major premise of attachment theory is that through interactions with primary caregivers - especially the mother and father - children build internal working models of themselves and of their relationships with others. "Both quality of care and security of attachment affect children's later capacity for empathy, emotional regulation, and behavioral control" (Shore, 1997, pg. 41). Numerous researchers have demonstrated a significant relationship between early childhood events and later delinquency and behavior disorders.

Research findings offer evidence that high-quality preschool programs provide both short and long term benefits to children living in poverty and at high risk of failing in school. In relation to a comparison group not receiving quality preschool care, adults who had participated in the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project (Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993, as described in Shore, 1997) had:

  • Significantly higher monthly earnings
  • Significantly higher home ownership
  • Significantly higher levels of schooling
  • Significantly fewer social services received in the last 10 years
  • Significantly fewer arrests

Targeted early childhood investments for low income Texas children are estimated to result in a net value to society of more than $6 billion.

University of Texas, Center for the Study of Human Resources

While few would argue about the importance of investing in children for the future of the community, would they readily answer "yes" to the following question? Are you willing to make financial commitments today for long term benefits - benefits that may not be apparent for twenty or more years?

In a study recently completed by The University of Texas Center for the Study of Human Resources (June 1999), the net costs and benefits of early childhood investments were examined for Texas children who were living at or near poverty. The estimated total cost of serving 151,830 Texas infants and children with targeted early interventions is $5.65 billion (in 1998 dollars), but a conservative estimate of the net benefit is more than $6 billion. For individuals participating in interventions, the benefits from investments largely result from increased lifetime earnings due to increased high school and college graduation rates. Benefits to Texas taxpayers include:

  • Reduced criminal activity ($5.32 billion)
  • Increased employee output yields (nearly $2 billion)
  • Higher tax payments (nearly $1.5 billion)
  • Savings for special education expenditures ($746 million)

The need for safe, quality, affordable child care arrangements has become a major issue for families and communities across the nation. In addition, economic pressures, the competing demands of parenting and workplace responsibilities, and single parenting add additional stress to the normal pressures and demands faced by parents and families. What has become evident is the reality that there are many low-income working families. Many parents who are working hard and trying to make ends meet without public assistance make up the ranks of the 'working poor.'