Whose responsibility is it to raise our society’s children: birth parents, family, friends, and neighbors? Is it the schools’ job to nurture, educate and prepare our society’s children for the future? The era of the stay at home mom is fading fast. Dual income households and single-parent families have become the norm. Parents rely on the childcare industry to take care of their young children. Ultimately, it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure children are well cared for by choosing quality early childhood programs to nurture and care for their children.
Multiple, longitudinal studies spanning 40 years have consistently shown that young children from high risk families who attend quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate high school, attend college, become productive members of society and less likely to commit crimes (especially violent crimes). Quality early childhood programs lay the foundation for future success in school and later in life. Since the implementation of the Voluntary Pre-K program in Florida five years ago, children participating in VPK programs consistently perform better on the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener than children who did not. Every child in Florida who turns four before September 1 is eligible for a free preschool education! Florida has the second largest prekindergarten program in the nation with 70 percent of all four-year olds in the state served (NIEER, 2008).
Controversial issues such as sex education and youth on youth violence pepper the news daily. Early childhood programs have a tremendous impact on children’s social emotional development. Before children can reach their full potential, they must feel safe, secure; and their physical needs must be met. Through healthy bonds with appropriate adult role models, modeling problem-solving-skills, behavior modification and early intervention, young children even from the most dysfunctional homes still have a chance for success in school and life. People ask “Why?” and “How?” when violence occurs. Many children and adults lack impulse control (want instant gratification); problem solving skills; and appropriate adult role models. Did you know for every dollar invested in quality early childhood programs, there is a savings of $7.16 (High Scope Perry Preschool Study)?
Let me clarify: early childhood professionals are not “just babysitters.” These are some of the hardest-working, compassionate, dedicated and inspiring people I have encountered, attending evening classes after working a 10-hour day, balancing home life and family demands with the rigors of college coursework, striving to give their best selves every day. It is rewarding to see my students, timid at first, achieve their dreams as their careers blossom, leaving LCCC with confidence to do great things.
Education does not begin in kindergarten. Infants learn from birth; even in utero, infants learn to recognize the voice of their mother and respond to environmental stimuli. It is widely understood and accepted that the first three years of life are crucial in the development of the whole child; this is era of essential connections. The number of synapses in the frontal lobe of an average four-year old are almost double that of an adult! In fact, during the first years, no other body part grows faster than the brain: between the ages of two and six, increasing from 70 percent to 90 percent of its adult weight. Therefore, the environment young children spend a majority of their waking moments in has a lifelong impact on their overall development.
Has it ever occurred to you that the child care industry is a crucial element of our economy? There are over 20,000 child care businesses in Florida paying approximately $1.1 billion in wages to child care employees. Another $1.8 billion goes to industries that support child care centers. That is a total of $2.9 billion generated by the child care sector alone (AWI: Office of Early Learning). If the child care centers in our areas closed their doors, what would happen to our workforce?
Did you know that the teacher/child ratio for two-year olds in Florida is 11:1? Do you know what you would even do if left alone with 11 two-year olds? My early childhood education students at LCCC inspire me every day. I’ve had the honor of educating and mentoring early childhood professionals for over 10 years now. I remind them often what a difference they are making. Please remember to R.E.S.P.E.C.T. those that care for your children. This is Children’s Week; let’s honor our children and say, “thank you,” to those that give so selflessly.
Contact Stearns at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (386) 754-4495 or visit www.lakecitycc.edu.