IMG_1453The first eight years of life are the most critical in building a strong foundation for lifetime success. Early childhood experiences play a major role in influencing a person’s educational performance and attainment, how much a person earns throughout life and even health risks and life expectancy. These experiences include: prenatal care, strong parent-child interactions, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), quality early care and education, family economic security, health care, and developmental screenings.

The strength of the foundation built during the first eight years of childhood not only has long-term implications for the individual, but for the larger community and economy as well. That is why it is essential to prioritize strong early childhood experiences.

A report released today by Kentucky Youth Advocates highlights the key role early childhood plays in lifetime success; outlines the critical components of strong early childhood experiences; reviews how Kentucky is working to provide young children a solid foundation; and identifies additional opportunities for Kentucky to provide every child from birth through age eight a chance to reach his or her full potential.

Crucial short-term opportunities that need to be acted upon to help children thrive include:

  • Lift the freeze on applications for the Child Care Assistance Program and reverse the budget cuts made to child care subsides;
  • Restore the income eligibility level for CCAP so families earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level can receive help paying for child care;
  • Encourage the use of high-quality child care centers for delivery of preschool services, in addition to public preschool and Head Start; and
  • Ensure child care providers receive adequate reimbursement to provide high-quality care to low-income children.

As shown in the graphic, the largest return on investment takes place when there are targeted, quality programs for children birth to age three. The yield continues to decline as investments are placed in programs that occur later in life.  Those critical early years from birth to age eight provide a great opportunity to set children on a path to become successful students and later, capable and productive citizens that help to grow and create innovation in Kentucky’s economy.

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As Governor Beshear presents his budget proposal tonight, ask yourself these questions:

Is Kentucky putting money into programs that are going to give us the best return on investment? 

Are the best interests for Kentucky’s kids being made a high priority in the budget?

Watch Governor Beshear’s Budget Address tonight on KET at 7:00 p.m. ET. Join in on a conversation to address those questions and other thoughts with Kentucky Youth Advocates on Twitter @KYyouth and don’t forget to include the hashtag #fundkidsfirst .