I recently participated in a Community Engagement Session sponsored by The Children’s Cabinet, Department of Children and Families, Department of Health and Environment, and Department of Education. These four State agencies collaborated last year in applying for a federal Preschool Planning Grant for Birth through age Five. Kansas was one of 46 States/Territories who received one of these grants in the amount of $4,482,305.
This grant is designed to help states conduct a comprehensive statewide birth through five needs assessment to be followed by strategic planning. The overall purpose of this strategic plan is to improve the quality of care for young children, enhance parent choice and expand the number of providers, types and settings across Kansas. As a part of this process, these agencies have been hosting numerous Community Engagement sessions across the State.
Why is building a more comprehensive quality early childhood system important? Ninety percent of a child’s brain is established before the age of five! Therefore, early intervention is key to improving outcomes for our children. By supporting quality early care and education, including health care and social/emotional supports, we are helping to reduce the need for costlier interventions in education, mental health, and the criminal justice system in the future. Imagine that – if we put our resources into helping young children and their families before the age of five, we will have healthier children in all aspects of their development.
Now that is a wise investment! Let’s hope that we continue to see emphasis and investment of resources for early care and education. One of my favorite quotes is from Frederick Douglass “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. As Kansans, we all have a stake in this.
Deb Voth, President