Starting off right with early childhood education

Before they enter kindergarten, children have already developed many of the basic brain connections that impact their ability to learn.

Before they enter kindergarten, children have already developed many of the basic brain connections that impact their ability to learn. High-quality care and education during these early years, therefore, produce a lifetime of benefits. And parents with affordable, reliable childcare and preschool options for their young children are better able to retain stable employment.

Crafting a promising future at the Connecticut Children's Museum.

The Numbers

  • For every dollar spent on early childhood education programs for at-risk children, there is a return on investment of $8 to $17.1
  • The percentage of children in Greater New Haven ages 0-5 with parents who worked or were looking for work grew from 64 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2014.2
  • Thirty-seven percent of the region's young people live in low-income households.3
  • In 2012, costs for full-year regulated early care and education programs in Greater New Haven averaged between $9,200 and $14,100 per year per child.4
  • There are only enough regulated infant /toddler slots in Greater New Haven to serve one in every five children ages 0-2.5
  • There are enough regulated early-education slots for 86 percent of the 3- or 4-year-old's in Greater New Haven.6
  • Fifty-nine percent of the region's 3-4-year-olds attend a center-based preschool, versus 43% nationally.7
  • In a 2015 survey of New Haven parents with kindergarten students, one-third of the respondents who had not sent their children to preschool identified high cost as the primary reason.8

Early Development - Lifelong Impact

Sitting still, impulse control, and sustained focus on a task, all of which are fundamental to learning and forming stable relationships, are controlled by what neuroscientists call the executive function. The connections in this region of the brain begin their rapid development in the early years of childhood.9 Pioneering child psychologist Arnold Gesell, the first director of the Yale Child Study Center and founder of the Gesell Institute for Child Development, demonstrated that a healthy executive function is more likely to develop when a child is raised in a safe setting where he or she can explore through play and deal with frustration constructively.

Life stresses, particularly those associated with poverty, can, however, interfere with the healthy development of the brain's executive function. When children enter kindergarten without the social, emotional, and cognitive development to succeed, they are at risk of never catching up, eventually dropping out of school without the skills they need to get and keep a job.

High-quality early care and education have been shown to mitigate the impacts of poverty on children. Children from poor households who also go to quality preschool programs are less likely to be placed in special education, and more likely to perform well throughout their school careers.10

Growing Need

Increasing numbers of working mothers, fewer multigenerational homes, and other demographic pressures have led more parents than ever to place their children in professional childcare settings. Despite important gains in the preschool supply, funding remains limited for families with financial needs. Connecticut Voices for Children has found that 86% of infants and toddlers, and at least 25% of preschoolers living in struggling families (families earning under 75% of the state median income) are not served by any state or federal subsidy for early care and education.11

An Increased Commitment

Both the state and Greater New Haven have made early care and education a priority. In 1997, the state launched School Readiness, which subsidizes preschool tuition payments primarily in priority school districts, which include New Haven, West Haven, East Haven, and Ansonia. Since the program began, the rates of preschool attendance have been climbing.

New Haven, which also secured magnet school funding from the state to offer free preschool programs in some schools, has seen the percentage of city children with preschool experience rise from 64% to 80% in the past decade.12

Innovation Through Partnership

When the state of Connecticut passed legislation to improve coordination among all agencies that work with young children, it invited the philanthropic community to help. The result was the Connecticut Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, an innovative public/private venture hosted by the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy.

The collaborative of 14 original funders, including The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, worked with state officials to manage a planning process that led to the creation of the Office of Early Childhood within two years. The effort connected the work of 8 different divisions within 5 state agencies, improving the state's delivery of quality services to young children.

With its short-term goal reached, the Collaborative continues its work with the state to improve the outcomes of children and families in Connecticut.

What the Community Foundation is Doing

The Community Foundation has a long history of supporting a wide range of early childhood education programs as well as long-term efforts to increase the overall supply of high-quality programs in the region.

Grant Impact Highlights:

All-Our Kin: All Our Kin helped to license 98 new family childcare providers, creating an additional 588 childcare slots for children ages 0-5 and an additional 294 before and after school slots for school-aged children.

Jumpstart for Young Children: A preschool program for low-income children in New Haven served 109 children.

Connecticut Council for Philanthropy: A two-year grant to support the Connecticut Funders Collaborative for a coordinated system of early care and education resulted in the establishment of the Office of Early Childhood.

The Connecticut Children's Museum: Over three years, the Parents and Communities for Kids (PACK) Initiative served 9,588 families through 726 family programs with a total attendance of 27,304 people.

Local early-child centers receiving general operating and program support include Good Shepherd Day Care Center; Leila Day Nurseries, West Haven Child Development Center, Friends Center for Children.

Works Cited

1. Karoly, Lynn A., M. Rebecca Kilburn, and Jill S. Cannon. Proven Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2005.
2. Abraham, Mark. Greater New Haven Community Index 2016. Report. New Haven, CT: DataHaven, 2016.
3. Ibid
4. Ibid
5. Ibid
6. Ibid
7. Ibid
8. "2013-14 New Haven PreK Enrollment and Accessibility." New Haven Early Childhood Council. March 2015. Accessed August 29, 2016.
9. "Early Experiences Shape Executive Function." Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Accessed August 29, 2016.
10. Campbell, F. A., E. P. Pungello, S. Miller-Johnson, M. Burchinal, and C.T. Ramey. "The Development of Cognitive and Academic Abilities: Growth Curves from an Early Childhood Educational Experiment." Developmental Psychology 37, no. 2 (2001): 231-42.
Campbell, F. A., Ramey, C. T., Pungello, E., Sparling, J., & Miller-Johnson, S. “Early childhood education: Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian Project.” Applied Developmental Science, 6, No.1, (2002): 42-57.
11. "About Early Care and Education Issues | Connecticut Voices for Children." About Early Care and Education Issues | Connecticut Voices for Children. Accessed August 29, 2016.
12. "2013-14 New Haven PreK Enrollment and Accessibility." New Haven Early Childhood Council. March 2015. Accessed August 29, 2016.

© The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
August 2016