SAVE THE CHILDREN: The value of early childhood programs in the US

Save the Children is helping kids gain the confidence and the skills they need to succeed right here in the United States through Early Steps to School Success (Early Steps) program. Early Steps, enables children to start school prepared, provides parents with the skills they need to support their children’s development, ensure a smooth transition to school, and increase the community’s early childhood knowledge and resources.

Children enrolled in Early Steps are among the most vulnerable in their communities. Last year, Early Steps served more than 7,000 children at more than 100 sites across 14 states just like 4 year old Jazmine. Jazmine is an exceptional example of the positive transformation we see in kids who participate in Early Steps.

One of the most charismatic kids in her class of three- to five-year-olds, Jazmine takes the lead on games and activities, isn’t shy to be the first to raise her hand when her teacher asks a question, and sits front and center during story time. Chatting away to anyone who will listen from the moment she enters her classroom, 4-year-old Jazmine from a remote Native American village in Washington, could give seasoned politicians a run for their money.

It’s hard to imagine that when Save the Children first met Jazmine two years ago, she was a very different child. “She was quiet and withdrawn and wouldn’t smile much or interact with others,” said Kenney, a program coordinator as she recalled her first encounter with Jazmine during a home visit as part of Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program.
Children, like Jazmine, that are living in poverty in the United States and don’t receive early childhood education are 18 months behind their peers by age 4. Through our Early Steps program, Jazmine’s conversational skills and cognitive development are equivalent to those of a much older child.

Jazmine’s mother, Yvonne learned about the Early Steps program from friends and knew this was exactly the help she needed for her daughter. “She showed up one day during my home visit at her neighbor’s house and said ‘I want to do this for my daughter,’” said Kenney. Save the Children realizes gaining access to learning materials, such as books is a struggle for most parents. That’s why our Early Steps program provides families in the area with age-appropriate reading materials, “I was flipping through a parenting magazine one day when I came across a list of books showing which ones your child should have read by a certain age,” said Yvonne. “I recognized most of the books because I read them to my daughter when Tracie would bring them over. It made me so happy to know that my child was exactly where she needed to be in her development.”

Who benefits from investments in early childhood programs? Benefits to low-income children and parents are substantial and life changing. High-quality child care programs further benefit state and local governments, taxpayers and society as a whole by reducing the need for more expensive interventions later in a child’s life. Participation in high-quality early care programs can help children avoid special education, grade repetition, early parenthood and incarceration — outcomes that cost society in the future. And, over the long term, children who participate in such programs are more likely to be employed. The revenue from their local, state and federal taxes and enhanced buying power positively contributes to the health of our economy.