There is clear evidence of the positive impacts of quality early learning experiences on brain development and socio-emotional health, as well as clear evidence of the lifetime harms for children that are exposed to toxic stress in their early years, and do not have access to safe environments that nurture brain development. Early childhood professionals and early elementary school teachers in Elkhart County have expressed concern with the rising rates and severity of social-emotional, behavioral and mental health issues of young children in their classrooms. Self-regulation and executive function skills have been found to be one of the strongest predictors of academic success, and many Elkhart County children are not experiencing opportunities to develop these skills prior to entering school.
The current capacity for quality early learning and care options are also a challenge for our current and future workforce. It is essential for working parents to have access to this high-quality, dependable early learning and care to maintain employment. Something known as the achievement gap — the gap in school outcomes between children from different demographic backgrounds — starts before children enter kindergarten because of inequitable access to high-quality early childhood opportunities. The achievement gap tends to persist over time and becomes more difficult to close. The most cost-effective and efficient solution to closing the gap is to intervene early.