“There’s so much more to early learning than just preschool,” she said. “What we know from science and the latest research is that children are born ready to learn. In those first three years, 85 percent of the brain develops. That’s why early intervention is so important.”
Early intervention allows parents to realize when their might be a developing problem, and provides the chance to correct it before it’s too late, Capestany said.
“That can make a huge difference,” she said.
The program will start before a child is ever born, with home visits from a trained nurse to teach mothers about proper nutrition and overall health. The nurse also educates the parents on child development, so that they can spot the early signs of a problem.
Those home visits would continue after the child arrives, with a focus on identifying kids with developmental disabilities earlier.
“Kids projections can be turned around if we get to them early enough,” Capestany said.
As the child ages, the county is looking at providing after school programs focused on positive development and decision making, Capestany said. Strategies can be developed, she said, to assist at-risk youth and families.
For older children who obviously haven’t had the opportunity to benefit from the program since it is just beginning to become a reality, the county is developing programs to help them, too.
Ten percent of the revenue generated by the tax increase will be invested in things like increasing access to healthy food and expanding access to affordable housing.
“Our vision is that every child will have access to these programs, and some programs will be universal,” Capestany said. “But we’re also talking about targeting the communities and kids who need more. For example, we have some pretty big racial health disparities, so we’ll be targeting funding to disrupt those disparities.”
The program is still in the planning process, Capestany said, trying to sort out exactly how to implement it and reach its goals. Most of the funds will go out to community based organizations, she said, not county government functions. That, she said, is a key to ensuring the program is a success.
“We can’t just focus on the early education part,” she said. “We have to be able to sustain those gains throughout their life.”
This article is from the archive of our partner Route Fifty.