Watching a baby grow is a wonder. From tiny infant to curious child, they develop in what seems like the blink of an eye.
There is clear scientific evidence that this ‘blink of an eye,’ between birth and age three, is a critical window when the brain develops faster than at any other period in life – building the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. In fact, a baby’s brain is forming more than one million new neural connections every second. Healthy growth will impact success in school, earning potential, and even health and risk of chronic disease.
It is during these first three years that high-quality child care and early health interventions matter most. But today’s parents are juggling a lot and often lack the time, resources, or knowledge to ensure their baby’s best start. As the most important nurturers in a child’s life, we must do more to ensure parents have the help they need to support work and family – whether through education, connections to community resources, or high-quality child care options.
Research shows that the benefits of comprehensive early childhood programs do not end with the child – they extend to the community. Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman’s research shows that supporting America’s babies drives a return on investment of up to 13 percent per year through better education, health, social, and economic outcomes throughout their lives. Investments in high-quality early childhood education from birth provide taxpayers with a return of up to $7.30 for every dollar invested.
North Carolina is already a leader in this field. Research from the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy found that the Smart Start and More at Four programs provide foundational benefits. Both programs lowered the odds of children needing special education during elementary school and increased math and reading scores in grades 3, 4, and 5.
The Pritzker Children’s Initiative is proud to be partnering with advocates in North Carolina and looks forward to joining in myFutureNC’s efforts to build a strong education continuum that begins at birth. Together we can drive increased attention and investment for all families to support healthy development in babies and toddlers.
North Carolina is an important keystone as we build a network of national, state, and local organizations to bring promising programs to scale across the U.S., and ensure that all babies develop to their full potential.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Hunt Institute. It has been posted with the author’s permission.