This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.
Written by Jacie Farris
The Long-Run: How Early Learning Can Help Children and the Community
Parents of young kids often wonder about their children’s futures and what they can do to set them on the right track at a young age. That’s where early learning opportunities come into play.
“It is important that families have access to high-quality early learning experiences so their children have a great start and are prepared with the necessary tools for school,” said Crystal Givens, director of programs for Early Learning Indiana’s Child Care Answers program. “Those tools will help children to grow into responsible adults who will provide a positive contribution to society.”
The phrase “early learning” generally refers to the education of children from birth to age five and is used to reinforce the importance of experiences that help children develop academically and socially.
“Research shows that children who have high-quality early learning experiences are more likely to complete high school [and] go on to college, less likely to commit crimes and more likely to be productive citizens,” said Givens. “If children do not have access to quality programs they are less likely to possess the necessary social skills to cope with everyday situations; for instance, getting along well with others. A young child without practice in getting along well with others gets in trouble starting in kindergarten [and] becomes an adult who cannot get along well with others.”
La’ Toya Pitts, deputy director of Christamore House, said, “Early learning provides a foundation for children to be successful throughout their educational careers. Early learning plays a vital role in building confidence in young people so that they are equipped to deal with the various learning situations that they may encounter throughout the learning cycle.”
Pitts added, “Early learning builds confidence, confidence leads to success, success leads to change – and our communities are begging for change. We need change to happen so that our community can succeed.”
Christamore House provides a wide variety of services for families, one of them being the Early Childhood Education Program. The program allows children to develop motor, social, emotional, language and learning skills by giving them direction, encouraging them to explore the world with their senses, helping them build relationships and allowing them opportunities of expression.
Given’s program, Child Care Answers, is part of Early Learning Indiana, which advocates across the state for early learning efforts. Child Care Answers strives to improve access to and quality of central Indiana early learning programs by providing referrals, training and technical assistance to parents seeking child care; training, mentoring and licensing assistance to child care providers; and specialized child care-related services to the business community. In 2016 alone, 3,721 families contacted Child Care Answers for child care referrals.
For parents looking for quality early learning programs that are affordable, the following websites can help identify such resources:
- On My Way Prek-K: lists quality early learning programs, along with information for families and providers
- Head Start: lists Head Start- and Early Head Start-approved programs based on location and grant numbers, while also providing national news related to early learning as well as research and reports on the subject
- Partners for Early Learning: provides a state map of child care resource and referral agencies
Givens and Pitts said the community should play a role in encouraging early learning.
“Early learning is important to the community because central Indiana’s children are the future workers,” said Givens, “and if there is no early learning we will have few individuals who have what it takes to compete in a global economy and to keep central Indiana moving forward as a great city.”
One of the main inhibitors of quality early learning programs is the general lack of funds, so Givens suggested that “with more support from local business [and] the community at large, and continued support [from] the local government, there would be more quality child care settings, better-skilled child care professionals and increased wages for child care professionals.”
Pitts encouraged each community member to be “an educational provider.” She said caring individuals should “read to our young people [and] explain things whenever [they] have a chance. Every small educational encounter plays a role in the long-run.”