Invest now; you’ll reap your rewards later. That doesn’t just apply to financial investments, it holds true for our littlest community members as well.
Investing in early childhood by supporting children and their families today can transform the future of our city one family at a time. The children whose social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs are met in their early years are more likely to grow into healthy, fulfilled and engaged citizens.
With new city government comes new opportunity. The Bernalillo County Early Childhood Accountability Partnership (ECAP) is eager to engage our new city leaders to focus on our children.
We are all too familiar with the serious social problems facing our city today. Those problems impact all of us, but our young children are most vulnerable to the effects of stressful life events. Brain development during the first years of life shapes lifelong outcomes, and the environments in which young children grow, play and learn change how their brains develop. When young children experience a build-up of stress due to problems in their families or communities, they are more likely to face many of the same challenges we see in our neighborhoods today – substance misuse, violence, educational difficulties and incarceration.
Research from Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago Economist James Heckman, author of the Heckman Equation, shows that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13 percent per year return on investment. Significant gains are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors and employment. Similarly, Bernalillo County’s District Attorney Raúl Torrez has said that the community can invest in our youth early, or pay $45,000 per year to incarcerate an adult.
To make a real lasting change for our city, we must commit to investing in ways that increase the return on investment in the short and long term. High-quality early childhood care and learning can change the trajectory for our children, families and city. Learning takes place in relationships with caring adults. When caregivers talk, smile, snuggle, sing, play and read with young children, they provide an ideal environment for early learning, literacy and healthy development. These simple interactions support parent-child bonding and healthy attachment, which are shown to prevent child abuse and neglect.