Getting it Right Early: Social and Economic Policy for Early Childhood Development
There are very few social policies that do not have an impact on the health and well-being of Maine’s youngest children. Some are obvious, such as healthy and interactive early care and education or access to affordable health care. Some are less obvious, such as the ways in which we provide services that support families and communities, or support caregivers in the early childhood workforce. Some require broader thinking, such as municipal zoning regulations that can make it easier for families to get fresh and healthy food or community planning for transportation systems. The basic principles of brain architecture indicate that providing supportive and positive conditions for early childhood development is more effective and less costly than attempting to address the consequences of early adversitylater.
The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood. A vital and productive society with a prosperous and sustainable future is built on a foundation of healthy child development. Health in the earliest years—beginning with the future mother’s well-being before she becomes pregnant—lays the groundwork for a lifetime of vitality. When developing biological systems are strengthened by positive early experiences, children are more likely to thrive and grow up to be healthy adults. Sound health also provides a foundation for the construction of sturdy brain architecture and the achievement of a broad range of skills and learning capacities. The Foundations’ publication was co-authored by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs.
Our responsibility as Mainers is to ensure that all of these contexts of children’s growth and development address a fundamental challenge: to promote health, reduce sources of toxic stress that children experience, and build healthy relationships in the environments in which they live and grow. If Maine is to prosper in the future, we must provide all children the opportunity to develop physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally. That means we must create and support early childhood environments that set children on a steep developmental trajectory.
Economic forces provide new opportunities to change the public conversation on issues Mainers care about. We need to think “big picture” about new ways to look at old issues that have for far too long hurt Maine children. We need to look at state and federal budgets and determine what is cost-effective and prevents high-cost interventions later on.
The early years are over far too soon leaving little time to pave the way for the future. That’s why the Maine Children’s Growth Council is focused on determining how to best promote the healthy development of Maine’s youngest children, NOW, while it still matters. We have to get it right the first time.
Please join in the work of the Maine Children’s Growth Council and help get it right the first time. Contact us today for more information.