Early education is vital to our community

Published 4:38 pm Thursday, July 19, 2012

Editor’s note: This column will run once a month from the Partnership for Children of the Foothills.

There is nothing more important to the future of our community than making sure that our youngest children get off to the best start in life and enter school healthy, and prepared for success. As the executive director of the Partnership for Children of the Foothills, we know that when we invest in our young children, we are investing in the future of our community. I look forward to sharing information each month that I hope will be helpful to families of young children, educators, business leaders and the community. We will share what is happening in the community for young children and offer tips and resources as well as some fun ideas and healthy recipes for busy families.

The Partnership for Children of the Foothills is a new merger between Rutherford/Polk Smart Start and The McDowell County Partnership for Children.  Our new mission is to build a strong foundation for children’s learning and development by strengthening families, the early education system and the community. We support families and work to ensure access to high quality care and education and we leverage investments from local, state and national partners to ensure school success. Children who enter kindergarten ready to succeed grow to be strong students, productive employees and vital members of the community.

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What does this mean for Polk County? Why does quality early education matter to Polk County?  We believe that a strong foundation for school success begins with quality early childhood education. Did you know the brain develops more rapidly between birth and age five than during any other time in our lives? Children’s earliest experiences literally determine how their brains are wired. With quality early childhood education, children will have fewer behavior problems when they get to school and are more likely to graduate, own a home, have savings and commit fewer crimes than their peers.

Specifically, in Polk County, we fund and support several programs that help provide children with the quality experiences they need during their early years.  In addition to the programs below, we do special projects such as coordinating diaper and food drives for low-income families and assisting childcare centers to improve their outdoor learning environments.

• Childcare subsidy – This is financial assistance through Polk County DSS that helps working parents pay for quality child care for their children.

• Child care health consultation – This health educator provides education, training and assistance to child care centers and homes to ensure they are meeting state health requirements. The educator also helps the centers focus on better nutrition and increased physical activity for all children.

• Childcare training and technical assistance – Our childcare specialist provides on-site technical assistance, coaching and modeling of skills for individual teachers and provides group training for childcare staff.

• Nurse family partnership – A registered nurse is paired with a low-income, high-risk, first-time mom in this home visiting program that follows the mom and child through out the birth and until the age of 2.

• WAGE$ – This is a salary supplement program for child care teachers who are increasing their education

There are only 2,000 days between the time a baby is born and when that child shows up for the first day of kindergarten. When we provide children with the experiences they need during their early years, we get a lifetime of results for our children, our state and our economy.

Polk County grows stronger when we put the needs of our young children and their families first.
Resource of the Month: “Friend” Partnership for Children of the Foothills on Facebook. We just started and will be posting great ideas and information for parents and kids. Check us out and like us at: www.facebook.com/PFCFoothills.

– article by Barry Gold, executive director,
Partnership for Children of the Foothills