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Early Childhood

Early childhood encompasses a wide range of important developmental milestones during which critical physical, cognitive, and social and emotional development takes place. These first years of life serve as a vital foundation for children’s success in school and later in work and life. Unfortunately, too many Illinois children don’t get off to a strong start, due to economic, language, and other barriers. Research tells us that children who start their formal years of education less prepared than their peers fall further and further behind. Early childhood experiences profoundly influence educational, health, social, and economic outcomes later in life.

Issue Areas

Home Visiting:  Pregnancy and a new baby bring families great joy, but also new challenges and responsibilities. High-quality home visiting programs for “at risk” families can foster better maternal and child health, enhanced school readiness, and improved parenting skills. Unfortunately, state funding for Parents Too Soon and Healthy Families Illinois home visiting programs has been cut, denying children and families needed support at a critical time in a child’s development. Voices has a strong history of advocacy for home visiting programs and co-chairs the Home Visiting Task Force of the Early Learning Council to raise awareness of the effectiveness of home visiting and secure adequate funding.

Preschool for All: Studies show that children who attend preschool repeat grades less, have fewer behavioral problems in school, and graduate at higher rates than their peers who don’t attend preschool. As adults, they are more likely to be employed, earn higher wages, and contribute more in taxes.

Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG):  The Early Childhood Block Grant provides critical state funding for early childhood education programs. ECBG is the primary funding stream for pre-kindergarten programs operated by local school districts and qualified community agencies. The funding also supports high-quality child development and family support programs for at-risk infants, toddlers, and their parents. ECBG funding creates opportunities for children and leads to better outcomes in the future. It’s a wise use of scarce resources: Every dollar invested in high-quality, early learning supports for a young child can yield a nearly $7 return on investment.

Early Intervention:  Research overwhelmingly supports the benefits of early intervention for children showing signs of developmental delays. Providing intervention services to young children from birth to age three helps ensure the best long-term outcomes. Voices has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure timely and appropriate services for young children who have diagnosed developmental delays or are at risk of delay. Voices was instrumental in the establishment of the Early Intervention (EI) program, which is supported by both state and federal funding. The EI program provides access to essential services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapies; vision and hearing services; social and emotional development and counseling services; and service coordination.

Head Start/Early Head Start:  The federal Head Start program was created to ensure that young children living in poverty are school ready by kindergarten. The program fosters children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. Early Head Start was designed to address the comprehensive needs of low-income pregnant mothers and children under the age of 3. The programs create both center-based and home-visiting supports that promote growth in language, literacy, math, science, social and emotional learning, creative arts, and physical skills. Voices supports access to Head Start and Early Head Start as part of the continuum of early childhood programs that develop the “whole child.”

For more information

Contact the Early Childhood team

Madelyn James, Early Childhood Program Manager (312) 516-5573