The central goal of an effective early childhood system is happy, healthy children who are ready for school. About 21,000 babies are born in West Virginia each year. Too many of our infants and young children face challenges that jeopardize their development. To ensure the wellbeing and school readiness of all children, we need strong leadership in our families, communities and state.
Families – parents, grandparents and other relatives – are central to the development of young children. So are the people and programs that support families, including the nurses and obstetricians who care for pregnant women, the home visitors who provide information and resources to new parents, the therapists who help young children with developmental delays, the pediatricians who provide immunizations and well-child visits, and the teachers and aides in preschools, Head Start programs, and child care centers.
The larger community also plays leadership roles, such as family resource centers that host community baby showers, civic groups that raise money for infant car seats, churches that put rocking chairs in their sanctuaries, and businesses that offer flexible hours for parents with new babies.
Policymakers provide leadership when they pass laws creating programs like WV Birth to Three for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and WV Pre-K for all four-year-olds, as well as passing budgets that fund essential programs. They also address important issues that affect families with children of all ages, such as child care subsidies for working families and other measures to reduce poverty and its impact.