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Report: A Child’s First Eight Years Critical for Development

PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation sounds the alarm that better supports and investments are needed during a child’s first eight years to ensure their success later in life. Photo available: child in preschool class. Credit: M. Kuhlman.
PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation sounds the alarm that better supports and investments are needed during a child’s first eight years to ensure their success later in life. Photo available: child in preschool class. Credit: M. Kuhlman.
November 5, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - While Illinois has taken measures in many areas to ensure that children benefit from early care and educational programs, a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds more critical investments are needed. According to the research, a majority of pupils are not on track by third grade, and the number is even lower for children living below the poverty level.

The president of Voices for Illinois Children, Gaylord Gieseke, said that the first eight years are crucial to a child's cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.

"I cannot overstate the importance of how much happens during that time frame for the developing child that will impact him or her for the rest of their lives. "

Illinois has implemented child-care assistance, home visiting, early intervention and other programs to support early development, but Gieseke said that still too many children in Illinois don't get off to a strong start, because of economic, language and other barriers.

According to the report, more than 40 percent of Illinois children ages three and four are not enrolled in preschool programs, and the same proportion live in low-income households. Gieseke said the recession and the state's continued financial woes have eroded early childhood investments, and that better access is needed to high-quality birth-through-eight programs, especially for low-income children.

"Early childhood programs have a considerable impact on supporting the healthy growth and development of young children, so that we can increase their chances of success in those early grades," she said.

The report calls for integrated and comprehensive approaches to meet the needs of all children from birth through age eight, including state and federal policies that support parents so they can effectively care and provide for their children.

The report: "The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success" is available at voices4kids.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL