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Report Makes the Case for “Eight Years” for Wyoming Kids

PHOTO: The Annie E. Casey Foundation released a report today, calling for Wyoming to invest more in children's first eight years of life. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: The Annie E. Casey Foundation released a report today, calling for Wyoming to invest more in children's first eight years of life. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
November 4, 2013

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A lifetime of success can be tied to the first eight years of life. A report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation makes that case, and calls for more investments in children during that window of time - specifically, in early education and family support for those with the lowest incomes.

Deanna Frey, director, Wyoming Children's Action Alliance, said the state is already taking that seriously. The Joint Education Committee recently drafted legislation to establish an Office of Early Education.

"That will coordinate activities; that will support parents in getting through the system but will also make sure that we're not just looking at education - we're looking at really important things, like health care," Frey said.

The report's statistics show that 44 percent of Wyoming children age 8 and younger live in low-income households, and lower-income children are less likely to be on track educationally, socially and emotionally by age 8.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, said the good news is that decades of research show how to set children on the path to success. Parents need support and connections to programs that can help them and their families, especially when family income is fragile.

"For those kids, it's really the most important that we figure out how to create smoother transitions for them, so they can access the services that are often out there," Speer said.

Even if children enter kindergarten with below-average language and cognitive skills, she said, they can catch up - but only if they are physically healthy and have strong social and emotional skills.

"The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success," is available from the Casey Foundation at www.AECF.org. .

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY