Cuts to child care create a ‘lose-lose’ in Illinois

[img_caption src=”×1501.jpg” link=”” align=”right” caption=”Geoffrey A. Nagle” alt=”Geoff Nagle”]Here in Illinois, as Governor Rauner and our state legislators focus on economic development, quality child care must be considered an essential part of this agenda: an important way to develop our future workforce, reduce costly social programs, and build strong communities.

However, while new cuts to the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program may offer short-term budget relief, they will in fact result in higher costs in years to come, as high quality child care leads to school success, less special education, higher graduation rates, less crime, fewer teen parents, and less dependence on public assistance.

The early years are critical

The first 1,826 days of a child’s life – from birth to age 5 – provide us with the greatest opportunity to influence resiliency, well-being, and development.

In recent years we have learned how critical the early years of life are to the developing brain architecture, which is why health and social services are inextricably linked to economic development. While supportive and nurturing environments help build and solidify positive brain development, toxic stress from exposure to violence, abuse, neglect, or overly stressed parents stimulates the production of chemicals that undermine the developing brain.

These cuts to child care create a lose-lose situation – a loss for the children who will not receive needed early childhood development services, especially those who are most economically vulnerable, and a loss for Illinois. This kind of a mistake is hard to accept as it will clearly hold thousands of children back from building the foundation they need to ensure school readiness.

How is it that we find ourselves in this situation, where our leaders are choosing a path counter to everything we know to be good for the development of young children – as acknowledged by Nobel Prize-winning economists, business leaders, philanthropists, and education experts? Where is the benefit to Illinois, and who will benefit?

Investments in children benefit all of us

The evidence only continues to grow. A study published just two weeks ago in the American Journal of Public Health followed 800 kindergarten students for 20 years and revealed how social-emotional learning in the earliest years provides later success in school and career.

The results showed that children who had reached kindergarten with positive social skills, as measured by their teachers, were more likely to finish college and have a full-time job by age 25. The children who had problems resolving conflicts, sharing, cooperating, and listening as kindergartners continued to struggle and were more likely to have repeated a grade, had run-ins with the law, and received public assistance.

Investments in early childhood programs, such as those now vulnerable in the Illinois budget discussion, are truly that – investments. Investing in children and families to help each child develop to his or her full potential begins early – and has a long-term impact.

We urge Gov. Rauner to protect the future

At Erikson Institute, we are committed to improving the lives of children and families by educating the next generation of leaders in the early childhood field, building on research to provide service and model programs in our communities, and creating new knowledge about early childhood.

We are urging Gov. Rauner and Illinois lawmakers to protect our future by recognizing the long-term value of investments in early childhood: restore the cuts to the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program and then go beyond that to carefully design investments that provide the safe, stimulating, and nurturing experiences that all young children need.

Help us share the Erikson perspective with your colleagues, friends, and family, and please contact us if we can provide you with any additional information to inform these important conversations. Let us know your thoughts on these cuts, and how they may impact you and your work.

No issue will have a greater impact on our future workforce or provide a better return on our investment than growing and strengthening programs that support the development of our youngest children.

Let us know your thoughts