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Support early childhood development

Arn MenconiEagle County CommissionerVice Chair of Colorado Counties, Inc. Health and Human Services Committee

Early Childhood Development creates four ways to ensure brighter futures for our children: family support, early childcare education, early child health and social and emotional development. Unfortunately, in Colorado, nearly one third of our 345,000 children under the age of five live in families which fall below the federal poverty level, $20,000 for a family of four. According to the Colorado Children’s Campaign, this put them “at risk,” of not developing mentally or emotionally.That means we, as taxpayers, will bear the burden of supporting them as adults through public mental health, housing and other assistance programs, or at worst, the justice system.For every $1 invested in high-quality early education for at-risk children, between $4 and $12 are saved later in costs for special education services, health care, incarceration and social services.We live in a state where we have to spend our tax dollars wisely. Just as responsible parents on a tight budget shop to get the most bang for their hard-earned bucks, Colorado lawmakers face tough decisions about where to best spend their constituents’ money.It is just in the last decade that researchers have determined the critical role that children’s earliest years play. For example, in February 1997, Time magazine ran a cover story: “How a Child’s Brain Develops.” The findings were astonishing: Ninety percent of brain development occurs between the prenatal months and 3 years old. The article went on to state that early experiences clearly affect this development.Colorado voters took a huge step forward in supporting the health and wellbeing of this state through the passage of Referendum C. In addition, collaborations between the legislators, county commissioners, and the Colorado Children’s Campaign are working with Rep. Judy Solano and Sen. Brandon Shaffer on House Bill 1397, which will bolster early childhood education in Colorado. Politics and parenting aside, there’s an undeniable financial benefit.As our federal, state and local budgets continue to cut social programs that support children, the financial forecast is dire: a lower rate of return on taxpayers’ dollars at a time when we can ill afford the excess.We must focus our attention to the children of Colorado as our future and greatest asset by creating access to affordable healthcare, daycare and early childcare education.Editor’s Note: Today, all 64 counties will be attending the annual Colorado Counties Inc. Summer Conference in Keystone.


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