If you have small children in your life, you know they are like sponges, soaking up the world around them. The first years of a child’s life are crucial to life advancement. These first couple years of life are key to the development of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral skills. Research shows that children who have access to quality early education programs are less likely to be placed in special education programs, less likely to be held back a grade, and more likely to graduate from high school. Focusing on the success of Wayne and Union residents begins with some of our youngest members.
What Impact Does Childhood Success Have on Wayne and Union Counties?
Childcare and pre-kindergarten education are expensive. For low-income families sending their children to pre-kindergarten (pre-k), when they are struggling to make ends meet, often feels like it does not make financial sense when they have a grandparent that can watch them for free. At United Way, we know by providing access to education before they enter preschool drastically increases their chance for success. Large cities often have many quality pre-k options for parents. However, in more rural communities like Wayne and Union counties, there are limited options for quality childcare. Only 21% of children under the age of 4 are enrolled in quality care programs, while 31% of children are enrolled in Union county. Wayne County is also ranked 3rd in the state for children living in single-parent homes. Even if lower-income families could afford to send their kids to a quality pre-k institution, they are not accessible in all areas in our counties.
The state of Indiana has been making strides to offer voucher programs that make pre-k programs more affordable for lower-income families. The state is continuing to expand these programs and offer more options for quality childcare and education. United Way of Whitewater Valley is working with nonprofits in our counties to close this gap more quickly. Investing in children this early in life gives them a leg up as they progress through their education.
Our Agency Partners Impact
One partner agency that is working to help close the gap in childhood success is Achieva Resources. If you’ve never heard about Achieva Resources, we have you covered – we wrote all about this great organization. Their EXCEL program is helping to prepare young children to enter kindergarten. EXCEL stands for Early eXperiences in Childhood Education and Learning. This program provides developmental screenings to children birth to five years old. It helps them to determine if children have developmental delays that may hinder their progress. This program gives families peace of mind and knowledge. Allowing caregivers to advocate for their children and gives them the tools they need to ensure their children will be successful in kindergarten. As a part of the EXCEL program assessment, they provide referrals and additional resources. Each caregiver also receives an age-appropriate resource bag with books and development toys. We are working to enroll every child in Wayne and Union counties in quality pre-k institutions. A program like EXCEL helps caregivers to prepare their children for formal education.
Our Impact in 2019 on Childhood Success
2019 was a big year for United Way Whitewater Valley. Our impact continues to grow every year and with the help of our donors. We were able to have had a large impact on childhood success. The funds we receive to support programs like EXCEL. Which are closing the achievement gap in Wayne and Union counties. We report all of this information in our global framework documents. These documents detail the impact United Way of Whitewater Valley has had year by year.
In 2019, 422 children in Wayne and Union counties were able to gain access to early childhood programs. 365 caregivers are empowered with knowledge and resources to support their child’s learning, and 113 children were given books and reading supports. Children are the future of our counties improving their education allows them to improve their lives. Closing the achievement gap not a small task, and there are many families in need all around us. With your continued support, we can come together as a community to support our youngest residents and provide them with the resources they need to live successful lives.