Grays Harbor EARLY EDUCATION Initiative…
Washington has an unparalleled opportunity to create a coordinated, statewide, systems-based approach to early learning in our state. Grays Harbor is part of an Early Learning Regional Coalition that is implementing a state-wide road map to ensure that all children start life with a solid foundation for success.
An Unequal Start
Simply put, a child’s early years lay the foundation for all that is to come. In recent years, researchers have learned that the human brain develops the vast majority of its neurons, and is at its most receptive to learning, between birth and three years of age. In fact, the intake of new information is critical to the formation of active neural pathways (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).
Many Grays Harbor families are in a cycle of poverty perpetuated by early childbearing. Many parents lack good role models and there is a high degree of child abuse and neglect. Young people report a lack of adult mentorship and engagement in their lives. Family violence is a problem and can be seen perpetuating itself in youth violence and emotional distress.
Our community and schools offer some opportunities but many young people lack the skills or support to benefit from them. Without active intervention, the cycle of poverty, family disorganization will repeat itself.
Why it Matters
Grays Harbor County has been faced with many challenges due to a declining population and growing unemployment rate. Statistics show that the people of Grays Harbor are more likely to have chronic health issues, drug and alcohol abuse issues and mental health difficulties. In order to improve the overall health of the community, our goals are to reduce the burden of chronic disease, increase access to health care, prevent drug and alcohol abuse and pay special attention to the quality of care available to our citizens.
A recent report on “opportunity youth” (16-24 year olds who are not fully engaged in school, work, or a combination of both), estimates that the lifetime societal and taxpayer costs are over $1 million dollars per person. In short, poverty is an affliction that is extremely expensive for all of us. Early childhood education is a proven, low-cost investment that is needed to avoid the costs of poverty. Early education is a necessary complement to the substantial social investment we are making in the public K-12 education system.
What we need to do
We can do more to make sure that every child in Grays Harbor is ready to start Kindergarten. This “smart start” is the first step at building a community that we are all proud of. To do that, we need to do 3 things: 1) Build strong families; 2) Create a world-class learning system; and 3) Increase community supports.
We don't have enough sytem capacity
Low-income families have too few options