About this Study

Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) is completing its latest community inquiry, Children 1-2-3: Early Learning for Future Success. This community engagement process has been examining the question, "How can Jacksonville best foster early learning success for children from birth to age 3 in our community?" Over the course of the process (October 2011 through April 2012), the meeting schedule, meeting summaries, key handouts and relevant articles have all been posted here. To find out more, please email tonia@jcci.org.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Many Duval day-care providers lack adequate training

In Duval County, many child care centers are filled with employees who are unable to teach children during the critical early development years.

It's largely because many make barely more than minimum wage, and many don't get benefits. In fact, fast-food restaurant workers often make more money. The low wages result in a revolving door of people who are hired to care for and educate the city's children.

For those who do stay, there is little training required. A teacher must have 40 hours in the first year and 10 each year after. By comparison, nail technicians need 240 hours and barbers need 1,200.
Tracking those factors - compensation, turnover and training - is a priority in some states, but not in Florida.

That leaves parents with little means to judge Duval County's 839 child care providers. The state shows which centers have been accredited by agencies with varying requirements, but few Duval centers are accredited. There's no program that tracks the quality of learning in all Duval centers.

Duval County's Guiding Stars program does rate the quality of care and learning in centers. But the program is voluntary and the $7.6 million budget is only enough to reach less than a third of the children in paid care.

The state requires that children who use federal or state subsidy money be placed in centers that can help prepare them for school. The children are among those considered most at risk to struggle in school later, but Duval County child care centers that accept subsidies are only required to meet a minimal quality standard. And the money used to help ensure at least minimal quality hasn't substantially changed for years.

Although parents are a child's first and most important teachers, many children spend much, if not most, of their waking hours at child care centers while parents work. High-quality child care, beginning when children are just weeks old, can have a positive, lasting impact, providing them with stronger social skills and better reading and math skills.

From the moment children are born, positive interactions with adults will help build self-esteem, encourage their curiosity and help them respect and cooperate with others. They also will need to begin building the kind of comprehension skills that thousands of students in Duval County public schools struggle with when they start taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests.

But many of Jacksonville's child care centers are filled with teachers with no more than a high school diploma, if that, and who lack much early learning training.

And incorporating learning into a small, privately owned business isn't easy.

The state doesn't require child caregivers to take any training before they start working in a center. They have three months before they must begin at least 40 hours of training within a year.

In the last three years, about 25 centers offered Guiding Stars support have either declined the services or started the program and then dropped out, according to the Early Learning Coalition.

It's more time consuming as directors have to work harder to train and maintain staff, communicate more with parents and open their centers to more oversight.
Read the full Florida Times Union story (City of Hope 2011) at http://bit.ly/q1IWSC

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development

On October 3, 2000, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies released From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, an update and synthesis of current scientific knowledge of child development from birth to age five. Guided by the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Jack Shonkoff, Chair and Deborah Phillips, Study Director), the report addresses how scientific advances can be used to shape early childhood policy, services and research. Four of their key findings are:

Early experiences affect the development of the brain and lay the foundation for intelligence, emotional health, and moral development, but the focus on the period from "zero-to-three" is too narrow.
1) Healthy early development depends on nurturing and dependable relationships.
2) How young children feel is as important as how they think, particularly with regard to school readiness.
3) And although society is changing, the needs of young children are not being met in the process.
4) Ultimately, the report recommends that our society make a major reassessment of how we address the needs of young children. Other key recommendations are outlined below.

>Increase the resources allocated to the emotional and social needs of young children.
>Give incentives to mental health professionals to work in early childhood settings.
>Design a public health campaign that focuses on poor nutrition, infections, exposure to environmental toxins, drugs and other biological hazards to healthy brain development.
>Create more well-designed early intervention programs for children at risk.
>Make early intervention programs more accessible to full-time working parents, especially those who work non-standard hours.
>Design early intervention programs that deal with the full range of problems that families face, including substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues, and that make referrals for treatment and assessment as needed.
>Create a presidential task force to review all existing public investments in early childhood and create a scientifically based ten-year strategic plan that will:
   -Foster close consistent relationships between children and qualified caregivers;
   -Deal with the needs of children with developmental delays or chronic health problems;
   -Ensure that all childcare settings are safe, stimulating and compatible with the values of the families they serve.
>Encourage Congress and the Presidential Council of Economic Advisors to develop tax, wage and income support policies that ensure that children with working parents do not live below the poverty line and that no child lives in "deep and persistent poverty."
>Expand coverage of the Family And Medical Leave Act to all working parents.
>Allow welfare recipients with very young children to be excused from TANF work requirements for lengthier periods of time.
>Provide financial support to low-income parents who have not been able to take any leave under FMLA because they could not afford to forgo their paycheck.
>Provide pay increases and professional development opportunities to child care professionals.

>Conduct further research on how different types of interventions affect children from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
>Undertake systematic and methodical evaluations of early intervention efforts.
>Foster greater collaboration among neuroscientists, child-development researchers, and molecular geneticists to learn more about how environmental and biogenetic factors work together to influence early development.
>The education, health and human services fields should work together to analyze the professional development challenges that face the early childhood field. To do so, they should form a collaborative of professional organizations and representatives from a variety of institutions that prepare individuals to work with children and families.

Read the entire book From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000); Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Author)