New Report: Early Childhood Care and Education Vital for St. Louis Region

Community Engagement; Policy; Social Work

A new report from the Brown School’s Clark-Fox Policy Institute focuses on the impact  high-quality early childhood care and education can have on children, families and communities. It’s an issue whose importance has been brought home dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, Launching Lifelong Success: Ensuring St. Louis’ Kids are Ready by Five, highlights the evidence for early childhood care and education (ECE) as an effective policy investment that can reduce inequities in social support and help the most vulnerable in our communities. The report proposes three evidence-based policy recommendations:

  • Increase access to ECE through sustainable public and private investment
  • Prioritize the funding for children most affected by poverty
  • Increase the quality of care and education through a coordinated system supported and administered by a single regional entity

“Research demonstrates that investment in high-quality early childhood care and education yields significant long-term returns,” said Gary Parker, Associate Dean for External Affairs and the Director of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute. “An investment in our kids is an investment in the future of the region. Children and the adults who care for them deserve every opportunity to thrive in St. Louis.”

Parker said the report is especially timely given the effects of the pandemic.

“The rise of COVID-19 has exposed glaring inequities in our social support infrastructures, and our most vulnerable populations are experiencing the greatest hardship,” he said. “Now more than ever we are aware of the inequitable resources available to working families, and limited access to quality childcare is one of the greatest obstacles.”

The report notes that high-quality ECE can lead to better education outcomes, such as high school graduation; better health, including lower rates of chronic disease and substance abuse; and higher employment rates later in life. Those outcomes are particularly important in St. Louis, which has low intergenerational mobility and wide disparities, as white children are 38% more likely than black children to be enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs.

“All children deserve a strong start in life,” said Atia Thurman, Associate Director of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute. “We need to prioritize quality ECE as a means to promote family well-being, economic prosperity and racial equity in our region.”

The Clark-Fox Policy Institute will be hosting a virtual panel discussion Wednesday, April 22 at 10 am: Early Childhood Education and COVID-19: The Immediate and Long-Term Impacts. Register here.