For Immediate Release:
November 17, 2014

Contact: Robert Schneider (517-485-9444)
or Eric Lupher (734-542-8001)

Policy options to support children from birth to age three

A new report released by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) and Public Sector Consultants (PSC) suggests that state policymakers can make targeted investments in evidence-based programs to help ensure Michigan’s youngest children are ready to succeed when they reach kindergarten. The jointly authored report, titled “Policy Options to Support Children From Birth to Age Three,” analyzed current research on early childhood programs with the goal of identifying those most likely to produce the best outcomes for Michigan’s children and for the state as a whole.

Extensive research has demonstrated that the period from birth to age three is critical to a child’s development. Depending on circumstances, children can begin with a great start, or they can begin to fall behind. Research demonstrates that early intervention is far more effective at improving outcomes for children than later remediation.

“The research supporting early childhood investment is remarkable in its breadth and quality,” says PSC Vice President Jeff Guilfoyle. “In addition to benefiting children, early childhood investments often pay substantial returns to taxpayers, and in fact, investment in research-based early childhood programs may be the single most effective economic development strategy that Michigan can pursue.”

The report identifies four promising areas for investment:

  • Home visiting programs – These are voluntary programs that link parents with trained service providers (e.g., nurses, social workers) who coach families on how to best support their child, address the challenges they face, and teach ways to improve the home environment for children.
  • Access to medical homes – Children with access to medical homes have an ongoing relationship with a personal primary care physician, where the physician and other providers consider the needs of the child, provide enhanced access, and coordinate or integrate specialty care as needed.
  • High-quality child care – A growing body of research illustrates the link between high-quality child care and long-term outcomes for children. Positive child care environments promote children’s progress in both academic and social skills.
  • Preschool for three-year-olds – The expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program has made preschool widely available to at-risk four-year-olds. Publicly supported preschool opportunities for three-year-olds, however, are far more limited. Some studies have found that adding a second year of preschool can lead to larger and more persistent learning gains than one year of preschool.

“While there is research supporting all of these programs, the research is strongest for home visiting,” says CRC Director of State Affairs Bob Schneider. “A number of research-based home visiting programs have been studied using random control trials that follow the children for decades. These studies show the benefits of home visiting programs lasting well into adulthood.”

CRC’s report is available at no cost on the Citizens Research Council’s website, www.crcmich.org.

Founded in 1916, CRC is a community-supported nonprofit organization that promotes the development of informed public policy at all levels of Michigan government through the delivery of factual, unbiased, independent analysis of state and local government organization, policy, and finance. For more information, visit www.crcmich.org.

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