Onondaga County recognized for its efforts to support children birth to three
Syracuse, N.Y. – The Early Childhood Alliance Onondaga (ECA) is excited to announce that it has been selected by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) to participate in the Pritzker Children’s Initiative. The Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI), a project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker family foundation, is helping community leaders coordinate services that bring health, education and family supports together for pregnant women, babies and toddlers. Through PCI, Onondaga County and 28 other communities across the nation will enhance our efforts to address maternal and child health, family support, and early care and education in order to meet the unique needs of infants and toddlers.
The overall goal of PCI is to increase the number of children who are developmentally on track for kindergarten by addressing women’s prenatal needs and supporting child development from birth to age three. Research consistently shows that the most rapid period of brain development is in the first years of life, when a baby’s brain forms more than a million new neural connections every second. This cognitive, social and emotional growth is critical for later success in school, the workplace and life.
Onondaga County through the Early Childhood Alliance is already working to ensure young children have a strong start in life. The ECA was launched in January 2015 with an overarching goal that all children in Onondaga are healthy, thriving and ready to succeed in school; and that all families are supported in their parenting to raise their children in a healthy and nurturing environment. The ECA is a cross-sector coalition led by municipal, philanthropic, business, academic and nonprofit leaders. Among the initiatives that the ECA is helping to launch to support parents and children is the Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing Strategy; Help Me Grow Onondaga; and the Parent-Child Home Program.
In three short years, the ECA has galvanized community action and investment in the early childhood system in Onondaga County. We have gone from a loosely organized array of programs and services to a focused, multi-sector coalition with a shared vision for a more coordinated and strategic early childhood system. Because of this collective will, new resources are being driven into the early childhood system, aligned with the strategic plan developed by the ECA.
“It is well known that the quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life— at home, in child care, preschool and pre-K – shape how the child’s brain develops,” said Meg O’Connell President of the Allyn Family Foundation and Chair of the Early Childhood Alliance. “One of the most important things we can do for the future of our community is to make sure that all children have quality early learning experiences in the first few years of life.”
Through the involvement with PCI, Onondaga County will focus on access to two key areas:
- Ensuring high quality home visiting for parents that promotes early literacy, strong parent- child bonds and interaction, language development via talking and reading to their babies, and answering general child development questions first time parents may have; and
- Supporting providers of informal child care also known as family, friend and neighbor care (in the earliest years, family, friend and neighbor care is the 2nd most significant type of care children are in other than being cared for by a parent). In Onondaga County, approximately 5,200 children are born a year and we have fewer than 900 infant care child care slots available – so the vast majority of children born are in the care of a parent or are in family, friend, and neighbor care.
The National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, Center for the Study of Social Policy, National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) and StriveTogether each selected community partners that are demonstrating a commitment to ensuring children have a strong start in life. Onondaga County and the other 28 PCI communities will share innovations and lessons learned at the national level to help bring promising practices to scale.
“We see our community’s selection to be part of PCI as validation of the great work this community is doing collectively through the Early Childhood Alliance to support families and children in the prenatal to three year old time frame,” said Laurie Black, Director of the Early Childhood Alliance Onondaga. “The support we will receive from PCI will enhance and strengthen the investment our local community is making in programs to support the earliest years of a child’s life.”
PCI is investing more than $6.5 million initially during the one year pilot – with additional funding to follow. This is a critical investment because each year an estimated 3 million children nationwide arrive at kindergarten unprepared and not ready to learn. Research shows that investments in children and their families in the earliest years help communities create better education, health, social and economic outcomes that increase revenue and reduce the need for costly, less effective interventions later in life. The initiative is expected to equip communities with the tools to improve outcomes for young children.