By Emily A. Satifka
Included within Governor Tom Wolf’s state budget is a $10 million to support high-quality early childhood services for the approximately 89,000 at-risk infants and toddlers in the Commonwealth. This appropriation would entirely go towards funding evidence-based home visit services such as early identification of children with special needs or developmental delays, offering social supports for new families, engaging in practices to assist with the prevention of child abuse, and teaching healthy development to parents. The programming included is both education and health focused as formative early education impacts a child’s overall health later in life.
This portion of Governor Wolf’s budget is vital for early health intervention in the lives of the youngest Pennsylvanians, enabling them to be able to grow to their full potential. Research has shown such programming to provide cost savings up to four times the initial expenditure by the time high-risk children reach age 15 via decreased grade repetition, reduced special education spending, enhanced productivity, lower welfare costs, increased tax revenues, and lower juvenile justice costs. 1
Current programming such as the Keystone STARS, the Nurse Family Partnership, the Parent Child Home Program, and the Early Intervention Program serve less than 15% of the 89,000 at-risk infants and toddlers in Pennsylvania; by allocating $10 million this would enable early intervention strategies to reach approximately 1,900 more children and families. 2
The need for strengthening early-childhood programming is obvious: 37% of young children in Pennsylvania are at risk for poor educational and developmental outcomes based on living in low-resource households and could benefit from early learning opportunities, federally-funded Early Head Start programs are available in less than half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, and 7,161 infants and toddlers are on the waiting list for the Child Care Work subsidy program. This early health and education programming is an exceptional way to jumpstart the health of children and families