“It is very difficult to convince state or even federal government to put money on the prevention end, especially in a conservative climate,” observes Shelly Peck, public education and advocacy coordinator for the Family Resource Coalition. “What Missouri has done is very difficult, especially in times of budget cuts and people not wanting to pay higher taxes.”
Ethel Washington, clinic coordinator, Center for Successful Child Development, Robert Taylor Homes.
Nationwide, the push for school readiness has focused on preschool programs for kids. However, a small but growing number of programs zero in on parents as their children’s first teachers.
And while Illinois has a foot in the door of this movement, other states have surged ahead.
“Development and learning are so rapid in those first few years of life, when the home is the school and parents are the teachers,” notes Mildred Winters, director of Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis. “Knowing what we know about the critical nature of the early years in determining what the child ultimately will become, it makes so much sense to invest in getting children off to a good start. It’s far less expensive and far more productive than trying to fix it later on.”