First 5 Santa Cruz County believes that all children deserve quality early childhood experiences in the crucial first five years of life. Children who don't get these quality early experiences of postiive relationships, safety, language rich environments and health begin life with the odds stacked against them. That's not just unfortunate for them. It's a problem for all of us. and one that can and must be solved. A growing body of scientific evidence about early brain development supports increasing the quality and access to early education experiences. First 5 supports programs in applying that science in innovative programs. The data show that the greatest challenges facing our country from school dropout rates, to crime to rising health-care costs, to the necessity of competing in the global marketplace can only be met by focusing on the development of all our children, beginning at birth. The "achievement gap" is not a metaphor. It is a social outcome that we can see and measure. Research shows that the achievement gap appears long before children reach kindergarten in fact is can become evident as early as age nine months. That makes the achievement gap the Opportunity Gap. First 5 programs aim to close the Opportunity Gap and increase later achievement.
Early childhood programs are the most cost-effective way to ensure the healthy development of children and offer the greatest returns to society. Thank you to the Ounce of Prevention for materials.