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Looking Toward the Future: A Review for Liftoff--Western New York Early Childhood Funders for Change

Date: Jul 2, 2018
Author(s): Public Sector Consultants
Topic(s): Education: Early Childhood Education
Type: Report

In 2017, Liftoff--Western New York Early Childhood Funders for Change--wanted to better understand how the region serves its youngest residents, how other communities structure systems to improve life and learning for young children and their families, and how stakeholders across the system could come together to affect change. Together with partners across Western Yew York (including Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties), Liftoff engaged Public Sector Consultants to provide an outside, objective review of early childhood systems and programs in the region. We hope this report will be the foundation for many conversations in the months and years to come.

Nearly 98,000 children under the age of six call Western New York home, and these children represent the future of the region. Research has clearly demonstrated the importance of early experiences in children’s development. What happens in a child’s first years, both positive and negative, can have lifelong consequences. Research has also shown that effective local programming can provide benefits throughout a child’s life. These interventions are often referred to as investments because economists have quantified the benefits of some of these early interventions and shown they can potentially provide a positive lifelong benefit to both children and the community. While research demonstrates the power of early intervention, the reality is that Western New York’s need is substantial. Approximately half of Western New York’s children live in low-income households, and children from low-income households are at a heightened risk for not being ready for kindergarten. While much work has been done, meeting the early childhood needs of tens of thousands of children poses a significant challenge for the region. While the large number of low-income children in the region is a challenge, the growing literature showing the power of early childhood investment illustrates that there are opportunities to make investments that will significantly improve the lives of these children and provide returns to the region. Work to improve outcomes for young children must be viewed as a vital regional effort. Given the large need and finite resources, the community needs to work together to ensure that efforts are coordinated and that needy children do not fall through the cracks.