Forum: Early Childhood Programs Can Benefit Lake County, Illinois
Erikson Institute President Dr. Geoff Nagle addresses community leaders and educators on the importance of the first 1,100 days of life
On Thursday, October 17th, Erikson Institute President Geoff Nagle presented at a Lake County, Illinois, forum about the critical period of brain development that takes place in the first few years of a child’s life.
The forum was hosted by Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, and was attended by over 60 local police chiefs, educators, and community leaders, along with State Representatives Joyce Mason and Mary Edly-Allen. The members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids regularly engage in public forums to build consensus around the importance of early childhood programs in our communities.
Home visiting programs that provide voluntary coaching for expectant and new parents, child care for working families, and quality preschool are all part of a comprehensive approach to early childhood that actually makes our communities safer in the long-term.
State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim
Analyses from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and the Erikson Institute show that Lake County needs significantly more funding for early childhood programs. For FY2019, state funding for preschool in the Early Childhood Block Grant came $8.6 million short of requests from Lake County school districts. While some funding has been restored for FY2020, the gap is still in excess of $4.4 million. The Erikson Institute’s “Risk and Reach” report also found that there is a tremendous unmet need for other services for young children in Lake County. In FY2016, only 3.1% of program-eligible children age 5 and under were enrolled in a home visiting program.
Adverse experiences during childhood, Nagle told the audience, can lead to a host of negative, long-term life and health outcomes. “The first three years of a child’s life — roughly 1,100 days — is a critically important time for brain development,” said Dr. Nagle. “Early childhood experiences have a lasting impact, and can lay the groundwork for either positive or negative experiences in school and life. It is crucial that we support children and families during these three years, and reconceptualize the programs and services available to them.”
Nagle told the Lake County News-Sun that kids with behavioral issues are often acting “quite appropriately” to the environments surrounding them in the presence of “extreme poverty, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, mental health issues, substance abuse, and even violence in their community.”
When behavioral issues go unaddressed, they can lead to encounters with the law later in life. This is one reason why investing in quality early childhood programs can help keep kids safe and reduce the likelihood of them entering the criminal justice system. “Members of law enforcement,” said Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, “have long advocated for investments that get young children off to the right start in life: home visiting programs that provide voluntary coaching for expectant and new parents, child care for working families, and quality preschool are all part of a comprehensive approach to early childhood that actually makes our communities safer in the long-term.”
Pictured from left to right: Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg, Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther, Lake Zurich Police Chief Steven Husak, State Representative Mary Edly-Allen, Erikson Institute President Geoff Nagle, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois Director Tim Carpenter, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, State Representative Joyce Mason.
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