Blog | July 30, 2020

Business Leaders, Children’s Advocates, and Elected Officials Discuss Early Childhood Brain Development

How high-quality child care impacts healthy brain development in children

As Congress considers an economic relief package that would provide critical funding for Ohio’s child care providers, ReadyNation Ohio held a forum on Wednesday, July 29 to educate business leaders on the science behind prenatal-to-three brain development and its impact on workforce development.

Don Rankey, CEO of HomeLife Companies, a network of nursing home facilities located around the United States, hosted the forum. Jennifer Zosh, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State University, Brandywine Campus gave a presentation on the brain science for children prenatal to three.

Dr. Zosh presented on behalf of the ReadyNation Brain Science Speaker’s Bureau. Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), Senator Lou Blessing III (R-Colerain Twp.), Shannon Jones, Executive Director, Groundwork Ohio and Cyndy Rees, State Director, ReadyNation Ohio also participated in the forum.

Dr. Zosh’s presentation explored the power of early brain development. The presentation described how early childhood development is the foundation of a successful society, building strong communities, strong families, and a healthy economy. Children’s neural connections form most rapidly between age six months and two years. The number of words children understand at these ages is one factor in measuring children’s brain growth.

Maternal and child nutrition, early learning, and a safe nurturing environment are major factors that affect early childhood development. Investing early to address these factors offers a large return on investment. Evidence shows that quality early education promotes brain development.

Ohio is fortunate to have developed a strong child care rating and improvement system, Step Up To Quality, that helps publicly funded child care programs provide the tools to ensure our youngest children are exposed to proven interactions that help their brains develop.

We also know that Ohio is facing a child care crisis. COVID-19 has impacted critical financial resources needed to maintain our quality child care system. But, even before the pandemic, the infant-and-toddler child care crisis had a devastating impact on businesses and working families in Ohio.

“In Ohio, there are approximately 416,000 children under age three, and two-thirds of the mothers of these infants and toddlers work outside the home,” stated Don Rankey, CEO, HomeLife Companies. “The costs associated with infant-toddler child care challenges total $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue nationwide, and approximately $1.7 billion in annual costs for Ohio.”

About two-thirds of Ohio parents surveyed reported that access—the ability to find affordable, quality child care—is a problem in their area. Ohio has a particularly serious problem with infant-toddler child care “deserts,” with more than four children under age three for each licensed child care slot. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the issue is even greater at this time.

“The nursing home industry is a 24-hour-a-day job. I have experienced the great need for my employees to have access to child care programs. I even started a program in one location to ensure working parents had a safe and quality environment for their children 24 hours a day,” added Rankey.

“You always hear parents say don’t blink because your children will grow up so fast. It is true. Infants and toddler’s brains are developing rapidly, and they are absorbing so much from their environment. With parents working, many children are in child care. Providing quality child care programs for our youngest learners is one way to invest and ensure they reach their greatest potential,” Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) stated.

While child care programs are a critical workforce tool the current child care system does not meet the needs of Ohio families or employers.

Senator Lou Blessing III (R-Collerain Twp.) stated, “This is a problem centered around infants and toddlers for two reasons. First, child care for children under three is typically the hardest to find and the most expensive. Secondly, age zero to three is a unique time of brain development. As a father with young children, I have experienced with great joy watching my own children learn and grow. Ensuring children have access to quality child care programs is a sound investment.”

According to Dr. Zosh, play is a natural way to support learning and brain development. Quality child care providers are trained to interact with infants and toddlers in a meaningful way to ensure their brain is being stimulated in a purposeful way, further ensuring that they are prepared to move on successfully to school and life.

“Ohio has made progress in providing access to quality, affordable child care programs, but we have a long way to go. We appreciate the historic funding provided in the recent state budget by Governor DeWine and the legislature, but the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on child care has also been historic, resulting in less access for working families,” stated Cyndy Rees, State Director, ReadyNation Ohio. “Ohio business leaders appreciate the support provided by Governor DeWine and US Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown. We ask that they support pending federal legislation that will help sustain the child care sector with direct economic relief to child care providers”

Video of the event may be found in the embedded video below or on our YouTube channel here.

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