Brief | June 20, 2023

High-Quality Early Childhood Programs are Key for a Strong North Carolina

Home visiting and child care for infants and toddlers can help grow the economy, increase public safety, and enhance national security

High-quality early childhood programs can contribute to public safety, help build a strong economy, and enhance national security. Research shows that experiences children have in their earliest years, during a period of critical brain growth, set the foundation for future development. Infants and toddlers who experience warm, responsive parenting and nurturing child care programs that stimulate their development are set on a path to productive adulthood. Young children who lack these quality environments early in life often arrive at school already behind their peers and may never catch up—underperforming in reading and math, more likely to be held back in school, and less likely to graduate from high school on time.

Children’s early experiences also have consequences for our state and our nation. Our national security relies on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, issues like educational deficits, health problems, substance abuse, and crime prevent 72 percent of North Carolina youth from qualifying for service. North Carolina’s jails are full of people serving time for serious and costly crimes, many of whom lack high school diplomas that would qualify them for legitimate employment. North Carolina’s businesses need a steady supply of educated, skilled young people to build a strong workforce to compete in the global economy.

North Carolina policymakers must support high-quality early childhood programs, including home visiting and child care, to provide our infants and toddlers with the strong foundation they need to contribute to the future strength of our state and our nation. In particular, legislators should provide additional state matching funds and increased state investments to draw down federal dollars for home visiting programs, increase child care subsidy rates, and enact a pilot program that would help families ineligible for child care subsidies afford care.