Two years in, we’re seeing results for young children

A kindergarten-ready child:
• Interacts positively with children and adults
• Is curious and loves learning new things
• Can focus and pay attention to adults, other children, a book or task
• Is generally happy and can manage his or her emotions
• Has age-appropriate language, thinking, and physical skills

Today, we are releasing the Year 2 Update of the School Readiness Action Plan – a report to the community highlighting the changes we’ve made in the landscape of early childhood services over the past two years.

In 2012, our team in the Success By 6 program at UWATX led a strong coalition of early childhood advocates, experts, parents, and business leaders to work collaboratively to transform the early childhood system in Travis County and together, we created and published the 2012-15 School Readiness Action Plan. The plan catalyzed a movement – with multiple work groups, policy advocates, and service providers championing improvements in services for young children and their families.

We are proud to present our second annual progress report to the community so that individuals can join our celebration of successes and help us overcome the barriers that continue to impede our work.

What we’ve done so far: 

1. Provided new tools for parents to get informed

To help parents get relevant information about their babies and toddlers, we promoted low-cost electronic messaging systems, like Text4baby and ReadyRosie that send regular messages to parents calibrated to the age of their child. As a result of our efforts, enrollment in Text4baby has increased by 78% since 2012, and hundreds of families are subscribing to ReadyRosie.

2. Increased County funding for early childhood services

Travis County Commissioners Court took note of the Action Plan and unanimously voted to expand existing early childhood investments by $500,000 beginning in FY 2014. Earlier this year, Travis County ran an open competition for these dollars and the newly expanded services include additional home visiting and parent education services for vulnerable families and increased funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families.

Many public and private partners have embraced the School Readiness Action Plan and dedicated time and resources to help move the needle on our strategies. They all share a sense of urgency because children and families are the ones who bear the burden when change is slow or fails to happen. Together we are moving closer to our ideal of a community where all young children thrive regardless of their families’ income, their ethnicity or the language they speak at home. 

3. Nearly doubled the number of parents who have completed evidence-based parent education programs

Parents who participate in these programs learn positive parenting strategies and are less likely to abuse their children and more likely to talk, sing, read, and play with them.

4. Dramatically increased the number of three-year-olds served by our local Head Start provider, Child Inc.

Now participating families will receive two years of comprehensive services prior to kindergarten.

How you can help: 

  • We need funding to take children off waiting lists for proven early learning programs such as home visiting. You can make a gift today to help support the future of Greater Austin
  • Early child care centers often need developmentally appropriate books to support the growing minds of young children – you can support many of our community partners with in-kind donations to help young children. 
  • We can all also make a difference in the lives of the children who are directly in our lives. Talk, sing, read, and play to the young children in your life. Your warm, sensitive care is an investment in a child’s future – and you get an immediate return on that investment.

We believe it is essential to continually assess the capacity and effectiveness of our community’s early childhood system of care and education because the stakes are very high. Children’s experiences during their earliest years impact the architecture of the brain, laying a strong or weak foundation for future cognitive, language, social/emotional, and physical development.

Investing in high-quality services for young children doesn’t just pay off for children and their families; it benefits the community, our workforce, and our future prosperity.

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