That one little word that causes so much anxiety for new working moms. When I had my first child I had every intention of returning to work so I was faced with the challenge of finding childcare for him. I can remember making phone calls to all of my top childcare choices and hearing those dreaded words “I’m sorry, our infant room has no openings.”
Then came that internal struggle that I know many others share. On one hand, I love working and am energized by it. On the other, I knew I didn’t just want to settle on whoever had an opening. All of these factors made it harder to return to work and ultimately, I made the decision to stay home. I ended up back at work shortly after I got pregnant with my second child because we felt we couldn’t afford for me to stay home any longer. After working for about two years, while paying for childcare for an infant and toddler, we realized that I was barely bringing home a paycheck and I decided to stay home again. These decisions came with significant consequences.
Despite the fact that my husband and I are both college educated and he had a “decent paying” job (whatever that means these days), it took a toll on our family because of the financial strain. We were living paycheck to paycheck just to afford the privilege of me being a stay-at-home-mom. Even still, I recognize that I was one of the fortunate ones.
I know that my decision is one that many Americans are not able to make today. The proportion of dual earner married couples more than doubled between 1960 and 2000, increasing from 25 percent to 60 percent while the poverty level has remained relatively constant.
The Importance of Early Childhood Education
Child care is now one of the most expensive and difficult necessities for the average family. Many families are now being forced to make poor choices in childcare – putting children in environments that are too often unsafe and lacking the stimulating environment a young child needs. Did you know that 90% of a child’s brain develops before the age of 5? During the first 5 years of life, a child’s brain develops faster than any other time. In just the first few years, more than one million neuro connectors are formed every second. This is just one of the many reasons that for decades Child Start has been advocating for quality, early childhood education for all young children.
Studies show that children who receive quality, early childhood education are 25% more likely to graduate from high school, four times more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher, and likely to earn up to 25% more in wages as adults. This leads to an economic advantage not only for those children that receive quality, early childhood education but also for our society as a whole. Thus, it is so important that Child Start continues to:
- Serve more than 500 children and their families through the birth-to-five Head Start programs we operate in south-central Kansas.
- Combine the latest early childhood education research and best practices into the programs and trainings we develop.
- Train 4000 community-based early childhood professionals from Kansas and beyond through our in person and online KDHE-approved sessions.
- Advocate for Kansas funding and policy change for early childhood services to benefit thousands of children throughout the state.
- Develop training and programs that help prevent the academic achievement gap and reduce the high school dropout rate, teenage pregnancies, and juvenile crime rate.
I know I am not alone in the fight for quality, early childhood education for all children It has become more and more apparent over the last 50 years and is now more apparent than ever that something needs to change. Our most vulnerable children are directly affected by the pandemic at a much higher rate, and we cannot let this crisis widen the achievement gap even more.
This month, Child Start is running its first Virtual Giving Campaign and could really use your support to reach more children and continue the fight for quality, early childhood education for all children in Wichita and beyond. Together we can really make a big difference! You can find more information here.
Adrienne Kantukule is wife to Grey, mother to four amazing kiddos, an avid photographer and Child Start’s Communications and Event guru.
She finds passion in the beauty of life; the good, bad and ugly…and has a bleeding heart for those who are less fortunate.