NH needs kindergarten
May 03. 2017 11:06PM
To the Editor: In his recent editorial, Publisher Joe McQuaid rightly reminds us that government should address needs rather than wants. He cites mental health services as “needs.”
However, he suggests, early childhood services are not. This is like saying that eyeglasses are just a “want,” but we really need to do something about all those half-blind drivers crashing into trees.
The brain develops during the first three years of life. When children are not nurtured, neural pathways for self-control, language processing and thought do not develop. And once the crucial period passes, neural growth slows. Learning takes longer.
Early childhood intervention assures children are safe and trains parents who have never been nurtured, how to nurture. Division of Children, Youth and Families staff average 79 cases each, six times the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Furthermore, our opioid crisis brings hundreds of addicted babies into the state each year. Is providing services to at-risk children not one of our most critical social and fiscal needs? What would we be doing if hundreds of children were being mentally stunted by lead paint?
According to Rand Corporation, such early-childhood intervention has a payback of six to one. I hope that McQuaid and legislators take a closer look at the data on financial and social payback from early childhood investments: savings in special education, social services, unemployment and law enforcement, and cutting the cycle of children having yet more children.
New Hampshire needs to budget more for early childhood services.