Governor Tom Wolf has announced the creation of a “Ready to Start” task force focused on informing the strategy to address health, human services, and education policy for infants and toddlers ages zero to three.
“The environment in which babies live and learn in their first three years has an enormous impact on their cognitive, social, and emotional development,” Governor Wolf said. “The task force’s goal is to identify programs and policies to help infants and children age zero to three get a strong, focused beginning toward a healthy, happy, fulfilling life here in the commonwealth.”
The Ready to Start Task Force will identify key themes and options informed by stakeholder engagement and analysis of current programming to inform future policy recommendations and an implementation plan with emphasis on three guiding principles: 1) Improving health outcomes of infants, toddlers, and their families; 2) Strengthening the home environment for infants, toddlers, and their families; and 3) Preparing infants and toddlers for future school success.
The Ready to Start Task Force will host six listening sessions, led by professionals with a focus on early learning and child development, in October and November. The intention is to gather information and insight and to look at current and possible strategies to help the youngest Pennsylvanians.
“We have strong research showing that the support families receive during early childhood can lay the foundation for a child’s future health outcomes and success in adulthood,” said David Rubin, MD, one of the six Ready to Start co-chairs and the director of Population Health Innovation and Policy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “I’m proud that our state is prioritizing developing an action plan to improve the health of Pennsylvania’s youngest residents, and I look forward to working with my fellow co-chairs to see it through.”
Research shows that supporting the well-being of children through nutrition and health care supports, positive caregiver relationships, and high-quality early learning opportunities in the first three years of life sets them up for lifelong success. And children who receive high-quality early learning and care perform better in school, graduate at higher rates, and earn more throughout their lives compared to their peers.
The Ready to Start Task Force will share findings and options with the governor in January 2019, including a review of existing programs and initiatives.