Each year, over half a million babies are born in California. With approximately three million children ages 0 to 5, California has more children in this age span than any other state.1 California also has the highest number of children in the U.S. living in poverty, contributing to a great number of families with limited access to the resources necessary to help their children grow up healthy and ready to succeed. Poverty and other factors, such as parental stress and household instability can lead to opportunity gaps, which show up as early as 18 months of age and widen throughout early childhood.
Gaps in both services and opportunities for low-income children and children of color remain significant in the earliest years, despite investments under Proposition 10. It is critical for California to address existing gaps, starting with educating families and then by providing high-quality services and programs that support the development of all young children in the state.
Although profound gaps exist for many of California’s children, a robust body of research demonstrates high-quality early learning programs and early childhood services can improve their health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes. A strong start that includes engaged parents and effective early learning can help close the wide school readiness gap that exists between children with high needs and their peers at kindergarten entry, thus reducing the achievement gap.
Research shows effective early learning programs, when combined with access to health care and preventive services, can prepare children for success in school. Even though research strongly indicates early learning programs are one of the best investments a society can make, access to effective early childhood programs remains a challenge for most California families.
Since the passage of Proposition 10 in 1999, the state Commission, First 5 counties, and other partners, and have adopted numerous strategies and funded many services that research indicates are the most successful approaches to address health disparities and the school readiness gap for all Californian children.
The majority of F5CA investments are universally available and broadly targeted programs, services, and messaging such as Talk. Read. Sing.®, support for high quality early childhood education, and our state and federal advocacy efforts. In each case, F5CA efforts take a systemic approach that are intended to serve a primarily low-income population through universal influencers and programs.
Another F5CA investment, First 5 IMPACT, supports a network of local quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) statewide to improve the quality of all early learning settings with a first priority for targeting programs serving children with high needs — from alternative settings and family, friend, and neighbor care to family child care homes, centers, and preschools.
1 State of California, Department of Finance, Report P-3: State and County Population Projections by Race/Ethnicity, Detailed Age, and Gender, 2010-2060. Sacramento, California, December 2014.