Early Years Matter

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, County of Wellington Social Services offices are closed to the public until further notice.  Children’s Early Years will continue to provide service over the phone, by mail and through electronic communication.  Please see below for service options.

Dropping off a document?
Please use the drop off boxes located on the exterior of our office buildings at 129 or 138 Wyndham Street, Guelph.

Need information on Child Care Fee Subsidies?
Please contact: Trish McComb, Intake and Eligibility Manager by email at trishm@wellington.ca or by phone at 519.837.3620 Ext 3700
Please note: We are not accepting new subsidy applications during this time of closure.  We will prioritize new applications when our office re-opens.

Need information on EarlyON Centres?
Please contact: Cheryl Anderson, Community Services Manager by email at cheryla@wellington.ca or by phone at 519.837.3620 Ext 3972

For all other inquiries, please contact:
Luisa Artuso, Director of Children’s Early Years Division, please email luisaa@wellington.ca or by phone at 519.837.3620 Ext. 3970

We appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19.

What Are the Early Years?

The term “early years” is often used to describe the period in a person’s life between birth and age 5. Early years services include child care and family support programmes. The early years are frequently an area of focus for researchers, policy makers, service planners, and advocacy groups because of the large amount of learning and development that occurs during this time. According to research, over 85% of a person’s brain development occurs by the age of 5.

Like the foundation of a house, the early years are the foundation of a person that supports everything that gets built on top, such as academic achievement, social skills, health and wellness, and employment success. It is much easier to build a strong house on top of a strong foundation.Early Years infographic explained below

Accessible Image Description: The foundation of a house-shaped structure reads "The Early Years". Inside the house reads "lifelong learning and critical thinking, coping skills and resilience building, high-quality learning environments, and caring, responsive relationships". Arrows point up toward the roof of the house. The roof of the house reads "social skills, academic achievement, employment success, and physical and mental health".

Why Do the Early Years Matter to You?

Children are not the only recipients of the impact that the early years have. When the early years are valued and supported, there are benefits for everyone.

When children have access to high-quality learning environments, such as child care, they learn and develop important skills that prepare them for workplace success, including communication, resilience, motivation, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and self-management. These are considered “soft skills”, which experts say are the most important skills to have in today’s job market. The early years are the most crucial period of learning for these skills. When the early years are supported and invested in, our workforce becomes stronger, and employers have access to well-rounded employees.

When parents have access to child care for their children, there are multiple benefits for the family, the employer, and society as a whole. Parents are able to return to work – especially women – which allows families to bring in more income. Additionally, research shows that parents who experience difficulty accessing stable, high-quality child care are often forced to reduce work hours, turn down promotions, or quit their jobs. When the child care system is supported, studies show that employee absenteeism is reduced by around 30% and employee turnover is reduced by around 60%. Parents are also shown to be more motivated, focused, and productive employees when they are confident their children are in high-quality child care.

As a result, employers save money by not having to recruit, rehire, and train new staff, or cover absences. Employers will also experience a boost in revenue due to a higher volume and quality of work by employees. Supporting and investing in child care helps facilitate a happy, productive workforce. Society as a whole also experiences a boost to the economy due to job creation, increased tax revenue from working parents, reduced need for social assistance due to increased standard of living for families, more revenue from sales taxes due to increased spending by families, higher birth rates leading to more tax payers in the future, and a stronger workforce of the future leading to higher productivity, higher incomes, and increased tax revenue. Supporting and investing in the early years can help provide numerous other benefits to society, including lower rates of incarceration, smoking, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy, as well as higher birth and graduation rates.

Get Involved
  • Spread the word about why the early years are so important, and why people should care! Use the hashtag #EarlyYearsMatter on social media to share this message with everyone.
  • Follow @wellingtncounty on Twitter and like the County of Wellington Facebook page to learn more and to stay up to date on the #EarlyYearsMatter campaign. Feel free to tweet us or leave a comment with any questions or thoughts you have!
  • Engage in conversation with friends, family, colleagues, and others to help them understand why they should care about children’s early years, even if they don’t have children.

Early Years Matter 

The Early Years (ages 0 to 6) are:

  • Supporting and investing in the Early Years - ages 0 to 6 - leads to a healthy, successful society with benefits for everyone, including a more productive workforce, a boosted economy, less strain on social services and higher graduation rates.
  • The most crucial period of learning for "soft skills" such as communication, collaboration, and self-management. Experts say these are the most important skills for the job market today.
  • A critical period for developing resilience. Resilience is a key component of mental health and wellbeing, allowing us to cope with and "bounce back" from ups and downs in life. 

Did you know?

  • Over 85% of a person's brain development occurs between ages 0 to 5
  • Economies like Canada's could experience a return on investment of almost $4 for every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education. 
  • Access to child care allows parents to return to work, increases family income and employee productivity, reduces staff absences and turnover, and increases employer profit.
    • Workplace absenteeism reduces by 30%
    • Employee turnover is reduced by 40% to 60%
  • High-quality learning environments like child care, develop important social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills long before formal schooling begins.

Why Do Children’s Early Years Matter?

According to existing research, the first few years of a child’s life not only lay the foundations for a successful, healthy path to adulthood for the child, they also have meaningful implications for parents, local communities, the economy, and society as a whole. Cleveland and Krashinsky (1998) state that when examining the benefits of child care, both the benefits to the child in terms of development and the benefits to parents must both be included as it is a complex issue.

The New Brunswick Child Care Review Task Force (2016) provides a general overview of what high-quality early learning and child care supports:

  • “optimal child development and learning;
  • parents’ labour force attachment and their ability to increase their income security and standard of living as well as to improve the future prospects of their children;
  • job creation;
  • higher birth rates;
  • inclusion of children with additional needs;
  • social inclusion of cultural minority groups;
  • gender equality through greater labour force participation by mothers;
  • poverty reduction;
  • reduced need for social assistance; and
  • a more vibrant economy”.

The first few years of a child’s life establish “either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all for the learning, health, and behaviour that follow” (Center on the Developing Child, 2007). According to UNICEF (2019a), by the age of 5 over 85% of a child’s brain development is in place. The Center on the Developing Child (2007) states that preventive intervention is more efficient and beneficial for child outcomes than interventions that occur later on down the road. UNICEF (2019a) agrees that investing in the early years is more cost effective. UNICEF (2019a) states that high-quality child care programmes provide children with strong foundations that lead to “stronger social skills, larger vocabularies, better number sense, and curiosity to learn more”. They also help children develop resiliency, and strategies to handle trauma, stress, and conflict (UNICEF, 2019a).

Human Brain Development Graph looking at Neural Connections for Different Functions Develop Sequentially showing peak development in Sensory Pathways (vision, Hearing) and language during the first year and High Cognitive Functioning peaking between 1 and 3 years of age.

Source: (Center on the Developing Child, 2007)


Beyond Blue (2017) defines resilience as: “a child’s ability to cope with ups and downs, and bounce back from the challenges they experience during childhood”. Research shows that building resiliency in children from a young age will not only help them navigate current stresses and challenges, but also prepare them with skills and habits that will allow them to better manage stress and challenges in adolescence and adulthood (Beyond Blue, 2017). According to research, resilience is an integral component of child mental health and wellbeing as stress can be a “risk factor for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression” (Beyond Blue, 2017). According to Beyond Blue (2017) there are five key strategies that can help build resilience in children aged 0-12 years:

  1.  “Build, strengthen, and promote supportive relationships with others including adults and peers;
  2. Focus on autonomy and responsibility to build independence;
  3. Learn to identify, express and manage their emotions;
  4. Build their confidence by creating opportunities to take on personal challenges;
  5. Educate people about resilience”

Reaching In Reaching Out (RiRo) defines resilience as “the ability to ‘bounce back’ from life’s inevitable pressures and hard times”. According to RiRo, when resiliency is developed, people “have happier relationships and are less prone to depression, more successful in school and jobs, and even live healthier and longer lives”. RiRo states that children as young as birth to 8 years of age are capable of learning and practicing resiliency. RiRio identifies 3 “R’s” of resilience:

  1. Relax
  2. Reflect
  3. Respond

Additionally, RiRo discusses 7 key abilities associated with resilience:

  1. “Being in charge of our emotions;
  2. Controlling our impulses;
  3. Analyzing the cause of problems;
  4. Empathizing with others;
  5. Believing in our competence;
  6. Maintaining realistic optimism;
  7. Reaching out to others and opportunities”.

According to Noble & Berg (2019), research shows that many of the skills required for workforce success are linked to a child’s development in the early years. They state: “we should invest further in young children’s access to high-quality early learning experiences if we’re serious about fielding a well-prepared workforce in the 21st Century” (Noble & Berg, 2019). A majority of employers, executives, and researchers increasingly believe that soft skills and emotional intelligence are more valuable and sought after than technical skills or IQ in the workplace (though those skills and competencies are still important as well) (Noble & Berg, 2019). Noble and Berg (2019) urge that more attention should be given to building these capacities as a workforce-development strategy for future employees. These skills are rooted in the first few years of a child’s life, through experiences such as responsive, caring relationships and healthy socialization. UNICEF (2019a) also discusses this, stating that high-quality child care helps teach young children important skills for the job market later in life, such as “collaboration, self-management, critical thinking, communication, negotiation, resilience, creativity and motivation”.

Children’s early years don’t just have the potential to strengthen the economy and workforce of the future, but the current workforce and economy as well. Studies show that access to affordable, high-quality child care saves money for parents, employers, and, taxpayers (Noble & Berg, 2019). For example, experts suggest that a lack of child care costs the United States $57 billion a year to their economy (Noble & Berg, 2019). UNICEF (2019a) agrees, stating that high-quality child care “facilitates the upward mobility of two generations . . . enhancing labour force productivity and reducing the social costs of crime and health care”. Cleveland and Krashinsky (1998) suggest that high quality child care would have a return of over $2 to the Canadian economy for every dollar invested. Meloy et al. (2019) state that these are modest, short-term returns, but that long-term returns can be as substantial as $17 for every dollar invested, citing benefits such as “higher graduations rates, lower rates of incarceration, lower rates of teen pregnancy, and higher earnings into adulthood”. Powell et al. (2019) state that there are four key ways that investments in early childhood benefit the economy:

  1. multiplier effect to dollars spent in ECE;
  2. increased female workforce participation;
  3. increased parental earnings;
  4. increased employee productivity.

According to Powell et al. (2019), parents of young children are often forced to “reduce work hours, turn down promotions, or quit their jobs”. As a result, in California for example, businesses lose approximately $1,150 per working parent annually (Powell et al., 2019). Powell et al. (2019) state that when these parents are given access to child care, absenteeism is reduced by 20-30 percent, and employee turnover is reduced by 37-60 percent.

How child care problems adversely affect the economy

Individual Parents

  • Lost earnings now from lower productivity and less work experience
  • Extra costs of job search for alternative work and child care arrangements
  • Lost earnings in the future from lower productivity, less work experience, and lower skills upgrading

Businesses

  • Lost revenues now from lower output
  • Extra costs to rehire quits and lower absenteeism
  • Extra costs to manage disrupted workers
  • Lost revenues in the future from lower output

Taxpayers

  • Lost tax revenue now from lower GDP
  • Lost sales and consumption tax revenue
  • Lost tax revenue in the future

Source: (Bishop-Josef et al., 2019)

Potential Benefits (Positive or Negative of Improved Outcomes from Early Childhood Programs)

 

Table 4.1 - Potential Benefits (Positive or Negative of Improved Outcomes from Early Childhood Programs)
Outcome Parent's Age When Outcome Is Monetized Child's Age When Outcome Is Monetized Stakeholders Who Incur a Monetizable Effect - Program Participants Stakeholders Who Incur a Monetizable Effect - Taxpayers Stakeholders Who Incur a Monetizable Effect - Rest of Society
Improved pregnancy outcomes leading to lower medical costs Birth n/a   +  
Increased child care leading to value of care for parents and increase in lifetime earnings if increased work effort Childhood n/a + +  
Reduced child accidents and injuries leading to lower cost for ED visits and other health care n/a childhood   +  
Reduced child abuse and neglect leading to lower cost for child welfare system and abuse victims n/a Childhood + +  
Improved school readiness (cognitive, social, or emotional) leading to higher educational performance and lifetime earnings n/a Adulthood (+) (+)  
Reduced special education use leading to lower education system costs n/a k-12   +  
Reduced grade retention leading to fewer years in K-12 education n/a k-12   +  
Higher achievement tests leading to higher education performance and lifetime earnings n/a Adulthood (+) (+)  
Increased high school graduation leading to increased lifetime earnings (net of taxes) and increased tax revenue to government Childhood Adulthood (+) (+)  
Increased postsecondary education leading to increased education costs Childhood Adulthood - -  
Increased postsecondary education leading to increased lifetime earnings (net of taxes) and increased tax revenue to government Childhood Adulthood (+) (+)  
Reduced contact with criminal justice system leading to lower costs for criminal justice systems and lower crime victim costs Childhood Adulthood   + +
Reduced smoking and substance use leading to lower costs for the public health care system and from premature death Childhood Adolescence to adulthood   +  
Improved health and other health behavioursa leading to lower costs for public health care system and from premature death Childhood Adolescence to adulthood   
Reduced welfare use leading to reduced administrative costs for social welfare programs and reduced welfare program transfer payments Childhood Adolescence to adulthood - +  

 NOTE: n/a = not applicable. += favourable effect. -=unfavourable effect. (+)=The monetizable effect is indirect (i.e., through linkages to later outcomes). References to the timing of monetizable outcomes refer to the stage of the focal child in the intervention. 

aExamples include depression, smoking, substance abuse, mortality, and teen pregnancy.

*“Table 4.1 is not meant to be exhaustive in covering all of the potential impacts of an early childhood program and all of the associated spillover consequences. For example, increased educational attainment can improve other social and nonmarket outcomes beyond effects on earnings (Wolfe and Haveman, 2002; Moretti, 2006). These broader benefits include higher educational attainment for the next generation (i.e., the children of preschool participants); improved health status for preschool participants when they are adults and for their family members (e.g., children); better consumer choices by preschool participants in adulthood, which raise well-being through more-efficient consumption; improved fertility choices by preschool participants (e.g., timing and spacing of births); and improved outcomes for peers of preschool participants through effects on classrooms or neighborhoods. The intergenerational effects can extend to the fourth generation and beyond. Likewise, there can be value associated with other outcomes, such as improved parenting (e.g., intrinsic gains that parents can realize from better parenting)”.

Source: (Cannon et al., 2017)

Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) play a pivotal role in the learning and development of young children in a variety of settings including child care, kindergarten, and other children’s services and family support programs. “Early Childhood Educator” and “Registered Early Childhood Educator” are protected titles that can only be used by those who have met the education and other requirements of the profession, including the ethical and professional standards set by the College of Early Childhood Educators. Similar to the regulatory colleges for professions like nurses, teachers, and social workers, the College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE) governs and regulates RECEs in Ontario, as set out in the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007 (ECE Act). According to the CECE website, their responsibilities include “establishing and enforcing registration requirements, ethical and professional standards for RECEs, requirements for continuous professional learning, and complaints and discipline process for professional misconduct, incompetence and incapacity”. The CECE provides a brief overview of some of the responsibilities of an RECE:

  • “Engage in continuous professional learning;
  • Design curriculum for child-centered, play-based learning;
  • Support children’s learning and development by responding to their unique needs and interests;
  • Build caring relations with families, children and communities;
  • Create safe, healthy, and inclusive early learning environments”.

In Ontario RECEs are required to, at minimum, attain a two-year diploma in early child education from an accredited Ontario college, or an approved four-year Bachelor’s degree in or relating to early childhood education. RECEs are required alongside teachers in all Ontario kindergarten classrooms of 16 or more children. The Government of Ontario describes the roles of RECEs and teachers in the following way:

“ECEs have knowledge of early childhood development, observation skills and assessment skills. They bring a focus on age-appropriate program planning that promotes each child’s physical, cognitive, language, emotional, social and creative development and well-being.

Teachers have a knowledge of the broader elementary curriculum, assessment, evaluation and reporting, and child development. They are responsible for student learning, effective instruction and evaluation, and formal reporting to parents, based on the teacher-ECE team’s assessment of children’s progress” (Government of Ontario, 2019).

The promise of investing in young children

Early childhood, which spans the period up to 8 years of age, is critical for cognitive, social emotional and physical development. During these years, a child's newly developing brain is highly plastic and responsive to change as billions of integrated neural circuits are established through the interaction of genetics, environment and experience. Optimal brain development requires a stimulating environment, adequate nutrients and social interactions with attentive caregivers. Unsafe conditions, negative interactions and lack of educational opportunities during these early years can lead to irreversible outcomes, which can affect a child's potential for the remainder of his or her life. 

The Convention of the Rights of the Child clearly highlights the importance of early childhood development (ECD), stating that a child has a right to develop to "the maximum extent possible" (Article 6) and that "States Parties recognize the right of every child to standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development" (Article 27).

Evidence from multiple disciplines has confirmed that investing in early childhood development is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve educational achievement and to increase skills, capabilities and productivity. Based on this research and an enhanced understanding of the complete well-being of the child, early childhood development is increasingly included as part of the agenda for children's rights. Ensuring the sound cognitive, social and emotional development of young children merits the highest priority in seeking to raise healthy children worldwide.

The importance of ECD as a necessary and central component of global and national development has been recognized by the international community through the inclusion of a dedicated target within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Target 4.2 specifically calls upon countries to "Ensure that, by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education." 4 Quality Education.

Source: UNICEF

 References

Beyond Blue. (2017). Building Resilience in Children. Retrieved September 2019, from https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/healthy-homes/building-resilience.

 

Bishop-Josef, S., Beakey, C., Watson, S., & Garrett, T. (2019). Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis: Workers and employers feel pain in pocketbooks and productivity. ReadyNation. Retrieved from https://strongnation.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/602/83bb2275-ce07-4d74-bcee-ff6178daf6bd.pdf?1547054862&inline; filename="Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis.pdf"

 

Cannon, J. S., Kilburn, M. R., Karoly, L. A., Mattox, T., Muchow, A. N., & Buenaventura, M. (2017). Investing early: taking stock of outcomes and economic returns from early childhood programs. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

 

Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu

 

Cleveland, G., & Krashinsky, M. (1998, March). The Benefits and Costs of Good Child Care: The economic rationale for public investment in young children - a policy study. Retrieved September 2019, from https://www.childcarecanada.org/publications/other-publications/98/11/benefits-and-costs-good-child-care-economic-rationale-public

 

CUPE. (2009). Public child care profile: Sweden. CUPE. Retrieved from https://archive.cupe.ca/updir/Public_profile_Sweden.pdf

 

Ginsburg, K. R., & Jablow, M. M. (2006). A parent’s guide to building resilience in children and teens: giving your child roots and wings. American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

Government of Ontario. (2019). Who is working in the classroom? Retrieved September 2019, from http://edu.gov.on.ca/kindergarten/whoisworkingintheclassroom.html.

 

Meloy, B., Gardner, M., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2019). Untangling the evidence on preschool effectiveness: Insights for policymakers. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

 

New Brunswick Child Care Review Task Force. (2016). Valuing Children, Families, and Childcare. Province of New Brunswick. Retrieved from https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/ed/pdf/ELCC/ValuingChildrenFamiliesAndChildcare.pdf

 

Noble, S., & Berg, H. (2019). Build a Better Workforce: Early learning investments lay a crucial foundation for skills development. ReadyNation. Retrieved from https://strongnation.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/640/98fe1319-8d86-4d7a-8003-a2427a1c2449.pdf?1555684414&inline; filename="Build a Better Workforce in Illinois.pdf"

 

Powell, A., Thomason, S., & Jacobs, K. (2019). Investing in Early Care and Education: The Economic Benefits for California. Investing in Early Care and Education: The Economic Benefits for California. UC Berkeley Labor Center. Retrieved from http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/pdf/2019/Investing-in-Early-Care-and-Education.pdf

 

UNICEF. (2019a). A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/media/51746/file

 

UNICEF. (2019b). UN Secretary-General's remarks on the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved September 2019, from https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2019-09-25/un-secretary-generals-remarks-the-30th-anniversary-of-the-convention-the-rights-of-the-child-bilingual-version-delivered-scroll-down-for-all-english-version.

 

UNICEF. (n.d.). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention.

 

 

 

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