As advocates for the healthy growth and development of young children, we at First 5 Contra Costa are outraged by the horrifying reports and images of the separation of children from their families at our southern border. Our work is based on the scientific knowledge that a healthy childhood is the essential foundation for lifelong growth and development. We know that to build that foundation, every child needs and deserves loving, safe and secure relationships with their parents and caregivers.
Separating children from their parents, especially those who are escaping the stress and trauma of unsafe home communities, introduces needless and unacceptable trauma into their young lives. Severely traumatic childhood events such as these are linked to adult addiction, chronic disease, cancer and heart disease.
We cannot escape the conclusion that a federal policy to remove children from their families is akin to willful child abuse. At times throughout this country’s history, government has unjustly, yet legally separated countless children of color from their families. We recognize the relationship between this dark chapter and others in our history in which young people of color have been traumatized and oppressed.
We condemn these inhumane actions and urge our elected officials and all who stand for families to bring this terrible practice immediately to an end. The children who remain separated from their parents must be immediately reunited. There is no justification for the actions that have occurred in the past several weeks and we hope they will never be replicated.
We know that quality early childhood programs can prevent crime and lead to higher graduation rates and future earnings, but now new research shows they can also prevent chronic disease and improve adult physical health.
Professor James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate in economics and long-time advocate for greater investment in early childhood programs, published the research after reviewing the 40-year-old Abecedarian preschool program, one of the oldest early intervention programs in the country.
In the Abecedarian preschool study, two groups of low-income children birth to age five were tracked: one who received services and the other who did not. Services included stimulating early learning experiences from birth, full-time preschool, meals, and periodic medical check-ups and screenings. Continue reading