First 5 Contra Costa Vying for Federal Preschool Grant

YIR_QRISCalifornia is among 35 states and Puerto Rico vying for a share of $250 million the U.S. Department of Education has made available for states to improve their preschool programs. First 5 Contra Costa is included in this application, having signed on as part of the Bay Area Regional Consortia, which also includes Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco.

The grant is designed to expand preschool programs for at-risk children, including low-income children and those with special needs. Ultimately, the goal of the funding is to help states prepare to participate in President Obama’s Preschool for All Initiative, which would offer high-quality early care and education for all children.

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The High Cost of Child Poverty

Over the years, I have seen a number of brain development experts show a slide of two brain scans depicting the difference between a normally developed infant and one deprived of stimulation and a loving relationship.

brainscanIn the well-developed brain on the left, rich areas of red and orange depicting high activity; on the right, a few lobes of orange in a sea of black empty space where there should be active tissue.

The deprived brain was that of a Romanian orphan in the 1990s. Rarely held or snuggled, much less removed from her crib, this poor child’s brain never had the kind of stimulation it required to grow appropriately.

I thought of this recently when I read a new report on poverty by Educational Testing Service that found the U.S. has the second highest rate of child poverty among the 35 richest nations. Only Romania has a greater proportion of its children in poverty than the U.S.

In the last ten years alone, there’s been a 35% increase in child poverty in the U.S., affecting more than one in five kids. The rate is even higher for Latino children (1 in 4) and African American children (nearly 1 in 3).

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