March 17, 2017
Yesterday, Ascend Fellow Steven Dow testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Steven Dow, executive director of the Community Action Project of Tulsa (CAP Tulsa) spoke about the success of Tulsa’s innovative early childhood program, which includes a mix of federal Head Start grants, federal Department of Agriculture free and reduced meals programs, state funding, and private donations. CAP Tulsa’s goal is to eliminate the duplication of services and provide what families need in one location.
The hearing focused on the value of early childhood programs for children and families, the role of the federal government, and how early childhood programs can help to move children and families out of poverty. The research is clear: interventions during the early years promote positive brain development for children, and their parents benefit when they get the skills and information they need. Focusing on children and parents together leads to positive, lasting educational outcomes for children and lasting economic stability for families. Head Start, Home visiting, pre-k, child care, and other wraparound services are critical in providing families the services that they need, particularly for hard-to-reach communities, including rural areas. Many of these programs are housed at the Department of Health and Human Services, which has an integral influence on services to families all over the country.
The President’s budget, released today, which proposes an 18% across-the-board reduction to HHS funds, should make us all think about how across the federal government, states, and local communities, we reimagine services and programs so that they serve families as effectively as possible. Cuts to these vital programs will result in a lack of quality of services to support children’s positive development, an increase in waiting lists for families trying to gain access to programs and high turnover rates in qualified staff.
Today 38 percent of eligible families do not have access to home visiting, and Early Head Start only services five percent of eligible children. As U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R –ID) stated as he adjourned the hearing, “While the impacts of early childhood programs are not seen tomorrow, they are seen down the road by reductions in crime rates, poverty, and good citizens.” Featured on the panel were Don Millican, chief financial official of Kaiser-Francis Oil Co., who spoke on behalf of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Actress Jennifer Garner, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, professor of child development and education at Columbia University.