It’s a fact. Quality early-childhood development – or lack of it – has an enormous impact on whether a child will succeed in school and, ultimately, in life.

Alarmingly, thousands of our Forsyth County children are destined to live their lives with crippling educational and emotional disadvantages, an all-too-frequent result of poverty. The rate of poverty in our community has increased by more than 83% since 2000. 34% of children under the age of five live in a household that is below the poverty level. In fact, one in three children in our community lives in poverty, a shocking reality when compared with our statewide count of one in four children.

No child deserves to live this way. Every child in our community deserves the best possible start in life – mentally, physically, and emotionally.

The first five years of life are a time of rapid brain development, and the architecture of the brain is largely developed during those years, establishing the foundation for success in later life. A scientific consensus has emerged about the profound impact that high quality early childhood development programs can have on the social and income mobility of poor children. Studies have shown that low-income, at-risk children who have access to high quality pre-kindergarten programs are

  • less likely to be retained in grade,
  • less likely to be referred to special education, and
  • far less likely to go to jail.

They are more likely to

  • graduate high school
  • attend, and graduate, college
  • become employed
  • own a home
  • have insurance
  • maintain a professional career, all leading to higher earnings.

No child should be excluded from receiving a solid foundation for success.

That’s why Family Services has convened a task force representing various sectors of the community to develop a plan to make Forsyth County the first county in North Carolina with a universal pre-K system. And, this fall, we hope to ignite a community-wide movement to help our most vulnerable children and families. We are committed to creating a community in which all of our children have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.

If we hope to have a prosperous community in the future we will need to make a major investment in the development and education of our youngest children today.

As a community, we understand what’s at stake here. We know that our children are our future, and that our future is only as socially and economically promising as our children’s collective readiness to reach their inherent potential.

We have the power to reverse the generational cycle of disadvantage in Forsyth County. Let’s work together to remove the barriers that inhibit all children and their families from reaching their full potential and contributing fully to the community we all call home.

This article was first published in Forsyth Family Magazine and Forsyth Woman Magazine, September 3, 2016.