Investing in Children

All of us have heard the statement that “Children are the future,” but studies have shown that this mantra rings true, especially in terms of long-term economic success. Childhood development is one of the most important aspects of having a good economy. Children are the future and long-term economic success depends on how well we prepare them.
In a study conducted by the federal reserve bank of Minneapolis, investing in quality preschool programs yielded a 12 percent return after inflation. This large return is due to the fact that when these children become adults they commit fewer crimes, are more likely to own a home, and have more buying power due to higher-paying jobs.
To help increase Whatcom County’s economic vitality, United Way is partnering with agencies that focus on childhood development. We’re putting your donations toward programs with measurable results that will create a stronger community for us all.
Early learning and childcare are becoming increasingly important, and employee absences from the lack of childcare are costing businesses $3 billion annually. United Way supports several childhood development childcare programs, including the Bellingham Childcare and Learning Center, homeless childcare through the Opportunity Council and YMCA Childcare.
Jamie Proctor, program director at the Whatcom Family YMCA said childhood development is more than just daycare and teaching the basics of math, writing and reading. Children need to have exercise, art and character development, she explained.
“Our early childhood programs balance the importance of play and exploration in childhood,” Proctor said. “We have age-appropriate development of skills and character building, as well as early literacy, language and number skills.”
The program serves about 200 kids per day, with ages ranging from infants to preschoolers.
Programs like this play their part in helping Whatcom County’s economy. A study conducted in a low-income area in Michigan showed that investing in early-learning has a clear link to economic growth. Their study showed that for every dollar invested into childhood development programs, there is between a $7 and $8 return.
Proctor said the positive effects of the YMCA’s program on the community are twofold.
“There’s the initial, immediate benefit, where parents are able to work and go to school,” Proctor said. “Also, if kids have a positive experience when they are young, they have better elementary school experiences and they turn into positive adults. Kids who don’t get any early learning experiences, or have negative early learning experiences are less likely to be productive members of society later on.”
United Way of Whatcom County also supports many more programs that focus on childhood development. The Whatcom Center for Early Learning focuses on helping developmentally disabled children become ready for school, Catholic Community Services has a supervised visitation program which lets parents and children interact and rebuild their relationships, Brigid Collins focuses on parenting and family management, and Lydia Place provides transitional housing and training for homeless families.
From these programs alone, more than 3,000 children are being served in Whatcom County, and they are more important than ever.    
These programs are crucial to the health of our community because they create children that become productive members of our society. Many of the programs pay for themselves in reduced crime costs and government assistance later in life. A donation to United Way is not only an investment in children’s potential, but in the community as a whole – a way to truly live united.

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