The first years of life are a time of enormous growth—but development doesn’t happen on its own.

Thriving Kids

Thriving Kids — Every Child School Ready

About 90 percent of brain development takes place before age five. In fact, as many as 700 neurons form connections every second to develop brain cells during the first few years of a child’s life.

Building these connections is critical to reaching developmental milestones—and they occur through early experiences, interactions, and stimulation. Parents are the first and most important teachers in their child’s life, but parents need a safe, nurturing place to send their children when they are at work. High-quality early childhood care lays a foundation of early literacy and academic skills, social and emotional well-being, and a love of learning.

Our early foundational goals—and strategies to achieve them:

Ensure children are born healthy

Children’s success begins before they are born with mothers who take care of themselves and their developing babies, starting with prenatal care early in pregnancy. Children who are born underweight are at a greater risk of learning problems in future years, and about 11 percent of Rochester babies had low birth weights (under 5.5 pounds) in 2012.

The U.S. as a whole ranks 56th in the world for infant mortality, by far the lowest of any industrialized nation. In Rochester, babies die before year one at a rate two times higher than the national average. The leading contributors to infant mortality are preterm delivery and low birth-weight, but the overriding issue is poverty and the toxic stress it creates for both mother and child.

We helped bring the nationally recognized Nurse Family Partnership program to Rochester, which focuses on helping at-risk families give their babies the best possible start at life. The program pairs first-time, low-income mothers with specially trained nurses for home visits from early pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. Among the observed improvements in pregnancy outcomes are decreases in prenatal cigarette smoking, fewer pregnancy-induced hypertensive disorders, and longer intervals between pregnancies, which improves the health and development of subsequent children. To date, the program has helped more than 1,200 families have healthy pregnancies and improved health and development for both mother and child.

Learn more about the Nurse Family Partnership.

To learn more about other evidence-based home visitation programs that help parents, see Building Healthy Children and Parents As Teachers.

Prepare children for school

All children deserve quality education, but without a supportive and healthy early foundation, they will lack the necessary skills to enter school. Only two-thirds of Rochester children who attended pre-K were at expected levels in language development, math, and other areas based on a screening assessment done in the fall of their pre-K year. (Data from 2014)

High-quality early childhood care lays a foundation of early literacy and academic skills, social and emotional well-being, and a love of learning. The Children’s Agenda works to help increase state funding for childcare assistance. In 2014 alone, these efforts meant potential access for up to 200 additional children of low-income, working families in our area to quality early learning experiences for their children. Each year, we analyze the New York State, Monroe County and City of Rochester budgets to identify funding needs and gaps.

Learn more about our advocacy for funding where it is needed most and works best.