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The building blocks for a good quality of life
United Way of Miami-Dade’s Community Plan works in three key areas — education, financial stability and health — the building blocks for a good quality of life. We ask the tough questions and listen to the specific needs of our community.
Then, we work with volunteers – people just like you – as well as community experts to outline the best way to address those needs in several ways. These are some of milestones that the United Way of Miami-Dade has accomplished in those three key areas for our community.
- 67,469 Preschoolers have gotten a better start thanks to the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education which provided: 561Professional Learning Sessions to approximately 3,550 participants including teachers and directors, from early care and education programs around the county in 2014.
- 32,306 children & youth helped by programs funded by United Way to prepare for success in school by giving them the support to improve academic skills and the knowledge to avoid risky behavior, such as alcohol, smoking and drugs.
Why is this component important?
- The first few years of life are the most active period of brain growth and development,
setting the foundation for future development. During this period, 700 new neural
connections are formed every second, building sensory pathways as well as language
skills and higher cognitive functions.
- While early childhood is a tremendous period of opportunity, it is also a vulnerable time
for young children when socioeconomic disparities are already evident. When young
children do not experience reliable or appropriate interaction, their brain’s development is
affected and in turn, affects that child’s cognitive, language and social development.
- World-renowned economists have shown that the earliest interventions in a child’s life
not only help the child, they help society. Interventions early in life promote educational
success, reduce crime, and foster workforce productivity more cost efficiently than
expensive interventions later shown to be less effective.
- Widespread Recognition of the Importance of Early Care and Education.
Miami-Dade community partners are highly engaged in working toward the shared goal
of increasing access and quality of early care and education.
- High Need, High Cost, Low Quality. Infant/Toddler care is expensive and there are
not enough options for families. Quality remains a challenge for programs serving all
ages, especially those in low-income areas.
- Blurred Distinction Between Early Learning and Elementary School. As funders
and regulators recognize the value of early care and education and seek to measure
program quality and effectiveness, early learning is vulnerable to becoming a
developmentally inappropriate extension of elementary school.
- Linguistic Diversity: Opportunities & Challenges. Over half the population of
Miami-Dade County was born in another country and 68 percent of residents speak a
language other than English at home. Diversity is an asset to our community, but in the
early care and education system it is a challenge because assessment and instruction
are only conducted in English.
- Compliance Trumps Quality. Programs are subject to overlapping regulation from a
myriad of agencies; directors and teachers are under the constant siege of paperwork
and monitoring, thus focusing their attention on compliance rather than instructional
- Inconsistent Kindergarten Transition. There is not a systematic transition for
children and families between the early care and education system to the kindergarten
and elementary system.
- Evidence-Based Practices At All Levels. From the state system to the classroom
level and from policymakers to practitioners, work in early childhood should be guided
by what research has proven effective. The National Institute for Early Education
Research has set ten quality standards benchmarks, of which Florida only meets three.
- Increase Public Awareness. The public also needs to know about how quality early
experiences translate to a more productive economy, and families need to be educated
to recognize the ingredients of quality programs and to consider them when looking for
placement for their children.
- Target Vulnerable Communities. Economist James Heckman’s research found that
the earlier the intervention, the greater the economic payoff relative to cost, especially
those interventions targeted to at-risk populations.
- Increase Funding. Given the demonstrated need for services and the specific short!
and long term benefits to taxpayers and Florida’s economy by investing public resources
in early learning, there is a need for an increase to the School Readiness Program
- Professionalize the Field of Early Care and Education. Stakeholders interested in
improving the quality of experiences offered to young children must consider increasing
educational opportunities and earning potential for early care and education
- Promote Community Coordination. There should be ongoing identification of such
opportunities for coordination among agencies that share goals. Community leadership,
and collaboration rest on a common vision for Miami-Dade County’s children.
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