We love babies and toddlers for many reasons. One of their most endearing qualities is their apparent simplicity and innocence.
But inside is a different story. It's the only time in their lives when their brains will develop so rapidly. An estimated 80 percent of their brain architecture is formed in those first three years.
It's the experiences babies and toddlers have with their parents and caregivers that power and shape this critical brain development. These relationships are like nutrients; they provide the basis for how the very young develop, how well they will do in school, and eventually the adults they will become.
But low income, unemployment, and long work hours all subtract from the special efforts parent and caregivers would ideally give their young children. Low family income creates a long list of problems and stressors that are damaging in childhood.
A quarter of West Virginia's children live in families below the federal poverty level. Twice that number live below the Self Sufficiency Standard - a more accurate measure of the money it takes to "get by" without public and private assistance. With numbers this high, it's difficult to know where to start. But it's also easy to see, if a child begins school behind, it quickly becomes very tough to catch up.
The First 1,000 Days: Investing in WV Children When It Counts introduces us to early childhood development and how this critical time is shaping the future of West Virginia. We take a look at a few of the most successful programs that are helping children develop normally.
We also get familiar with a few programs that help adults be better parents, providing families with the very best child developmental testing and services. The program taps into the knowledge base of incredible people in West Virginia who are working with and advocating for our state's children and families.
Meet families, struggling to raise children with pennies on the dollar, when a full time job is hard to find, and work hours leave little time for parenting.
Let us introduce you to two adults who survived growing up in extreme poverty; then chose to devote their lives to low income children. In the end we begin to see how young families and their children can shape a new future.