Early Childhood Development and Learning
On April 17, 1997, the President and First Lady hosted The White House Conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning: What New Research on the Brain Tells Us About Our Youngest Children. The day-long conference highlighted new scientific findings on brain development in very young children and points to the importance of children's earliest experiences in helping them get off to a strong and healthy start and reach their full potential.
Clinton Administration Commitment to Young Children. The Clinton Administration has invested heavily in research to help us better understand the importance of the first few years of life to child development and learning. President Clinton has also strengthened efforts to support families with young children by investing in Head Start and Early Head Start, the WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program, immunization and other early childhood programs.
At the conference, the President made a series of policy announcements that build on the Clinton Administration's commitment to young children:
Improving the Quality of Child Care By Learning from the Military. Child care experts believe that the military child care system is now the best in the country. The President is issuing an executive memorandum directing the Secretary of Defense to use the Department's expertise to help improve child care across the nation. The memorandum urges the Department to consider: (1) creating partnerships with civilian child care centers in the community to help them improve quality; (2) providing training courses for civilian child care providers; (3) sharing the materials and models for worker training, accreditation and evaluation, facility design, financing, and other ingredients of the military's success; and (4) working with States and local governments to enable military child care facilities to serve as training sites for welfare recipients moving from welfare to work.
Providing Health Coverage for Children. The President's fiscal year 1998 budget includes a children's health initiative that will extend coverage to up to 5 million uninsured children by the year 2000 by strengthening Medicaid for poor children, building innovative State programs to provide coverage for working families, and continuing health coverage for children of workers who are between jobs. Today, the Association of American Medical Colleges issued a letter of support for the Clinton Administration's children's health proposal.
Importance of Early Education. The President recognizes that children must be nurtured and stimulated in the earliest years. That is why he is announcing two initiatives geared toward early learning.
Expanding Early Head Start. The Department of Health and Human Services is requesting proposals for new Early Head Start programs to expand Early Head Start enrollment by one-third next year. Created by the Clinton Administration in 1994, the Early Head Start program brings Head Start's successful comprehensive services to families with children ages zero to three and to pregnant women.
Giving Parents and Caregivers Early Childhood Tools. The President's America Reads Challenge is releasing "Ready*Set*Read" early childhood development activity kits. The kits offer suggestions to families and caregivers about developmentally appropriate activities for children ages zero to five. They will be distributed to early childhood programs across the country and to callers to the Department of Education's 1-800-USA-LEARN hotline.
Safe Start. The Department of Justice is establishing "Safe Start" to change the way law enforcement officers respond to children who are the victims of or witnesses to violence. The program will provide training on early childhood development to community police officers, prosecutors, probation and parole officers, school personnel and mental health providers. It will better prepare law enforcement officials to respond to young children exposed to violence and can help prevent today's children from turning into tomorrow's criminals. The initiative is built on the successful partnerships between community police officers and mental health providers funded by DOJ in New Haven, Connecticut and three other communities.