By: Steve Ames
It’s a great time to be a kid in Vermont! For the first time, this year, all 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds who don’t attend kindergarten are entitled to ten hours of free preK a week for 35 weeks of the year. This year 7,300 kids took advantage of public preK at both schools and at qualified child cares!
At the same time, the Agency of Education began to use a revised measure to see how many kids are considered ready for Kindergarten. They found that over 80% of kids in kindergarten are ready! This is great news.
The percent of families living in poverty in Vermont has decreased as well. The outcomes for new moms and kids (Maternal Child Health) is measured as second in the country behind our neighbors in Massachusetts.
More Vermont kids are receiving the full series of recommended vaccines now than ever before – over 76% last year. The list of good news and positive indicators goes on, but there’s always work to do!
As we look ahead, there remain a couple of significant challenges to consider. First, with over 70% of children having both parents in the workforce, it’s critically important that Lamoille Valley kids have high quality child care options. That way, their parents, if they so choose, can work and contribute to our wellbeing and economic prosperity. This is particularly true for infant care – there are virtually no infant care spots in our county, and child care providers have long, long waiting lists for infants.
Additionally, there are troubling trends with the increase of children under age nine entering Department of Children and Families custody in our area, and throughout Vermont. We need to address the causes of this terrible outcome for kids and families.
Building Bright Futures just released their report detailing how young children are faring in the Lamoille Valley, and across the State. To find out more, visit http://buildingbrightfutures.org/initiatives/how-are-vermonts-young-children.
If you want to join the Building Bright Futures team that works to monitor and address challenges (and celebrate successes!) for young children and families, consider coming to a Regional Council meeting at the Playroom on the second Tuesday of the month from 3:30 till 5:30. Hope to see you there!
As the Regional Coordinator for Building Bright Futures, Steve staffs The Lamoille Valley Building Bright Futures Regional Council, a volunteer committee focused on the well being of young children and their families. There is one such Council in each of twelve regions of the State. Steve also works with the Playroom in Morrisville. He writes about early childhood, families, community, play, and equity.