BCACCS spoke to Chiefs and Leaders at the First Nations Summit June 6, 2013. Board Chair Mary Teegee spoke of the crucial importance of leadership support and action on Aboriginal Early Childhood Development and Care programs in our communities. 

Our children's success in the early years must be a priority on the political agenda of leadership and governments. The reality is that no amount of effort on the Early Childhood Development (ECD) frontlines will affect the kinds of changes necessary to truly heal the past without solid leadership support and action.

All societies want children to be healthy and strong - our communities and families aspire to these same goals and dreams for our children.

“I can tell you, as a northerner and a First Nations mother, it distresses me to know that First Nations children have a better chance of becoming involved in the criminal justice system than graduating from high school.”

In February of this year BC’s Ministry of Education reported that high school completion rates for our students reached a ten year high in 2011-12, with a total graduation rate of 56.4 percent. This figure is still unacceptably low when you consider that the overall graduation rate in BC has been between 79.1 percent and 81.8 percent since 2002.

We have scientific and economic data that backs up the importance in investing in the early years. National and international experts in a wide variety of fields including economics, education and health care have long asserted that investment in early childhood development and care create important benefits such as better preparation for school; assisting mothers to continue building their skills; encouraging greater social equity; and increasing future economic productivity.

Evidence shows that universal community-based systems of high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) are part of the backbone of strong economies: ECEC has short-term, medium-term and long-term economic and social impacts on children, their parents, the labour force, local economies and the larger economy. A Canadian cost-benefit study considering universal, high quality early childhood education and care showed that such a program would produce a $2 social and economic return to our society for every dollar spent.

Other studies of early childhood education and care in countries from the US to developing countries demonstrate a strong relationship between early childhood programs and improved school performance. Early childhood education and care has been shown to diminish the need for remediation in the school years, resulting in later adult productivity and reduction of anti-social behaviour among high-risk populations. While, long term US studies based on actual programs (e.g., Head Start) show even higher returns for low income children, yielding economic returns ranging from $3 to $17 for every dollar invested.

However, the success of a high quality early care and learning system depends on a well-respected, well-educated and fairly-compensated workforce. BC’s college and university trained Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) do not earn wages and benefits that reflect the importance or challenge of the work they do.

The From Seed to Cedar campaign calls on all leaders to demonstrate their support of children in their communities by learning what services are needed for young children to thrive, learn and grow. To learn more leaders can visit the child care or Head Start program in their community. Engage in discussions about how to support realistic wages for the Early Childhood Educators. Lead by positive example by being a good parent and grandparent and become informed about the research on ECD and find creative and effective ways to direct community investments and resources towards young children and their families.

To connect to the live webcast of the summit website here.

AuthorSofia Fortin