Return On Investment

By: Arthur O’Hara, MSW, Executive Director, R’Club Child Care

The first 5 years of life are a critical foundation for children’s early learning and lifelong development.

Although understanding of how the brain develops is still evolving, there is enough knowledge about how young children progress as a result of an explosive growth of the brain in the early years to declare emphatically that early experiences matter.

According to an executive summary prepared by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT (2005), “early experiences actually influence brain development, establishing the neural connections that provide the foundation for language, reasoning, problem solving, social skills, behavior and emotional health”.

As much as we know about and focus on children’s early learning, the oft forgotten part of the above, early learning endorsement, is . . . and lifelong development. What children learn in the early years, their first five, needs to be reinforced through accessible and available quality educational opportunities and before and after school programs. Accessibility and availability is an issue.

I wrote an article in 2008 about our endowment fund and its focus on scholarships for our programs. At that time, there were a little more than 1800 children in Pinellas County on the waiting list for subsidized child care. Today, that number is more than 3500 and growing, especially in the ranks of children from six to twelve years of age. The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas, similar to many Coalitions around the state, lowered the age of eligibility to 8 years of age or the completion of 3rd grade. This action, is consistent with the School Readiness statute which targets children ages birth to 5 years and gives local coalitions the flexibility to serve older children.

This action by the ELC of Pinellas (effective with school year 2011-2012) made more than 600 R’Club children currently funded through ELC funds ineligible for support and sent us scurrying around to find funding so we could continue service for them. The group most affected by this action is the working poor, folks who are working very hard at low paying jobs (typically service industries) to support their families and just need some help making sure their children are safe before and after school in productive developmentally appropriate programs. Their children are some of the most at-risk children in terms of low academic performance, substance abuse, delinquency, and other social malaise.

You can help by making a contribution for our scholarship fund. We are able to secure a dollar for dollar match from a state trust fund, the Child Care Executive Partnership, and turn your $100 into $200. There is no other investment that returns such a great ROI than investing your charitable dollars in the life of a child and that has a 100% ROI and it is an excellent investment in the future for all of us.

Thank you and please feel free to call me at (727)578-5437 or email me at if you would like more information about this scholarship program or R’Club in general.

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