Science tells us that investing in the early years of a child’s life matters because it is during this time that we set the foundation for all learning and growth. That is why The Endowment for Health, the NH Charitable Foundation and the New Hampshire Children’s Health Foundation commissioned two studies over two years by the RAND Corporation to answer two questions:
- What are the costs and benefits of early childhood investments in New Hampshire? (2017 research brief) (2017 research report) (appendices)
- How can NH be strategic in its investments in early childhood? (2019 research brief) (2019 research report) (appendices)
What did we find?
The 2017 study documented that a significant share of young children in NH were at risk of adverse developmental outcomes, and concluded that NH would realize a high rate of return on investments in two types of evidence-based early childhood interventions: home visiting and high quality preschool education.
The 2019 study examined both statewide data and in-depth information in four focal communities that are making advances in early childhood services (Claremont, Manchester, Nashua and Coös County). This study found:
Available resources in NH do not align with patterns of need throughout the state:
- Home visiting services statewide reach only a fraction of families with young children who could benefit.
- Enrollments of 4 year-olds in district preK are not correlated with areas of need (i.e., enrollment rates are not higher in districts with higher child poverty rates)
Lack of data means little is known about the district preK that exists in NH. E.g.,
- Do district preschools serve only children with special needs or offer broader enrollment?
- Where are preschool classes located, and what hours/days do they operate?
- What are the funding sources, and how stable is funding?
What do we recommend?
New Hampshire has maximized federal resources and already relies heavily on local philanthropic support to improve conditions for children and families. The four local communities provide examples of how collaboration can be harnessed to implement innovative solutions to early childhood at the local level. But without state-supported infrastructure for these local efforts, NH will remain a patchwork of needs matched by a patchwork of opportunity and resources.
The state should make strategic investments in early care and education by:
- Focusing first on communities with greatest need but low rates of current access to home visiting, early care and education, and Family Resource Centers
- Providing support to regional initiatives working on better coordination of services for children and families at the local level
- Provide support for data systems that would allow us to track measures of program quality and outcome