ECFE programs are tailored locally to meet the needs of families in each specific community. Most programs contain the following components:
Parents and children participate together. Participation is voluntary and services are offered free, or for a nominal fee. ECFE is committed to accessibility for everyone, so fees are waved for families unable to pay
Brain research confirms that the first three years are an extremely critical period in a child’s development. This is especially true in the areas of language, social skills and the roots of intelligence. An infant’s daily interactions with caregivers actually determine the structure of some areas of the brain itself. Getting involved in ECFE can help parents be better equipped to deal with the challenges of caring for these rapidly developing infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Research shows that early childhood programs involving parents and children are more effective than programs focusing exclusively on children. Educators and psychologists agree that it is vital for early childhood programs to assist parents in their role as primary educators of their children. Involvement prior to kindergarten encourages parents to play an active role in their children’s learning throughout their entire education. Children whose parents are involved in their education have been shown to be more successful in school.
Society benefits from strong families and healthy, well-developed children. The potential of ECFE to prevent or reduce later learning problems of children has been confirmed by evaluation of ECFE and similar programs. Parents involved in ECFE report feeling more supported and more confident in their role as parents. They also report having a better understanding of how children develop and having improved parenting skills. Research strongly suggests that dollars spent on ECFE are more than repaid by savings in remedial health, education and welfare costs later.