It is often said, usually just before nothing is done, that the best investment our society can make in its future is in early childhood programs. Support and improve day care, intervene compassionately with families at risk, advocate and celebrate the people doing this hard and good work, consistently gather data to prove efforts actually work.
Last week, all six of the taxing bodies in Oak Park gathered for the annual update on just such an effort, the Collaboration for Early Childhood, a bold program that each of us taxpayers are funding through the shared support of each and every local government body.
The report this year was particularly good with more children reached, more partners engaged, more developmental screenings offered, more data gathered. The Collaboration is a true innovation that works. Our kids are being better prepared academically and socially for kindergarten, and beyond, by this program.
What has appealed to us about this effort from the very start is its passion and its modesty. It is not a giant government model that seeks to remake early childhood care based on some presumed and costly utopian vision. Rather, the collaboration connects with a wide range of providers from church basements to storefronts, from school districts to in-home and family caregivers. It meets them where they are, offers support and training for staff and leaders.
If there is a program Oak Park can be proud of boldly supporting, the Collaboration is it.