cpz 032223SPRINGFIELD – On Wednesday, the House Child Care Access & Early Childhood and Senate Early Childhood Education  Committees held a joint subject matter hearing to discuss public resources that support optimal development for infants and toddlers from the prenatal period to age three. Building on the first subject matter hearing that made the case for investing in the early years, the testimony highlighted the intent of programs and services, demographics of participants, specific considerations for young children with developmental delays and disabilities and multilingual learners, gaps in services, and the expected impact of increased investments.

The committee heard a variety of perspectives including representatives of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, Erikson Institute, Illinois Head Start Association, the Illinois State Board of Education, Children’s Home and Aid, the Illinois Department of Human Services, Raising Illinois, and the Early Intervention Grassroots Alliance.

“Prenatal to age three is a vital time for early childhood development because 85 percent of the brain is developed during that period and has the greatest potential for fostering optimal growth,” said State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago), who also serves as the chair of the Senate Early Childhood Education Committee. “Illinois has a robust community of advocates and subject matter experts focused on the first three years of life and their testimony helped educate members and the public about the windows of opportunity to make a positive difference for young children and their families.”

Witnesses highlighted the importance of addressing infant and early childhood mental health through capacity building of coaching early childhood professionals, comprehensive support provided to parents from home visits, advantages of center-based infant and toddler programs, and critical therapy provided through Early Intervention. Aside from acquainting members with the merits of the programs and services, testimony underscored the need to target service gaps, workforce vacancies, and deliberate coordination of services.

Pacione-Zayas and State Representative Joyce Mason (D-Gurnee) are working collaboratively to advance a birth to five agenda through the General Assembly this session and are holding subject matter hearings to get expert opinions and lived experience on issues their legislation will address.

“When folks think of early childhood investment, they usually only consider investing in our school system or child care. While these areas are essential to early childhood development, there are many more areas that affect a child’s early experiences,” said Pacione-Zayas. “These subject matter hearings will further explain additional considerations to have a fuller set of information on how we can make Illinois the best place to raise young children.”

“The research is clear - babies are born ready to learn,” said Representative Joyce Mason (D-Gurnee). “When we provide high quality care and education, they will experience better outcomes throughout their lives. I can’t imagine a better investment than the futures of our children.”

The House and Senate Early Childhood Committees will hold another joint subject matter hearing on March 30 at 10 a.m. on eliminating pre-K deserts. To listen live, go to https://ilga.gov/houseaudvid.asp.