Why Early Childhood?
The foundation for children’s future, and the future of Virginia, starts at birth. Research over the past two decades has shown that the architecture of children’s brains develops most rapidly in the first five years of life. The exposure children have to early learning experiences and socio-emotionally rich environments generates -- or fails to generate -- neural connections that form the foundation for all later learning and achievement.
This is not just about educational and life outcomes, though we know that providing a strong start gives Virginia children the best possible opportunity to achieve their highest aspirations. This is about laying the economic and societal foundation for decades to come. Virginia’s business community has made a strong commitment to supporting quality early childhood programs because they know it is the very beginning of the workforce pipeline. In the words of Mike Petters, president and CEO of Huntington Ingalls, Virginia’s largest manufacturer, early childhood education is “an investment we need to make for American business to thrive globally.”
Research is clear that simply providing access to early childhood services isn’t enough -- the opportunities must be high-quality in order to have an impact on children’s preparedness. Quality is both the spark and the insurance policy for investments we make in Virginia’s children; without quality, we will never reach our vision of a Commonwealth where all children are healthy and ready for school and life.
To this end, VECF co-administers the Commonwealth’s Virginia Quality improvement and rating system with the Virginia Department of Social Services, aimed at elevating the quality of early learning programs. VECF is proud of our signature initiative, Smart Beginnings, local hubs around the state that bring together public and private partners to collaborate on comprehensive priorities for young children ranging from high-quality education, health, social services, and everything else needed to ensure they are ready to grow and learn.
VECF focuses several efforts directly on raising the quality of the teachers and caregivers who cultivate these young minds. Research is clear that practitioner quality is the most important within-classroom factor for within early care programs for a child's success. For more information on our work in this area, see our Upskilling page.
The most effective early childhood system is one that promotes a public good focused on providing the best experience to all children while leaning on best practices from the Commonwealth’s robust private sector. VECF was founded in 2005 as the non-profit steward and capacity-builder for advancing school readiness in the Commonwealth.
As opposed to residing in only one sector, VECF’s unique position allows it to act as a hub and build relationships with on-the-ground partners, business leaders, state-level partners and agencies, elected officials, and other key stakeholders. Moreover, since the work of cultivating a strong system is ongoing, VECF’s status as a public-private partnership allows it to sustain the work enduringly, and bring a long-term vision to Virginia’s early childhood system, even as governmental administrations change due to term limits.