When the Children: 1-2-3 Inquiry process began in Fall 2011, there was widespread agreement among professionals and stakeholders in the early childhood development sector that it was time for Jacksonville to become a place where all newborns, infants, and toddlers can thrive. In Duval County, 30 percent of children entering kindergarten could not pass the test that shows they are prepared for school learning, virtually assuring years of difficulty in keeping up with their classmates and peers.
The first three years of life provide the most rapid period of brain development, and it is during these early years that a one-time window of opportunity exists for maximizing a child's developmental potential. Healthy brain development requires a consistent nurturing environment that is impacted by many factors (e.g., talking to and playing with the child, good nutrition, active movement, uninterrupted sleep, quality childcare, regular visits to pediatricians, etc.).
While this unique three-year window has been known to early childhood professionals for years, the Inquiry discovered that others in the community – including many well-meaning and attentive parents – are not fully aware of all the things they can do to provide their children with the best foundation possible for a lifetime of learning. Expanding awareness of the importance of 0-3 throughout every segment of the community was therefore an objective of the highest priority when the Children: 1-2-3 Implementation Task Force came together for the first time in July 2012.
The Task Force included 68 members, some of whom were early childhood professionals, while others were simply concerned citizens interested in improving their community. This Final Implementation Report reflects the countless hours of hard work of these Task Force members throughout the last two-plus years. Their dedication to improving the lives of our youngest children has been extraordinary, and it was both humbling and exciting for me to serve as their chair.
The Children: 1-2-3 Inquiry developed nine recommendations that essentially fell into two main categories – creating and maintaining an environment where all newborns, infants, and toddlers thrive; and educating the whole community about the critical first three years of childhood development. It was the role of our Task Force to advocate for implementation of these recommendations to the applicable stakeholders and elected leaders in the community.