Columbus, Ohio: Today the Ready, Set, Soar Ohio initiative, spearheaded by Groundwork Ohio and supported by a diverse, statewide coalition of nearly 100 organizations, shared their bold goal of making Ohio the best place to be a young child by serving 50,000 additional Ohioans in high-quality interventions from the prenatal period to age three. “In the midst of a global pandemic and an economic crisis, we are at a make-or-break moment for young children and families,” said Lynanne Gutierrez, Assistant Director and Legal Counsel at Groundwork Ohio. “If we are truly going to make Ohio the best place to be a young child, we must give pregnant moms the healthcare and support they need, ensure infants and toddlers live and learn in healthy and nurturing environments, and provide families the support they need to succeed.” The trajectory of development during the earliest years positions children for future success and lays a foundation for lifelong positive education and health outcomes. But current state spending does not reflect what we know about the importance of investing in the prenatal-to-three period. Only six percent of Ohio’s budget invests in infants and toddlers. “Between conception and the age of three, a child’s brain undergoes an impressive amount of change,” said Rozlyn Grant, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at The Centers. “We have a short timeframe to do so much… interventions like quality child care and evidence-based home visiting help shape the direction children will go for the rest of their lives.” The Ready, Set, Soar Ohio initiative has set a bold goal of serving an additional 50,000 pregnant moms, infants, and toddlers in high-quality interventions by 2023—and sustaining that increased capacity in the following years. This means making sure moms have access to quality prenatal care and that infants and toddlers are born healthy, grow and develop in safe, nurturing environments, are in stable and supported families, and have access to the early learning and health supports that set them up for lifelong success. Ready, Set, Soar Ohio’s core initiatives include:
Increase access to timely and comprehensive quality prenatal care and extend postpartum coverage for pregnant women and mothers covered by Medicaid.
Empower parents of infants and toddlers by increasing access to Help Me Grow voluntary evidence-based home visiting services, Early Head Start and other parent support services.
Expand access to quality publicly funded child care for infants and toddlers by increasing eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Stabilize families so that there are fewer infants and toddlers engaged in the foster care system and ensure that babies in state custody, living in foster or kinship placements, experience developmentally appropriate supports, a continuum of care and supported transitions.
Expand broadband access to connect families with infants and toddlers to their communities and services that support their health, education and economic stability
Access the full policy agenda here. These priorities align closely with those of Governor Mike DeWine, who has remained committed to keeping children’s issues at the top of his agenda.
“We really are keying into a handful of policy priorities that include increasing the number of families that are served by evidence-based home visiting, improving the quality of child care and expanding access, increasing access to school- and child care-based physical and mental health services, promoting resiliency through prevention programming, and reforming our foster care system,” said LeeAnne Cornyn, the Director of Governor DeWine’s Office of Children’s Initiatives. “We know that if we get all those pieces and parts right, we’re going to give our kids the best possible shot at a healthy and bright future.”
This effort also works to address the significant inequities in health and education outcomes that exist within Ohio, especially among children of color and children in Ohio’s Appalachian region.
“By the time a child enters kindergarten, she can already be up to two years behind some of her peers,” said Lynanne Gutierrez. “In order to achieve real equitable outcomes for all Ohioans, we must start investing earlier—before a child is even born and during their first three years—to close gaps before they emerge.”
"We have always worked on tackling the disparities in our community, but since the pandemic hit, we have discovered in a powerful way that these issues aren’t just a concern for parents, educators, and government: business leaders also see the importance of it,” added Montgomery County Commissioner Carolyn Rice. “We must all work together to step it up to address these inequities... In the long run, it will not only strengthen these children and their families, it’s going to strengthen our entire communities, our state, and, quite honestly, our nation.”
The full recording of today’s event can be accessed here.
Ready, Set, Soar Ohio is a diverse statewide coalition of early childhood, education, health, advocacy, philanthropy and business organizations, community leaders, policymakers and families. This coalition is committed to ensuring that more pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families have access to the support they need to be ready, set and soar to their full potential.
To learn more about Ready, Set, Soar Ohio visit us at ReadySetSoarOH.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook @ReadySetSoarOH.
Groundwork Ohio is a committed, nonpartisan public-policy research and advocacy organization formed in 2004 that champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from the prenatal period to age five, that lay a strong foundation for Ohio kids, families and communities.