When the citizens of Lewis County chose me as their sheriff, they entrusted me with the responsibility to keep our communities safe. As part of that mission, I have worked with my team at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to find and use every possible tool to help reduce crime. That’s why, eight years ago, we implemented the Sheriff’s Mentoring Students Program, because we recognized an important truth — the best way to stop crime is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Through the mentoring program, our office has worked with school principals and staff to find out the best way that law enforcement can help students throughout Lewis County. While I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done, the fact that we can only reach school age students leaves behind a large part of our community. This includes parents of infants and toddlers who are too young to take part in the program. And the truth is, prevention programs are most effective when we start helping children at an early age.
To better understand what can be done to help reach those kids, I joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national bipartisan membership group of police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors dedicated to protecting public safety by promoting solutions that steer kids away from crime. One tool for helping parents build their kids a strong foundation of healthy development from an early age is early childhood education and care, or ECE.
Last year, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a report outlining several studies that show the short- and long-term benefits of quality ECE. According to research detailed in the report, kids who participated in quality ECE programs experienced less child abuse and neglect, better performance in school, fewer high school drop-outs and, ultimately, committed fewer crimes.
Unfortunately, the high cost and low availability of ECE in Washington has meant that many families are unable to access these programs.
Fortunately, there is already an incredibly effective funding stream to states that can help parents get over these barriers to access. Child Care Development Block Grants, or CCDBG, give states the funding they need to increase the quality and availability of ECE in their communities, while at the same time giving parents the flexibility to choose the ECE programs that are right for them.
CCDBG, combined with other programs like Head Start and Preschool Development Grants, can be a life changer for many low income families. These programs assist parents in supporting their children’s healthy development, learning, and school readiness, while also supporting the ECE providers that are contending with workforce shortages on top of razor-thin financial margins to keep their doors open.
However, these programs currently lack the funding they need to reach every family that could benefit from them. For example, only 13 percent of eligible children under age 6 in Washington state receive support from the CCDBG subsidy program, leaving many without the help they need to access quality care. We need lawmakers to support additional funding for these programs to ensure more parents have access to ECE programs that they believe are best for their kids.
By guaranteeing this funding, we can help build a greater foundation for future generations that can keep them on the right path to success and away from crime, creating healthier, safer communities for years to come.
Rob Snaza is sheriff of Lewis County and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids