Children need love and attention to thrive, be happy and healthy, and do well in school. Research indicates that the return on investment from early childhood development is extraordinary, resulting in better working public schools, more educated workers, and less crime (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis).
And yet, in the United States, the public investment in childcare and education during the first five years of life is about 1/9 of the investment in each of the next 13 years. In other words, until a child reaches the public school system, they are largely off radar for enrichment and development opportunities. Even more worrisome is that the lowest public investment occurs in a child's first two years - the years most critical to brain development.
This funding gap was the impetus for the St. Croix Valley Foundation's new First Thousand Days Grant Program, a competitive annual grant opportunity of up to $25,000 for nonprofit organizations focused on the first thousand days (roughly three years) of life.
Bill and Rita Lawson are passionate about early childhood education and were familiar with the field of interest funds, which allow many donors to pool resources focused on a particular area. They came to the St. Croix Valley Foundation with a proposal to create a new endowed First Thousand Days Fund, and an additional fund for current grants (a non-endowed companion fund).
"It was important to us that this program be supported by an endowed field of interest fund and a fund for gifts that can be put to work right away," said Bill Lawson. "This way, donors of any giving level can make a real difference both now and for generations to come."
Bill and Rita invite others to join them in support of the very youngest within our region with a contribution to the First Thousand Days Fund.