Investing in Tomorrow: The Crucial Role of Quality Early Learning in Pierce County, WA

By Carol Mensah, MPA, NCRI, Pierce County CAP Division Manager


In Pierce County, early learning is more than just the foundation of education; it’s a powerful tool for violence prevention and bridging academic disparities. By investing in quality early learning we not only equip children for success but also address the root causes of societal challenges, including violence.

Research consistently demonstrates that quality learning experiences significantly reduce the likelihood of engaging in violent behavior later in life. By fostering social and emotional skills from an early age, we create a community where conflict resolution and empathy are second nature, diminishing the prevalence of violence.

Moreover, investing in early learning becomes a potent force in closing the academic achievement gap between white and BIPOC children. Children from differently situated backgrounds often start school at a disadvantage, setting them on a trajectory that’s difficult to alter. In Pierce County there are a total of 3,274 Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and Head Start slots, 2185 children were left unserved. Early learning interventions, provide the extra support needed to level the playing field. This approach ensures that all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, have an equal opportunity to thrive academically.

In Pierce County, we are employing a two-generation model. This model takes it a step further, recognizing that the family unit plays a pivotal role in a child’s development. By offering whole family support addressing both children and family, we create a harmonious effect. Elevating families out of poverty becomes a concrete goal when education, job training, and meeting a family’s basic needs are intertwined, thus breaking the cycle of poverty.

Compared to similar children who do not attend, children in ECEAP preschools are healthier when they start kindergarten, more likely to graduate from high school and go onto college and more likely to be employed and to earn more as an adult.

There are 63,000 children in Pierce County under the age of six and 17% of them live in poverty, we have a great opportunity to lead the charge in reshaping the future. By directing resources into quality early learning programs like ECEAP and embracing the two-generation model, we not only invest in the potential of our children but also lay the groundwork for a safer, more equitable society. If we really believe the children are our future, let’s forge ahead by setting our youngest residents up for a bright one.