If your household suddenly got a windfall, would you sock it away under the mattress or would you look for ways to invest the money so that it could continue to provide benefits into the future?
Delaware is fortunate to have a one-time surplus of approximately $50 million. How can we best invest that money now so that we will continue to benefit in the future?
Background: Coalition wants $55M in extra tax revenue to fund Delaware's neediest
As someone who studies child development and early childhood education, I’m advocating that we follow the recommendations of the Coalition for Delaware’s Kids and invest that money in the children and youth of our state. I’d like to speak to two of their seven initiatives, both of which have immediate and long-term economic returns: Expanding the Nurse Family Partnership Program and Enrolling more low-income children in Pre-K programs.
TheNurse Family Partnership Program (NFPP) supports low-income first-time mothers through regular home visits over the first two years of life, costing about $4,500 per child. These visits reduce child abuse and neglect and improve the economic sufficiency of the family.
Participating families are 82 percent more likely to have the mother employed by the time the child is age four and less likely to be using SNAP and other cash welfare benefits. These savings pay back the state the cost of the program by the time the children are age 12.
In addition, the NFPP reduces the likelihood that a child will end up in the emergency room in the first two years of life by 50 percent. And in findings relevant to the other initiatives supported by the Coalition for Delaware’s Kids, children enrolled in the NFPP did better in school through 2nd grade and had better language development outcomes, another tangible benefit.
High quality early childhood programs also have significant long term benefits. Early childhood programs have a quantifiable return on investment of 7 to 13 percent. That is, for every dollar invested in high quality childcare and preschool, we see both immediate savings related to increased parental employment and improved health — and later savings because these children are less likely to need special education services or be retained a grade, less likely to be arrested or sentenced for a crime, and more likely to graduate from high school.
Both of these programs are critical infrastructure that reduces economic inequality and improves immediate and long-term economic, academic, and health outcomes for the state. Expanding these programs, even temporarily, has the potential for measurable and meaningful gains in the long run.
When I first moved here, Roberta Golinkoff said to me that, in Delaware, if you have a bit of a jingle in your pocket, you spend it on your children. I encourage the General Assembly and the governor’s office to invest the current surplus in Delaware’s future, our children.
Amanda Owen Van Horne is an associate professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Delaware.