United 4 Children (U4C) has refined our mission and vision, set core values, and gained clarity through a year-long strategic planning process supported by regional priorities related to early childhood education (ECE). We are confident that with this new strategic plan, our work together will narrow disparities in under-resourced communities and in early childhood education (birth to third grade) by ensuring that all children have equitable educational and developmental opportunities regardless of zip code, race or ability.
The organizational plans for the next three years are aligned with the regional vision for ECE. The following documents and priorities were taken into consideration.
- Ferguson Commission Report
- Ready by 21 Priorities
- The First Step to Equity
There is a severe shortage of educated and skilled ECE providers in the St. Louis Metro Area. There are a number of key factors contributing to that shortage, including:
- Lack of quality pay for early childhood educators, which results in high turnover for staff in childcare centers and inconsistent relationships with children and families.
- Lack of quality standards for early childhood educators, including minimal state or local standards dictating education and/or training requirements for early childhood educators.
- A looming knowledge gap about the importance of early childhood education among parents, providers and the broader community
These systemic issues, along with poverty and systemic racism, have contributed to inequitable access to quality ECE across the region. While some children have access to an excellent early childhood education, many others do not. Children without access to quality ECE can suffer from developmental delays, unaddressed adverse childhood events, negative social interactions, excess conflict, lack of self-regulation as well as a lack of kindergarten-readiness. These social-emotional and academic foundations are linked to major life outcomes including academic attendance, educational attainment, job readiness/attainment, earning potential, healthy relationships, and incarceration.
United 4 Children is committed to continuing its statewide work in the areas of Nutrition and Inclusion. Over the next three years, United 4 Children will increasingly focus its local efforts on childcare providers in “distressed” zip codes, as defined by the Economic Innovation Group’s Distressed Communities Index. The zip codes span across the St. Louis Metro Area along with expanding into East St. Louis.
United 4 Children has three long-term goals:
- To increase the number of educated and skilled ECE providers in the St. Louis Metro Area in order to ensure that every child from birth to third grade has access to high-quality early childhood education.
- To close the knowledge gap on the importance of ECE amongst parents, educators and the broader St. Louis community.
- To serve as part of a coalition that holds all ECE providers in the St. Louis Metro Area to the highest standards of quality to nurture whole child well-being and development.