Commentary: Orange County prospers when its youngest children are prioritized


Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. They are our school teachers, our business owners, our nonprofit advocates, our policymakers and our future parents.

Orange County will only be as strong as its children are. And they need our help now.

The recently released 2018 Orange County Community Indicators Report shines a light on the current lack of priority placed on early childhood and its affect on our children.

Among the reports findings:

  • Only half of Orange County’s children are ready with the skills they need to succeed when they enter kindergarten.
  • Only half of Orange County’s children meet third grade achievement standards.
  • 1 in 6 Orange County children live in poverty.
  • 37% of Orange County childcare providers have had to expel a child due to challenging behavior.

These numbers are a wakeup call for Orange County and underscore the need for prioritization of our young children.
For nearly 20 years, local organizations committed to helping young children and families have worked with the Children & Families Commission of Orange County, alongside First 5 commissions across the state, investing in early childhood development and making it a priority.

Through it all there has been one, consistent truth — Orange County prospers when its children are valued, nurtured, healthy and thriving.

For the last three years, representatives from education, government, healthcare and nonprofit organizations have come together to put our shared vision for children into one place.

Our collective work has resulted in the creation of the Orange County Early Childhood Development Framework, a collaborative effort that outlines how we can help children and families succeed, regardless of income, language and culture.

The collaborative plans to use the Framework to engage local organizations and entire communities in creating and sharing strategies for action. Quality early learning, comprehensive health development and resilient families are all attainable goals that can and should happen in every Orange County neighborhood.

We are calling on all sectors of the county — from health, to education, business and government — to immediately prioritize children and families now to see economic and social benefits later as these children grow up and become engaged community members.

Our shared goal is to help young children reach their developmental potential and help them succeed in school and, ultimately, in life.

Kim Goll is the executive director of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County.