A new study released Thursday is one of the first to establish a clear link between educational day care and success in later life.
"High quality educational child care has long-lasting benefits for children born to low income families," Dr. Frances Campbell of the University of North Carolina says. For the study, Researchers tracked 111 low-income children from infancy through age 21. Half of them had a variety of childcare arrangements; half attended an educational day care center.
Over 21 years of observation, the children who had been in day care scored higher on tests, showed higher academic achievement in both reading and math, were more likely to go to college and more likely to postpone parenthood.
"There needs to be a realization that learning begins at the beginning," urges Campbell.
Sarah Maldonado doesn't need a study to tell her what works. She's been the executive director of the Educare Early Childhood Center, an inner city day care center, for 24 years. Toddlers she once nurtured are now grown and on their own.
"They are assertive, they are working, they are going to school, a high percentage of our mothers go to college in the evening and they come back with their children to make sure they get the same things they got," Maldonado says proudly.
The problem is that high quality day care isn't always available to people who can't pay for it: but the hope is that studies like this one will show that it may be the best investment low-income communities and families can make.