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Early Care and Education

Brain researchers, economists, and business leaders all agree – investments in early care and education provide the biggest return on investment. Over the last 10 years, scientists have discovered how early experiences shape the architecture of the brain before a child turns five. Economists have found a long-term return on investment for children who participate in high-quality early care and education. And business leaders have stepped up to the plate to advocate for their future workforce.

Despite this broad base of support, too many children in Virginia do not have the high-quality early care and education experiences to prepare them for success in school. Parents, caregivers, professionals, and schools all have a role to play in shaping our children’s school readiness. Yet many of the systems to support young children and families are splintered and can not provide enough opportunities for all children who could benefit. Voices advocates for more opportunities.

Where Virginia Stands

  • Only 45 percent of low-income children in Virginia attend preschool, compared to 65 percent of their higher-income peers.
  • We have enough parent educators to reach only about 10 percent of the at-risk pregnant women and families across the state.
  • Average costs for infant child care are more than college tuition.

How Voices Works

Our early childhood agenda takes a comprehensive approach, recognizing that young children need strong families, supportive communities, and quality caregivers. We build this agenda by serving as a neutral convener for many of the stakeholders in early childhood to share their needs and determine the highest priorities. Each year, Voices’ policy network puts forth a Unified Early Childhood Policy Agenda outlining these shared priorities. See examples of our policy agendas below.

2021 Early Care and Education Policy Agenda

Read our full 2021 Early Care and Education Policy Agenda.

In recent years we have advocated for:

  • The restoration of state funding that was cut from home visiting programs;
  • Significant new state investment in early intervention services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays;
  • Improvements to the child care system, including the first safety reforms in 20 years;
  • Expanding participation in the Virginia Preschool Initiative for at-risk four year-olds; and
  • Access to high-quality, affordable child care.

We also work on these issues at the local level, supporting regional networks in Northern Virginia and Greater Richmond to connect to state and federal policy opportunities and to mobilize for action at the local level.

Help us by submitting your child care story to Voices.


View our full Legislative Archive.

2019 Early Care and Education Legislative Agenda Video Overview

Early Childhood “Innovation” Symposium- June 6, 2016

View recording and slides from presentations covering Project Pathfinders, Southside Families, trauma-informed systems, Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative, Home Visiting Consortium and mixed-delivery preschool in practice.

Early Childhood Landscape and Unified Early Childhood Agenda 

Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2018
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2017
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2016
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2015
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2014

Policy Briefings

In 2011, Voices outlined opportunities to build on this framework in Building Our Future: The State of Virginia’s Early Childhood System. For highlights and a quick review of the report, please see the executive summary.

Read more about the Opportunity Gaps in Early Care and Education (December 2012).

For more information contact Emily Griffey at emily_at_vakids_dot_ org or (804) 649-0184.