As a small town police chief, I was pleased to read about a recent report highlighting the challenges parents have finding quality early childhood care and learning programs in areas like mine.

Our youngest children need nurturing, stimulating environments for healthy brain development — both at home and in early learning programs while their parents work. The first years of life are a unique time when children develop the foundation of all later cognitive, social and emotional skills. Participating in quality programs can help build these skills and contribute to children’s later successes.

I also know from my own experiences that kids who participate in quality early learning programs can have an easier time staying on a path toward academic success, so they are less likely to get into serious trouble later in their lives.

Research backs this up. A national longitudinal study of more than 1,300 children found that children in higher-quality child care had significantly lower levels of behavior problems at age 15 compared to children in lower-quality child care. Another study showed that students in quality pre-k were about half as likely to have a behavioral infraction in school — and that pattern continued in middle and high school, when the rates of infractions increase.

Because of outcomes like these, I encourage our state policymakers to do all they can to increase access to, and affordability of, quality early care and education programs for families across Maine, particularly in rural communities.

Jeffrey Goss, Mechanic Falls chief of police

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