One of Cornerstones’ primary advocacy priorities is supporting programs and policies that ensure a bright future for Fairfax County’s children. With June being National Children’s Awareness Month, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of Cornerstones’ youth initiatives, as well as some of the challenges facing youth in our community.
Cornerstones helps children succeed before school
Cornerstones has been providing affordable, quality childcare at Laurel Learning Center (Laurel) since 1977, including year-round, full-time care for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Along with providing a nurturing, enriching environment, Laurel provides developmental screenings for all children, as well as information and referrals through wrap-around family support services to ensure that children are meeting their developmental milestones and are prepared for kindergarten.
The importance of early interventions to ensure children reach these milestones and the impact those have on a child’s future success cannot be overstated. That is why Cornerstones is proud to announce that in FY15 100% of Laurel preschoolers, who came from economically disadvantaged families, reached their critical developmental milestones and were therefore well prepared to enter kindergarten last fall.
Cornerstones also advocates on behalf of working parents who need access to affordable, quality care for their children. The Commonwealth of Virginia has made some progress in this regard, with funding being increased for home-visiting programs and improvements made to regulations for childcare and preschool programs to ensure safety for enrolled children. On a more disappointing note, recent legislation enacted at the state-level has capped the number of years parents can receive childcare subsidies to six. This ruling will force many parents to choose between staying out of the workforce and placing their children in lower-cost care that may be unregulated or substandard.
Cornerstones helps children succeed in school
Cornerstones provides support to students during the school year, providing before- and after-school care to children at Laurel, as well as afternoon programming at Cornerstones’ Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center and its community centers in Reston. Cornerstones staff pair volunteer tutors with school-age children to provide homework help and become reading partners. Cornerstones is fortunate and grateful to have a network of caring volunteers who provide services to at-risk youth in our community.
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth lags behind other states in support of low-income students in the school system, spending between 14-19 percent more on low-income students than on non-low-income students (the national average is 29 percent). Additional funding is needed to level the playing field for low-income students who need supports such as early childhood learning opportunities. Funding can also provide the salaries necessary to attract talented teachers who can help improve the testing scores and graduation rates of their students. For more information about school funding and outcomes, check out The Commonwealth Institute’s full report here.
Cornerstones helps children succeed outside of school
During the summer many school-age children do not have access to the academic enrichment opportunities that are available during the school year. To address that need, Cornerstones operates summer programs for children at Laurel, the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center and its community centers in Reston.
Cornerstones helps children succeed beyond school
Cornerstones is embarking on a long-term initiative, Opportunity Neighborhoods, modeled on the well-documented Harlem Children’s Zone/Promise Neighborhood Initiatives, to identify the needs of youth in Reston and to ensure that there are resources and opportunities that match those needs. The goal is to ensure that there is an avenue for every child to succeed, from cradle to career, including access to great schools, support from the community for students and parents, and educational enrichment opportunities.
You can assist our youth this summer by donating backpacks to our annual back-to-school drive (commitment form here). Additionally, there is always a need for tutors and homework help for school-age children as well as opportunities to provide supervision and care for kids while their parents attend classes such as job readiness and financial literacy. Check out the volunteer website here, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!