NewsLocal NewsYour Voice


Kansas City nonprofits work to bridge gap in access to early childhood education

Screenshot 2024-04-12 at 4.10.31 PM.png
Posted at 5:14 PM, Apr 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-15 10:00:29-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Access to early childhood education is becoming more difficult for families in the Kansas City area.

Childcare centers in the area are operating at about 60% capacity because of staffing shortages.

VOICE FOR EVERYONE | Share your voice with KSHB 41’s JuYeon Kim

Even if parents find childcare, the high cost makes its harder to afford, according to United Way of Greater Kansas City,

“We know that only about four out of every 10 preschool-aged children are accessing early childhood education in our community right now, and that there’s been a dramatic drop off in the availability of childcare,” said Kera Mashek with United Way of Greater Kansas City. “It impacts their long-term academic success in school, it makes the chances that they’ll experience adult poverty much higher, and even incarceration higher into their adulthood life.”

The numbers concern educators because birth to five-years-old is the most important time for a child's brain development.

Consequences of unmet needs during that time can impact physical, social and emotional well being.

A Kansas City nonprofit is hoping to bridge that gap by offering early childhood education support to parents.

Start at Zero hosts community gatherings to connect families to resources and even offers home visits for one-on-one training and developmental screenings.

“Any resources that your child may need based off of something that they are not getting, whether it’s a speech therapist, physical therapist, any of those things can be caught early,” said Family Engagement & Curriculum Consultant, Beatrice Henry.

Like many parents during the pandemic, Ronda Penny had exhausted every educational activity she knows to do with her young children.

That is when she heard about Start at Zero.

“To have an organization that is focused on — these are developmental stages that are huge just so they can be functional adults — it helps me stay grounded and connected with my child, so I can help navigate them through that,” said Penny.

Penny especially appreciates the home visits because she is offered private, personal advice.

“Maybe I didn’t want to talk about that my son is spitting, or he’s kicking, or he’s hitting, or expressing really big feelings," said Penny. "So now, on a more intimate time and space , they share 'Here’s what you can do,'” said Penny.

To better support local organizations that work to better access to early childhood education, United Way of Greater Kansas City is hosting its annual Purses for Promise fundraiser April 18.

Money raised will go to 14 early childhood centers in the metro that benefit about 2,000 youth.