To promote the health, education and welfare of children

Focus on Early Childhood

The mission of the Whiteman Foundation has always included children, but at the turn of the century, the foundation honed its mission. Today, its concentration is early childhood development.

This passion stems from the knowledge that studies consistently have shown early childhood (birth to age 5) is a time of critical physical, social, emotional and intellectual growth for children. In those first six years, the brain develops the fastest and is the easiest to train, and cognitive and social behaviors begin to develop. This period is, without a doubt, the most effective and least expensive time to affect how a child learns and interacts with others.

“When I think about the issues facing our society beyond the health and welfare of our citizens, I cannot think of an issue more pressing and impactful than helping our children properly develop,” says foundation President John O. Whiteman. “But too often our society focuses on solutions and programs to address symptoms, rather than tackling the root causes of those symptoms.”

The Bigger Picture

Without high-quality healthcare and education that begin at conception, the risks increase for reduced cognitive abilities, poor academic performance and lower standardized test scores, all of which negatively affect a child’s college prospects and career opportunities. The presence of intervention in early education also correlates with lower crime rates, reduced incidence of teenage pregnancy and lower frequency of drug abuse.

It is the foundation’s aim to confront many of the root causes of these societal issues that occur in adolescence and adulthood by principally focusing on a child’s health and education from the womb to 60 months after birth.

The foundation invests in programs and organizations that advance education and healthcare for this key demographic and demonstrate qualitative results and a quantitative return on investment.

Major Research Findings

Researchers at the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) conducted a benefit-cost analysis of one of the nation’s most respected early education programs, the Abecedarian Early Childhood Intervention project in North Carolina. Some research highlights are listed below. For the full report, click here.

  • Participants in the intervention program had significantly higher test scores than the control group from the time they were toddlers through age 21. Their reading and math achievement scores were also consistently higher.
  • Children in high-quality programs are projected to make roughly $143,000 more over their lifetimes than those who don’t participate.
  • Mothers of children who were enrolled can also expect greater earnings — about $133,000 more over their lifetimes.
  • School districts can expect to save more than $11,000 per child because participants are less likely to require special or remedial education.
  • Participants were twice as likely to attend a higher education program as those in the control group — 40 percent of the intervention group compared with 20 percent of the control group.

Public Policy Implications

As we learn more about the importance of early childhood development, it continues to be a part of our public policy discourse. It’s critical that we continue these discussions as they relate to:

Education. Greater investments in education are needed to help our children reach their full potential. Through organizations like the Whiteman Foundation and its grantees, the private sector is making a difference, but an informed public discussion about the quality and quantity of our teachers and where we invest our tax dollars is appropriate.

Poverty. Homelessness and poverty are cycles we can break. As poverty among Arizona’s children increases, it becomes more and more necessary for state lawmakers to examine school quality in low-income neighborhoods and healthcare access for Arizona’s working poor to help increase children’s chances for success in life.

Healthcare. As the discussion surrounding healthcare continues, it’s important to include the impact of a lack of healthcare on children. Those without quality healthcare are less likely to do well in school, which has a profound effect on their opportunities later in life.

For the latest public policy information affecting early childhood education in Arizona, visit the Children’s Action Alliance at The Children’s Action Alliance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research, education and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of Arizona’s children and families.