What is ECFE?
Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) is a program for all Minnesota families with children between the ages of birth to kindergarten enrollment. ECFE is based on the idea that the family provides a child's first and most important learning environment, and parents are a child's first and most significant teachers. ECFE works to strengthen families and enhance the ability of all parents to provide the best possible environment for the healthy growth and development of their children.
What happens in ECFE?
ECFE programs are tailored locally to meet the needs of families in each specific community. Most programs contain the following components:
Who participates in ECFE?
Parents and children participate together. Participation is voluntary. ECFE is committed to accessibility for everyone, so fees are based on a sliding fee scale or are waived for families unable to pay.
It is the goal of ECFE to serve a representative cross-section of families with young children in each community. All families have different needs. Programs offer sessions with specific topics to meet these individual needs.
Why start at birth?
Brain research confirms the first three years are an extremely critical period in a child's development. This is especially true in the areas of language, social skills and the roots of intelligence. An infant's daily interactions with caregivers actually determine the structure of some areas of the brain itself. Getting involved in ECFE can help parents be better equipped to deal with the challenges of caring for these rapidly developing infants and toddlers.
Why involve parents?
Research shows that early childhood programs involving parents and children are more effective than programs focusing exclusively on children. Educators and psychologists agree that it is vital for early childhood programs to assist parents in their role as primary educators of their children. Involvement prior to kindergarten encourages parents to play an active role in their children's learning throughout their entire education. Children whose parents are involved in their education have been shown to be more successful in school.
Who benefits from ECFE?
Society benefits from strong families and healthy, well-developed children. The potential of ECFE to prevent or reduce later learning problems of children has been confirmed by evaluation of ECFE and similar programs. Parents involved in ECFE report feeling more supported and more confident in their role as parents. They also report having a better understanding of how children develop and having improved parenting skills. Research strongly suggests that dollars spent on ECFE are more than repaid by savings in remedial health, education and welfare costs later.
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