Excel by Eight Foundations

The  brain develops faster from birth to age three than at any period in life, building the foundation for future learning, behavior, and health. Parents play a  lead role in  healthy development, but many are stretched in the earliest months and years of their child’s life. Whether providing direct support or through a community-based network of organizations and programs, government has a role to play in helping parents access needed services. With this early support, infants can grow into healthy kids who are confident, empathetic, and ready for school and life—and our communities, workforce, and economy become stronger and more productive as a result.

Prenatal to Age Three is Critical for Brain Development

A child’s experiences in the first three years are the bricks and mortar of brain development, with more than one million new neural connections forming in an infant’s brain every second. As research from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University shows, responsive relationships and positive experiences build a sturdy brain architecture that becomes the foundation for core social emotional intelligence, early executive functioning and self-regulation, and literacy—skills that are all critical for later health and success.  Experiences begin at home but can also be provided through effective programs and policies.

Early Investment Works

It’s not only infants, toddlers, and families who benefit when we start early—it’s entire communities. When we invest in the first three years of a child’s life, we can reduce the need for more expensive interventions later. Research from Professor James Heckman at the University of Chicago found investments in high-quality programs that support young children starting at birth deliver a 13% annual return—significantly higher than the return delivered by preschool alone.

Our Policy Agenda

The Excel by Eight Foundations Collaborative has developed a policy agenda that builds on existing knowledge of how to best support families with young children. We want children to have healthy beginnings and for families to feel supported and have access to high-quality child care and early learning experiences.

E8 Foundations has three focus areas:

Healthy Beginnings

A healthy beginning starts before birth. Expectant mothers need access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care, screenings and services to ensure infants are born safely and continue to thrive. Once born, infants  need access to ongoing well-child visits, developmental screenings, and any needed therapy services and social supports identified by those screens.

Supported Families

For healthy development, infants and toddlers need quality health care, stimulating learning opportunities, and nurturing, responsive relationships. A system of support should be in place at or before birth to ensure every parent and child receives the needed information, assessments and referrals for a strong start. Home visiting programs are a key strategy for providing these resources.

High Quality Child Care and Early Learning

High-quality child care must be accessible and affordable. Whether it’s in a center or through a home-based program, stimulating learning opportunities and nurturing, responsive relationships are crucial to healthy brain development. High-quality child care also gives parents the peace of mind, so they can focus on work.

By 2025, our goal is to expand the number of pregnant women, infants, and toddlers receiving high-quality health and education services by more than 35,000, with long-term plans to close the gaps between all demographic subgroups. We will achieve this by increasing the number:

Receiving screenings and supportive services that improve health and education outcomes

Enrolled in high-quality early childhood education programs

Served by high-quality home visiting models

For more information, see our detailed policy agenda.