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Jefferson Ready Start Network

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Top row: Paula Belanger, Dr. Sarintha Stricklin, Julie Paley; Bottom row: Janai Garrison, Jessica Rouquette

The first five years of life are the most critical for shaping a child’s brain for future success or failure in school, work and life. Equipped with this knowledge, Jefferson Ready Start Network (JRSN) — a committed coalition of thought partners — is creating and implementing a bold local vision for early care and education that will prepare Jefferson Parish’s youngest citizens for success.

In Jefferson Parish, more than 47 percent of families cannot afford the basics, and 87 percent of children are not kindergarten ready. Two in three parents with young children are in the workforce, and many are unable to access child care because costs average more than $7,500 a year. Businesses lose $762 million annually because of child care breakdowns, so it is important for families to know that there are seats available to them and for businesses to know that supporting and funding early care and education is crucial.

“We strongly advocate for businesses to fund early care and education because it offers a powerful investment opportunity,” says Sarintha Stricklin, Ph.D., executive director of the Jefferson Ready Start Network. “By supporting high-quality early care and education, businesses can contribute to students’ future success, empower families to actively participate in the workforce and foster the growth and economic prosperity of our parish.”

JRSN is guided by an advisory council of civic and business leaders, community advocates and other stakeholders who come together to advocate for funding at the parish and state level. In 2021, JRSN partnered with the Jefferson Community Foundation to launch the Future Fund, a local fundraising source dedicated to increasing access to early learning for Jefferson Parish children.

Louisiana is running out of a significant amount of one-time federal dollars related to COVID-19 relief, and insufficient state funding means that less resources will filter down to the parish levels. This means that local support and funding is ever more critical to ensuring the parish’s youngest learners have access to quality early care and education and working parents are able to stay active in the workplace.

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