“Investing in women and children equals investing in communities,” Jacqueline Jones, the President & CEO of the Foundation for Child Development, told a group of almost 200 guests who gathered at our Fund for Women and Girls luncheon on May 5.

At the event, Thriving Women, Thriving Communities: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Early Investment in Our Children, Jones, the keynote speaker, explained that early childhood is the most rapid period of brain development in young people.

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Joining Jones for a panel discussion were:

  • Ingrid Reed, the retired Director of the New Jersey Project at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, who moderated the program;
  • Ana Berdecia, Senior Fellow/Director of the Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University, Community Foundation Trustee, and Leadership Team member, and;
  • Sarah Steward, the Chief Operating Officer of HomeFront — a current grantee-partner of the Fund for Women and Girls.

FWG 2017 lunch speakers

Childcare is also critical to the success of families, Steward said. And two-generation approaches are required.

“You can’t just look at the children and leave their parents behind,” Berdecia said.


While there have been some wins over the years, those in the field of early childcare and early education still face challenges. Among them:

  • There are multiple funding sources for programs, but there is a lack of coordination among those sources, which come from the national, state and local levels.
  • There is no set of professional standards for childcare workers
  • Average pay for childcare workers is low; one study found that many early childhood educators say they worry about feeding their own families.

Advice from the panel

Some take-away advice from the panelists:

  • Understand that providing high quality education is imperative because of its impact on the development of the child
  • Recognize the need for a coordinated, comprehensive early childhood system