Statewide Coalition Launches Initiative to Make Ohio the Best State for Our Youngest Children

Updated: Mar 12


Columbus, Ohio: Today Groundwork Ohio launched Ready, Set, Soar Ohio, a new initiative supported by a diverse, statewide coalition to ensure that more pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families have access to the support they need to soar to their full potential.

Ready, Set, Soar Ohio was developed by multi-sector stakeholders to build awareness about the importance of the earliest years of a child’s life,” said Shannon Jones, executive director of Groundwork Ohio. “Through our research we found one fundamental truth: Our greatest opportunity to close gaps, whether in health or educational outcomes, is where they begin -- during the first three years of a child’s life when 80 percent of brain growth is happening.”

Ready, Set, Soar Ohio’s core initiatives include:

  • Ensure pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families have access to healthcare, developmental screenings and early intervention services.

  • Empower parents of infants and toddlers by increasing access to voluntary evidence-based home visiting services and fostering economic stability.

  • Expand access to quality publicly funded child care for infants and toddlers by increasing eligibility to 200% FPL.

  • Ensure that infants and toddlers have access to high-quality learning environments, staffed by qualified and well-compensated educators, where programs meet their unique needs.

To learn more about Ready, Set, Soar Ohio, including a list of its diverse partners, visit www.ReadySetSoarOH.org and follow on Twitter at @ReadySetSoarOH.

A video about the importance of early childhood development and learning is available here.

Audio commentary from Groundwork Ohio Executive Director Shannon Jones is available here.

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Ready, Set, Soar Ohio has strong support from the following partners:

Christie Angel, President & CEO, YWCA Columbus:

“The YWCA of Columbus is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Among our deep portfolio of local work, we support the needs of our youngest citizens by providing temporary housing for families experiencing homelessness and providing high-quality child care. We are excited to join Ready, Set, Soar because we know our mission requires a focus on our youngest children and their families through collaborative work to transform systems that support women and children prenatally through age three.”

Melissa Wervey Arnold, CEO, Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“The trajectory of development during the prenatal period to age three positions children for future success and a foundation of lifelong positive education and health outcomes. That is why infants and toddlers have such close intervals for well check-ups that monitor growth, health and development. Pediatricians know that if they can build a relationship with the family and catch any challenges early, they are setting in motion the strong foundation for brighter future with endless potential.”

John Corlett, President and Executive Director, The Center for Community Solutions:

“Medicaid is one of our most effective means of improving child outcomes and it can be leveraged to do more to support Ohio children and families prenatally to age three. As a coalition member of Ready, Set, Soar, we are pleased to support a cross-sector approach that includes Medicaid as a foundational policy lever to improve child health and development outcomes in the first three years of life.”

Laura DiCola, Early Childhood Strategy Leader, Summit Education Initiative:

“In partnership with other key stakeholders, our local collaborative in Summit County is leading the community’s commitment to support the success of children in our county. It’s no surprise given what we know about child development that in order to achieve increased prosperity for our community through educational attainment, we have put a keen focus on the birth through five period of a child’s life. Alongside other community collaboratives across the state, we join the Ready, Set, Soar coalition eager to elevate our local work as we continue to better understand and meet the unique needs of our infants and toddlers.”

Rebekah Dorman, Invest in Children/Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood:

“Invest in Children is proud to be an active partner in the Ready, Set, Soar Coalition. The research is clear that early investments in our youngest citizens pay off huge dividends for both the individual and for society. And evidence-based programs know how to make a difference for children and families. So we have the data and we have the programs, now we need the funding and political will to take programs to scale. That’s where Ready, Set Soar will make the difference, as we join together for Ohio’s babies and toddlers.”

Vanessa Freytag, President and CEO, 4C for Children:

“At 4C for Children, we know getting a child ready for school doesn’t begin at kindergarten registration or even in preschool—it begins at birth. That is why we are committed to supporting the adults in a child’s life—parents, child care providers, early educators, program administrators—as they work to provide quality early experiences that prepare kids for success in school and beyond. We are proud to join so many organizations around the state through the Ready, Set, Soar coalition to increase focus on the earliest years of child development.”

Patti Gleason, COO, Learning Grove:

“Babies are born learners. That is why it is so sad to see that by age 3, low-income learners have half the vocabulary as their high-income peers. This leads them to be up to two years behind when they enter the kindergarten classroom. That’s like sending a 3-year-old to elementary school. High-quality early learning and healthy development sets children up to soar. Starting from day one of a child’s life, we need to make sure their caregivers are equipped to be effective educators.”

Rozlyn Grant, Director of Curriculum for Early Learning, The Centers for Families and Children:

“At the Center for Families and Children in Cleveland, we take a two-generation approach to early childhood development and family support through all of our work so that we can better prepare children to thrive. This two-generation approach impacts all of our programming and one example of this is our evidence-based home visiting program. Home visiting recognizes that parents, grandparents and other caregivers are a child’s greatest teacher. We work with families in their homes to give them the tools and connect them with the services they need to encourage healthy development with their children”

Lisa Gray, Executive Director, Ohio Excels:

“As we fulfill our vision that all Ohio students have access to and are supported to excel in early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary experiences that prepare them for life and success in a changing economy, we recognize that what happens in the first few years of life are foundational to leveraging all later investments in a child’s future. Our business leaders recognize that if we are to prepare all our students for success, the supports we provide to our youngest children and their families must be a part of the solution.”

Carol Haynes, President and Owner, Kiddie Academy of Reynoldsburg:

“New parents often feel alone that no one is listening or responding to them. We work to breakdown that challenge by being a part of their team and being experts in their child’s and family’s development. Parents are often the first to identify developmental challenges and as our children grow their families continue to lack the access to the levels of support and resources we know they need. If we can build upon the foundation of high-quality child care to provide some of these services as part of a high quality environment they are already coming to every day, we know this is fulfilling an unmet need for busy working parents.”

Shawn Henry, Executive Director, OCALI:

“It is time to ensure that early childhood science, policy and practice are not just aligned, but seamlessly integrated so that all young children can live their best lives for their whole lives. We are proud to stand alongside partners from across the state to launch Ready, Set, Soar today and to work with these partners in achieving inclusive and equitable policy change to support our youngest children, their families and communities.”

Katie Kelly, Executive Director, PRE4CLE:

“PRE4CLE is excited to partner with the Ready, Set, Soar Ohio coalition to ensure that every child in Ohio has the critical supports they need during the first three years of life. Through our work in Cleveland to increase access to high-quality preschool and support kindergarten readiness, we know that children who have quality health, mental health, and early learning opportunities during their first three years are significantly more likely to reach kindergarten ready to succeed. We are grateful to join forces with partners from around the state to elevate the urgent and crucial needs of Ohio’s youngest children and their families.”

Nick Lashutka, President & CEO, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association:

“Promoting healthy development in our youngest, most vulnerable children is critical to their future physical and emotional wellness. OCHA is thrilled to support efforts that allow our state’s kids to thrive and set Ohio up for success.”

Robyn Lightcap, Executive Director, Learn to Earn Dayton and Dayton-Montgomery County Preschool Promise:

“As we have implemented incredible local investments in preschool and deepened our commitment to racial equity for our African American students in our cradle to career work, it has become clear special attention must be paid to the prenatal to three period of development. Through Groundwork Ohio’s leadership, the Ready, Set, Soar coalition recognizes this period is critical to delivering on a promise of opportunity for our kids, families and communities and commits to making it a priority among statewide policymakers.”

Leshia Lyman, Vice President of Success By 6® & Area Communities, United Way of Greater Cincinnati:

“We have known for some time what the research says about early brain development and the importance of quality early learning experiences. Our community believed and invested in this work and proved in a recent longitudinal study that those investments continue to be worth it for the long-term. Knowing and demonstrating firsthand the power of investments in the first years of life for Ohio kids, we need the state, now more than ever, to be a strong partner in investing in this critical period of time to ensure all of our children can achieve their full potential.”

Tracy Najera, Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio:

“Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect and ensure their access to appropriate and targeted health care, quality education and a moral and spiritual foundation. We all recognize children don’t come in pieces and understand we must work across systems and in coalition to change the lives and well-being of children and their families for the better. We are proud to stand with the Ready, Set, Soar coalition. The coalition demands we focus and work together to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pregnant moms and young children.”

Ron Rees, Executive Director, Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development:

“The Ready, Set, Soar initiative is a culmination of incredible planning and collaboration that included a focus on the youngest Appalachian children and their families who have unique needs and barriers to enjoying the lifelong success they deserve. The policy agenda responds to the needs of the whole child and the urgency of some of the greatest public health crises we face including the devastating impact of lead poisoning on our young children.”

Cyndy Rees, State Director, Council for a Strong America Ohio:

“The Council for a Strong America’s law enforcement, military, business, faith and sports leaders support the goals of Ready, Set Soar Ohio and are committed to ensuring the over half a million Ohio children prenatal to three have the assets they need to be prepared for productive lives."

Angela Sausser, Executive Director, Public Children Services Association of Ohio:

“Of the over 16,000 children in custody on any given day in Ohio, 29% of them are age 0-3 and about 44% are age 6 and under. Early care and education is a proven community resource for preventing child abuse and neglect. When available and subsidized, it is also a critical support for kinship caregivers and foster caregivers. We also have an unique opportunity to transform Ohio's children services system and leverage the recently passed Family First Prevention Services Act, but to do it right, we must develop a robust continuum of prevention services that includes family and community supports, such as quality early care and education so children and families don't have to become involved with child welfare."

Twinkle Schottke, President, Ohio Association of Infant Mental Health:

“The Ohio Association for Infant Mental Health (OAIMH) promotes nurturing relationships and healthy development for all babies and young children in Ohio. We are grateful that so many diverse stakeholders have come together to ensure that babies become a priority. The network of our infant mental health providers across our state continues to work with babies, young children and their caregivers to focus on their complex needs. We are reminded daily of the urgency with which we have to approach the social and emotional development of our very young children to ensure a strong and healthy future for Ohio’s babies and their families.”

Kim Tice, Executive Director for the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children:

“Ohio AEYC empowers all who care for, educate, and advocate on behalf of young children in our state. When early educators are highly qualified and well-compensated, we attract the best of the best to care for and nurture our youngest children in quality early learning settings. We stand with the Ready, Set, Soar Ohio coalition because we recognize the importance of development during the first three years of life and the significant role early educators play in supporting young children and their families.”

Dr. Jonathan Thackeray, Chief Medical Community Health Officer, Dayton Children’s Hospital:

“We need our legislators to invest upstream in efforts that prevent the adversities children are at risk for experiencing. If we don’t address the factors that are creating these adversities and, as a result, the disparities we see among child outcomes based on these experiences, we will continue to see them worsen.”

Judith Van Ginkel, President, Every Child Succeeds:

“Our programming is based on a strong scientific foundation demonstrating a nurturing and stimulating environment in the first 1000 days of life promotes optimal brain growth, cognitive development, psycho-social adjustment, emotional and behavioral health, and a significant, long term change in child and family trajectories. The home visiting community has been thrilled at the opportunity created by the Governor through the Home Visiting Advisory Council recommendations and increased investments to serve more families in evidence-based home visiting programs. Ready, Set, Soar will provide the trusted support of a diverse set of members to sustain and build upon this success to ensure all Ohio children reach their full potential.”


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