I was pleased to read your coverage of a recent report highlighting the challenges faced by parents and guardians looking for high-quality early care and education programs for our youngest children, especially those in rural Maine.

As sheriff, I would like to add my voice to this conversation. Quality early learning programs are critical for the well-being of our families and our communities. Such programs provide safe and nurturing environments for young children while their parents work or go to school. Young children in these programs learn crucial social, emotional and cognitive skills that lay the foundation for success throughout their academic careers. In doing this critical work, early learning programs can help steer kids away from a path that may lead to crime as teens or adults. I also know that quality early learning programs can provide a safe haven for kids in unstable homes.

Council for a Strong America’s report offers our communities and policy-makers recommendations to help us build and sustain more quality early learning programs across Maine: Supporting funding for more high-quality community-based early care and education partnerships. Improving compensation and training for our early childhood workforce. Creating an early childhood system with regional coordination and “no wrong door” for families to access services. And, finally, improving data collection to monitor progress, analyze impact, and support continuous improvements. As a law enforcement leader who cares about improving long-term public safety, I wholeheartedly agree with these suggested steps.

Joel Merry,

Sagadahoc County Sheriff

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