Butler Eagle Letter to the Editor: Early prevention
June 4, 2016

We all know that education starts in the home. Parents are the first and foremost teacher of their children. All children should have safe and secure environments with able parents, but we know that’s not always the case.
Homes filled with abuse and neglect put children at increased risk of committing crimes later in life.

As district attorney, my duty is to administer justice to wrongdoers, but I can’t help wonder at times what if their criminal behavior had been prevented in the first place?

Fortunately, the 2016—17 Pennsylvania state budget proposes additional investments in our most vulnerable children and families that are proven to prevent future crime.

Included in the plan is an additional $10 million for voluntary home-visiting programs that help vulnerable parents — often abused and neglected themselves — learn how to better care for their children.

Through these various evidence-based services, trained health care and social work professionals provide guidance that helps parents assure the health, development and education of their babies from the prenatal months to age 5.

The results include reduced instances of child abuse and neglect, safe and stable homes, increased self-sufficiency, and improved school readiness for the children.

One program has demonstrated reduced maternal incarceration and lower juvenile crime rates when the children are older.

The Legislature is also considering a $90 million proposal to expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs to an additional 7.400 eligible children.

Decades of research are clear that at-risk children who receive high quality pre-K are more likely to succeed in school and steer clear of juvenile delinquency and crime. Expanding access to pre-K must also be accompanied by continued progress on implementing early learning workforce development practices through the Keystone STARS quality improvement initiative.

These investments will help more children grow up to be good neighbors and good citizens — and ultimately reduce taxpayer expense. I urge our legislators to support these investments in next year’s state budget.
Richard A. Goldinger
District Attorney of Butler County

See the letter to the editor here.