Early Childhood

What is Our Goal?

The Nicholson Foundation seeks to ensure that every young child in New Jersey has access to safe, high-quality care and education.

Why Are the First Few Years of Childhood so Critical?

Research shows that experiences between birth and age eight lay the foundation for later abilities to learn, work, and adopt healthy behaviors. There are no do-overs in childhood. During the first three years of life, the brain develops more rapidly than at any other time during a person’s entire life. Studies have demonstrated that early experiences profoundly affect brain development, and children raised in low-income environments face greater risks for negative cognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes than their higher-income peers. 

Mounting evidence demonstrates that participation in high-quality care and education programs during the early years has a lasting positive impact on later learning, behavior, employment, and physical and mental health. Unfortunately, high-quality childcare is in short supply in New Jersey. A 2017 study estimated that nearly 75 percent of the state’s more than 207,000 babies and toddlers with working parents cannot get licensed care. In addition, only a small fraction of the early childhood care and education available for low-income children is judged to be of high quality.

Children who live with poverty, family stress, language barriers, and other risk factors benefit the most from high-quality early childhood programs and community supports.

Clinton Hill Community Center provides early childhood care to children in Newark's South Ward and participates in the Newark Shared Services Alliance with nine other child care centers.

What We Do

The Nicholson Foundation strengthens early childhood development from birth to age eight by increasing access to, and the quality of, early care and education in New Jersey. We recognize that lasting change with statewide impact requires a comprehensive approach, supporting young children at every stage of their development. And because what happens in the early years is intimately linked to lifelong health, our projects also address the health challenges facing young children in underserved communities. 

Our work in this area includes:

  • Supporting the Great Falls Promise Neighborhood, a coordinated network of programs and services for children ages 0 to 5 years and their parents that work together to build physical, emotional, and cognitive health.
  • Expanding Early Head Start in Paterson, Garfield, and Jersey City to meet the needs of a growing number of eligible infants and toddlers whose families lack access to high-quality, affordable child care.
  • Launching the Right From the Start NJ public awareness and advocacy campaign to educate the public at large and New Jersey policy makers about the importance of the early years of child development and the need for greater investment in early care and education.