I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes. Here's just one example. Lots of people I know and respect have been stressing the importance of early childhood education in combating poverty and a host of ills. I was generally for it, but it took me a while to really get it.
This is also an area in which West Virginia is something of a natural leader. It has made significant progress over the last few years and recently passed legislation to take it further. Governor Tomblin has appointed a task force to look for further improvements. For once, state leaders are even saying nice things about federal policies the Obama administration is promoting.
As important as pre-kindergarten education is, there's a lot of research that suggests that the first two years of life are critical for brain development and for all kinds of later outcomes. This New Republic article does a good job of summing it up. I hope WV picks up on some policies that can help parents through this period, such as voluntary home visiting programs by social workers or nurses and other steps to improve the quality of child care.
Ideally, the visiting program could begin with pregnancy and continue for the first few years, building a relationship with the infant and the parent or parents and offering support, advice and coaching. It could head off a lot of trouble down the road.