Baltimore is on track for a record number of homicides this year. Officials and residents are eager to consider “any kind of possible solutions” to stem the violence and drug related crime in the City.

There is a proven solution: provide access to quality early childhood care and education for every family. Research confirms that a child’s future is profoundly influenced by what happens during the first five years. Children who have access to quality early learning opportunities that encourage both emotional and intellectual development are far more likely than children without a strong start to avoid becoming either victims of or perpetrators of crime. As adults they have higher incomes, better health, more stable relationships and a reduced dependency on drugs and alcohol.

Douglas Lent (Courtesy Photo/LinkedIn)

Every child needs effective early childhood development to be successful, but disadvantaged children are least likely to get it. Every year there is more and more research that proves that investing in the early childhood development of disadvantaged children will produce great returns to individuals and society in better education, health, economic, and social outcomes—not only saving taxpayers money but increasing our nation’s economic productivity. Everyone gains when we invest, develop, and sustain the early development of America’s greatest natural resource—its people.

This is not just a city solution. When every child in the state has access to these programs, we will see less violence, crime, and drug addiction not just in Baltimore City but also in Harford County, the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and everywhere else fighting the opioid epidemic. We can stop violence and break the cycle if we start now and focus on our youngest citizens.

Douglas Lent is the communications director for Maryland Family Network, which works to ensure that young children and their families have the resources to learn and succeed by partnering with Family Support Centers and/or Child Care Resource Centers across the state.