Porter-Leath: A model early childhood program serving Shelby County families

When it comes to early childhood development, programs that are aligned with our understanding of best practice policy are actively serving at-risk children and families in Shelby County.

Porter-Leath, A United Way partner agency based in Memphis for over 150 years, offers a continuum of services from pregnancy through early childhood and serves over 10,000 children and families annually.

By focusing on data-driven outcomes and accountability standards, Porter-Leath serves as a model of efficiency in our community and continues to fulfill their mission to empower children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle. We applaud the staff of Porter-Leath for their dedication to the children of Memphis and look forward to their continued success as an early intervention leader in our community.

A child’s first three years of life are a crucial period of social, emotional and cognitive development. During this period, children's brains grow at an amazing rate, and positive developmental experiences help to assure that our youngest citizens are set on a path to success in school and beyond. Unfortunately, when children’s earliest exchanges, relationships and surroundings are characterized by hardship, distress, anxiety, and insecurity, their social, emotional and cognitive growth lags behind their peers. Too often, these early developmental disadvantages are exacerbated as a child matures to adulthood.

Over forty years of careful evaluation research demonstrates that focused investments in comprehensive, high-quality early childhood education and family development provide impressive returns to both individuals and society (Rolnick & Grunewald, 2006). Proven programs -such as the Chicago Child Parent Centers and Nurse Family Partnership- are primary elements of a comprehensive early childhood initiative that can enhance the quality of life for vulnerable children with the capability to advance the future of our communities.