In McLennan County, approximately 49% of women have their first child at 20 years or younger, according to the 2013 Waco-McLennan Community Health Needs Assessment1. Research informs us that children born to women under the age of 20 have a higher risk for low birth weight and infant mortality; have fewer skills and are less prepared to learn when they enter kindergarten; and are more likely to give birth as a teen2.
Waco Foundation strives to improve the quality of life for all the citizens of McLennan County. In 2009 the Foundation commissioned a study to develop a central baseline for understanding the current condition of the youngest residents in McLennan County (access the full report here [PDF].) On a 100 point scale using 12 risk factors most closely linked to a child’s health and education development, McLennan County has an average quality of life for children 0-3 of only 41.67%. While working with agencies and collaborations, Waco Foundation trustees recognized the need for a central, comprehensive early childhood initiative, thereby launching SmartBabies Early Childhood Initiative. Overall, the Initiative strives to increase the quality of life for all citizens by improving the quality of life for children 0-3 years old.