Child care and early education are essential to children’s learning and development, parents’ ability to work or obtain training and education, and our economy’s growth. Yet, the country’s child care and early education system is under tremendous strain—families struggle to find and afford high-quality early care and education, and child care workers struggle with low wages. While the federal government has a key role to play in supporting child care and early education, states can also act to fill the significant gaps that remain by investing their own resources and developing innovative policies that can offer models for the nation to follow.
As shown in the state-by-state summaries in this report, in 2022, many states allocated funding and resources, and/or adopted policies, with the goal of expanding families’ access to child care and early childhood education opportunities. Many states have also made investments and implemented policies to help support child care and early learning providers, by increasing wages, benefits, and professional development opportunities for the workforce. In addition, numerous states made investments in prekindergarten programs to serve more children and enhance quality. A few states have implemented or expanded paid parental leave programs. Some of the state progress this year was supported by temporary federal relief funds provided to sustain the child care system during the coronavirus pandemic; however, this report primarily focuses on states that supplemented federal relief with their own funds—or in a few cases, adopted particularly notable policies or initiatives with the support of federal relief dollars.
These new investments, policy changes, and implementation activities occurring throughout the country are an important start to ensuring that more children, families, and early care and education providers have access to the support systems needed to thrive. However, several states missed opportunities to increase funding or made policy changes that could reduce the quality of care. And while many states have made substantial progress, an accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and early education system that works for all children, families, and early care and education providers will only be possible with further significant, long-term investments and policy improvements both on the state and national levels.
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