Child care and early education is vital to parents’ work and educational opportunities, children’s development, and the economy’s growth. Yet, families struggle to find and access affordable, high-quality child care, and the child care workforce struggles with inadequate compensation. These challenges will likely only worsen with the end of the child care relief funding provided during the pandemic under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)—including $24 billion in child care stabilization grant funding for child care providers that expired at the end of September 2023, and $15 billion in supplemental funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) that is set to expire at the end of September 2024—unless additional long-term federal funding is provided.

While federal investment is crucial to ensure a strong child care system across the country, states can also play an important role in supporting progress on child care through investments and innovative policies. As shown in the state-by-state summaries in this report, many states made progress in 2023, adopting policies and/or allocating resources to expand families’ access to child care and early learning opportunities and better support the child care workforce. A number of states provided funding to increase early educators’ wages, benefits, and professional development opportunities in an effort to boost recruitment and retention. Some states expanded eligibility for child care assistance so that more families could receive help paying for care. Several states expanded their prekindergarten programs to serve more children and enhance quality. A few states were able to either reverse past child care policies that were detrimental to families or block new legislation that would have a negative impact on child care programs and the families they serve.

The new investments and policy changes approved and/or implemented in 2023 are essential to ensuring families, child care programs, and early learning educators have the necessary support to succeed. Although many states improved their child care systems, not all states had success in 2023. Several states missed opportunities to increase funding or pass legislation that would enhance early care and education for their families. Further sustainable, long-term investments and policy improvements across all states are necessary to create a child care system that works for all families, children, and child care providers.