Resource

Help Parents Earn While Children Learn: Invest in Child Care and Early Learning

Child care and early learning opportunities help children get the strong start they need to succeed and enable parents to work so they can support their families and/or go to school to attain the skills they need to improve their economic circumstances. Yet, many families—particularly low-income families, families with infants or children with special needs, and parents working nontraditional hours (evenings, nights, weekends, or irregular schedules)—struggle to find and afford child care. The average annual cost of child care for one child ranges from nearly $3,000 to over $20,000, depending on where the family lives, the age of the child, and the type of care. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the major federal child care program, is aimed at helping low-income families afford these costs, but it falls far short of meeting the need. Fewer than one in six children eligible for federal child care assistance receives help. Many children—particularly low-income children who stand to benefit the most—also lack access to high-quality preschool. Some support for prekindergarten is provided through federal and state programs, but these programs serve at most 43 percent of four-year-olds and just 16 percent of three-year-olds, and most state programs lack sufficient quality standards. In addition, the child care and early education professionals who care for and teach our children typically earn low wages that leave them straining to support themselves and their own families.