The Congressional Baby Caucus Focuses on Child Care and Early Head Start for Infants and Toddlers

On February 7th, NWLC was excited to participate in a briefing for the Congressional Baby Caucus with Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Zero to Three (which just released its State of the Babies Yearbook: 2019), and the National Governor’s Association. The briefing covered the importance of infant and toddler care, how the historic increase in Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding has provided additional support to infants and toddlers, and views from governors about the crucial role of child care and early learning.
In her opening remarks, Rep. DeLauro set the stage by describing the state of child care for infants and toddlers. She captured why the government has a clear stake in investing in infant and toddler care, citing its impact on family budgets, its importance to families with parents in the workforce, and its ability to shape children’s learning outcomes. Rep. DeLauro rightfully pointed out that, “We have to continue to make investments in our communities, children, and families if we want to see returns.”
Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer at Zero to Three, kicked off the briefing by discussing the importance of a child’s first three years to their brain development. She discussed the role of Early Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships in supporting parents with very young children and lifting the quality of child care. While Early Head Start has demonstrated its positive impact on the lives of young children, it only reaches 7 percent of eligible infants and toddlers.
Helen Blank, Director of Child Care and Early Learning at NWLC, described the important role that CCDBG plays, especially for infants and toddlers. Twenty-eight percent of children receiving child care support through CCDBG are under the age of three. Three percent of CCDBG funds are reserved to increase the supply and quality of care specifically for infants and toddlers. These investments are essential because parents with young children face the highest child care costs, yet current investments fall short. While the $2.37 billion increase to CCDBG approved in March 2018 helped many states increase payments to child care providers, eliminate waiting lists for child care assistance, and support new initiatives to raise the quality of child care, many gaps remain. Total funds for child care in FY 2018 remained nearly $1 billion short of the total funding level in FY 2001, after adjusting for inflation. And only one in six children eligible for federal child care assistance receives it.
Helen highlighted how the CCDBG increase are helping raise payments to providers serving infants and toddlers in several states, including Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas are using the new CCDBG funds to support quality initiatives with a focus on infants and toddlers. Meanwhile, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas are using the increased funding to serve children, including infants and toddlers, who had been on their waiting lists for child care assistance.
Lastly, Morgan Wilson from the National Governor’s Association discussed governors’ increased interest in child care and their recognition of the importance of federal as well as state funding for services for young children.
We are excited by the progress made so far in helping our families and children, but more work remains. This year, we are asking Congress to build on last year’s investment by increasing the FY 2020 appropriation for CCDBG by an additional $5 billion. This investment will allow states to provide child care assistance to more families and offer more support to the teachers caring for children, which will in turn enable parents to work and help give children the strong start they need to succeed. We must invest in #ChildCareNow!