Families of young children need paid leave, high-quality child care, and economic security to thrive
Following reports that members of the Democratic Senate caucus would like to see only one of three policies designed to support families in the Build Back Better reconciliation package, early childhood advocates made clear that the needs of families and babies are not up for negotiation. ZERO TO THREE, the country’s leading early childhood development nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, firmly stated that paid family and medical leave, the expanded Child Tax Credit, and support for child care are all necessary to allow families of babies and toddlers to not just survive, but to thrive.
ZERO TO THREE Chief Policy Officer Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor stated:
“For far too long, families have struggled to give their children what they need to thrive with inadequate investment from their federal government. Now, we finally have an opportunity to pass a historic, cohesive family policy to meet the needs of babies and their families. That means investing in comprehensive paid leave, high-quality child care, and an expanded Child Tax Credit. And most importantly, it means passing all three of these policies. Babies can’t pick and choose what they need, and neither should Congress.
“Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to go beyond platitudes and finally demonstrate a true commitment to our nation’s children, many of whom struggled long before the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we now have the chance to lift up our Black and Brown babies and families with low incomes who have faced systemic inequities limiting their potential for years. It’s past time for members of the House and Senate to stop using our children’s future as a bargaining chip and to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda so that our babies and toddlers can finally achieve the success they deserve.”
Comprehensive paid leave, high-quality child care, and the expanded Child Tax Credit together form a cohesive family policy that could transform the lives of today’s babies and generations to come. These policies fit together to create essential, basic support for our youngest children and families, finally bringing the United States in line with other nations.
Combined, these three policies ensure that families and their babies have the physical and emotional security necessary for healthy brain development, laying the foundation for future health, learning, and behavior. But despite overwhelming public support for these policies, access to these supports is not shared equally. ZERO TO THREE’s State of Babies Yearbook: 2021o makes clear that bold action is desperately needed on behalf of infants and toddlers across the nation. The report reveals that:
- 85 percent of working people in the United States do not have access to paid family leave through their employers, and lower-income workers and workers of color are even less likely to have access.
- 40.3 percent of babies nationwide live in poverty or low income, placing the U.S. 33rd for child poverty among 38 other nations. This includes nearly 19% of the nation’s 11.5 million babies who were living in outright poverty.
- Infant care is too expensive for many families, exceeding the cost of college tuition in more than half of states. Only 16 states allow child care subsidies for families with incomes over 200% of the federal poverty level, and just 4 percent of low- and moderate-income families that could use help with paying for child care receive a subsidy.
As negotiations continue, ZERO TO THREE’s Think Babies today organized a nationwide day of action in support of the Build Back Better Act. Thousands of families, providers, and advocacy organizations across the country are joining together to flood Congressional offices with a clear message: babies’ needs are non-negotiable.