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The Data Paint a Clear Picture
The Yearbook is far more than a collection of data and insights; it's a fervent call to action to stand as champions for change to ensure that every baby has a strong start in life.
Reflecting on the babies who were born five years ago, when the first edition of the Yearbook was released, their entry into the K-12 educational system marks a significant milestone. Most of their lives have been shaped by the COVID pandemic. The systems and resources this next generation of babies and toddlers has also been greatly influenced by the pandemic. And, unsurprisingly, the data confirm that the pandemic and associated economic downturn left many babies, especially babies of color, experiencing low income and living in conditions that science tells us can have a detrimental impact on healthy development.
Amid these challenges, the Yearbook cast a spotlight on the bold action that policymakers at both the state and federal levels took to mitigate the pandemic’s consequences. During this time, we saw the largest investment in child care in our nation’s history and the provision of continuous access to health care through Medicaid. Most notably, changes to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) lifted 2.9 million children out of poverty, with 6.4 million children added to public health insurance and child care funding aiding nearly 10 million children.
The evidence is unequivocal: investments in responsive policies bear fruit.
The numbers tell an inspiring story, showing that policy choices can break the chains of poverty, safeguard health coverage and provide essential child care support for families with young children.
Today, we stand at a crossroads of policy and possibility. Congress and the Biden Administration had a chance to step up with a lasting commitment to support young children and families—long called for by ZERO TO THREE and its partners.
Proposals on the table included a national paid family medical leave policy, expansion of access to high-quality early care and education and other critical reforms originally introduced as part of the Administration’s American Families Plan and then included in the Build Back Better Act, which successfully passed through the U.S. House. But when the final law — the Inflation Reduction Act — was negotiated, the baby agenda was left out.
In the reality of divided government following the 2022 mid-term elections, it’s hard to
conclude anything other than our nation is now backtracking on bold investment in our youngest children—and our future.
The pandemic is over, but for millions of babies and their families, the state of emergency
continues. Job losses and wage cuts still affect Americans every day, as they did before the pandemic. So do illness and injury, hunger, eviction and homelessness—and even unexpected deaths. When these issues occur, there are real consequences for babies’ healthy development and learning. And as before COVID, these threats more often affect babies of color and those living in poverty, perpetuating inequities that put them at greater risk.
Now, more than ever, we must unite.
We know what must be done. The State of Babies Yearbook: 2023 is a blueprint for transformation to put our nation back on the path towards a sustained, bold agenda to support babies and their families.
It identifies five imperatives where urgent action is needed at the federal level: maternal health, infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH), child care, housing and economic security.
Together, let us elevate our voices to drive real, lasting change. ALL babies deserve equal opportunity to thrive and to step onto a life path paved with promise. Stand with us as advocates, as changemakers, as baby champions.
Together, we can shape a reality where every baby is embraced by possibility, where every family is empowered and where our nation’s tomorrows are infinitely brighter.