Following the 2022 State of the Union address, in which President Joe Biden lifted up the importance of investing in the care economy, leading advocates praised the importance of providing for families nationwide. ZERO TO THREE, the country’s leading early childhood development nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, called on Congress to reengage on critical issues to ensure parents of young children have the support they need to thrive.
ZERO TO THREE Chief Policy Officer Miriam Calderón stated:
“Tonight, before the nation, President Biden spoke directly to the importance of investing in our families and the care economy. For too long, parents have been burdened with painfully high child care costs while providers struggle to stay in business or care for their own families, have not had the paid leave they need to bond with their new baby or heal from childbirth, and have lacked access to the resources they need for their families to thrive. Families are consistently forced to make impossible choices between caring for young children or a loved one and putting food on the table. But as the President made clear tonight, we can and will fight to ensure that we are giving all families what they need to help their children thrive. We made great strides last year to support parents with young children through historic investments in child care and the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, but there is too much at stake to let up now. It is past time for Congress to reengage on these critical issues for our infants and toddlers, and we echo President Biden’s call for them to do so at once.
“Additionally, we were heartened to hear the President highlight the importance of mental health for all ages during tonight’s address. Our systems were not built with the mental health needs of babies and toddlers in mind. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to make certain that young children and their caregivers are at the center of this new plan.”
To sustainably grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, our federal government needs to provide for families with young children by prioritizing issues such as comprehensive child care support, universal paid leave, and the Child Tax Credit. ZERO TO THREE’s State of Babies Yearbook: 2021 makes clear that bold action is desperately needed on behalf of infants and toddlers across the nation, revealing:
- More than 40 percent of babies nationwide live in families in poverty or with low income, placing the U.S. 33rd for child poverty among 38 other nations. This includes nearly 19 percent of the nation’s 11.5 million babies who were living in outright poverty.
- When a family is living with low income, they are less likely to receive preventative care or developmental screening for their babies; more likely to live in crowded housing, unsafe neighborhoods, or move frequently; and their children are more likely to have multiple adverse early experiences.
- 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 percent of the federal poverty level, and just 4 percent of low- and moderate-income families receive a subsidy to help pay for child care.
- Only 11 percent of those income-eligible infants and toddlers have access to Early Head Start, which provides comprehensive child development and family support services to the most overburdened and under-resourced children and families. The proportion served varies from 3 to 23 percent across states.
- Paid leave is essential for allowing families to take time off after birth or adoption, or if a child has a serious health need or a family member is sick. But 85 percent working people in the United States do not have access to paid leave through their employers. That means many parents must make the impossible choice between taking the time they need to bond with and care for their babies and losing their jobs or economic security.
- Parents and caregivers influence babies’ social and emotional development from the start. As early as three months, babies experience a whole range of emotions like joy, sadness, anger, interest, and excitement. Children who consistently feel loved, comforted, and have the freedom to play form more brain connections, which increases their ability to trust, relate, communicate, and learn.