Statement for the Record of Miriam Calderon, Chief Policy Officer
Chair Murray and Vice Chair Collins:
Thank you for holding today’s hearing to review the President’s Supplemental Request for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, including the important recognition of the urgent needs of both families and providers in the child care system. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the long-standing weaknesses of child care in the United States, where for years families have been challenged to find and afford quality care, especially for infants and toddlers, and child care providers have been locked into low wages that in no way correspond to the critical work they do to shape the foundational development of the youngest children. If the experiences of the last few years revealed child care’s fault lines, they also showed that bold investments can make a difference. Now we stand at an inflection point. For families and early educators, the crisis of the past few years continues. The child care system once again is at the brink of serious erosion, placing family work efforts, support for early development, and the viability of the child care workforce in jeopardy. I urge you to heed the President’s call and provide $16 billion to support the child care system that we know is essential to the United States’ economy.
ZERO TO THREE’s mission is to ensure every infant and toddler has what they need to thrive. We translate the science of early childhood development into useful knowledge and strategies for parents, practitioners, and policymakers. We work to ensure that babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their wellbeing and healthy development. Research tells us that second only to the family, child care is a key environment in which early development unfolds. It is also the key to economic security that all babies need to thrive. A central focus of our work is ensuring families have high quality, developmentally appropriate settings for their infants and toddlers and early educators are supported and compensated for the vital work they do.
My comments address the following points:
- The landscape for families of infants and toddlers is one where many families have low and moderate incomes and struggle to find care they can afford, with few assisted by federal funding.
- Stabilization funding that expired in September helped a broad spectrum of programs and families, the vast majority of whom are not in the subsidy system, keep their heads above water and especially benefitted infant-toddler care.
- Even with the stabilization funds, the experiences of families with babies and providers who care for them still reflected ongoing challenges of scarcity, lack of affordability, low wages, and high provider stress.
- Without continued investment, these challenges are likely to worsen, reflected in parents’ and early educators’ concerns about being able to stay in business. A steady erosion of the nation’s child care assets, including continued workforce losses, seems likely, increasing the costs and complexity of rebuilding in the future.
- Other sources of funding are unlikely to fill the gaps across the country, especially given the weak history of state investment in infant-toddler early education.
- Parents of infants and toddlers overwhelmingly believe that Congress and the President have a responsibility to address urgent child care needs.
These observations add up to one conclusion: the need for continued investment to shore up the child care system is evident and urgent. Without stabilization funding, the breathing room the funds provided the system will once again close in on families and providers, stifling parents’ work efforts and a dedicated workforce’s determination to be present for both parents and children. Failure to act now will require higher investments in the future to rebuild the child care sector. Inaction will undermine the child care workforce as well as families’ ability to work, and leave young children without the continuous, responsive care they need to develop and thrive.
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