Advocacy Tool

Infant-Toddler Child Care Talking Points

Download Files Sep 6, 2017

Engage fellow community members and your elected officials in thinking about child care using our talking points.

America’s Future Depends on Quality Child Care

  • Quality child care not only fuels our country’s economic engine by helping parents work, but also builds the workforce of the future.
  • Today, the majority of women with infants (62% of mothers) return to the workforce within the first year after their child’s birth. More than half of children under the age of three (more than 6 million) spend some or all of their day being cared for by someone other than their parents.

Why Child Care Quality Matters

Quality child care feeds a baby’s growing brain, building the foundation for the development and learning necessary for them to thrive as adults.

  • In the first three years of life, brain connections form at the rate of more than 1 million per second. Positive interactions with nurturing caregivers reinforce these connections, creating a strong foundation.
  • Quality child care prepares babies for future learning and success. This includes cognitive and communication skills, expanded vocabulary, social and emotional skills, and higher scores on math and language measures over time.
  • In high-quality environments, children have been shown to have enhanced vocabularies, have more sophisticated attention and memory skills, and get along better with peers.
  • Quality care is tough to access, especially for those who need it most. Three out of four infants are in low or mediocre quality care settings that can be detrimental to their development.
  • Low-income children fall behind well before they enter Pre-K. Research shows that at age 2, low-income toddlers are already 6 months behind in their language processing skills.
  • Access to quality child care can set low-income children on a path to:
    • Higher reading and math achievement;
    • Complete elementary and high school on time;
    • Attend and complete college;
    • Increased earnings;
    • Greater employment; and
    • Better health as adults.
  • Despite research that shows at-risk children – children from families with few resources and under great stress – benefit most from quality child care, low quality care is often the only care available in low-income communities.

Components of Quality Child Care

  • A nurturing environment. The quality of child care ultimately boils down to the relationship between the child care provider and the child. To help children make connections that support their development, there should be no more than a 1:4 caregiver to child ratio and no more than eight children per group.
  • A competent workforce. Caregivers and teachers should have specialized knowledge and skill in early childhood development, with a focus on infant and toddlers.
  • A compensated workforce. Average child care wages are at the bottom of the occupational ladder at just over $10 an hour, despite extensive research showing that better paid staff are associated with better quality care.
  • Continuity of care. One primary, but not exclusive, caregiver for at least one year, and optimally until age three, is critical for an infant’s emotional development.

Child Care Cost

  • Infant-toddler care, especially high-quality care, is prohibitively expensive.
  • In 33 states and Washington, D.C., child care costs more than college tuition at a state university.
  • Child care assistance for low-income families reaches fewer than one out of every six eligible children and is continuing to decline.
  • Many low-income families don’t benefit from the current child care tax credit because they have little or no federal income tax liability. Moreover, the maximum tax benefit does not approach the actual cost of infant-toddler care.
  • The cost of center-based, infant child care remains unaffordable in 49 states and Washington, D.C.– if it can be found at all.

Policy Recommendations

  • The child care system has been starved for resources. Funding for the Child Care and Development Fund has stagnated over the past decade. As a result, since 2006, the number of children served by the Child Care and Development Block Grant has dropped by more than 373,000.
  • Quality—the aspect of child care that recognizes its importance in influencing rapid brain development of young children in care—has not been a central emphasis of child care funding over the past few decades.
  • Congress must come together to make affordable, high-quality child care a reality for working families.
  • To ensure all families can access quality, affordable child care, Congress must:
    • Significantly expand the existing mandatory federal funding stream for child care, the Child Care Development Fund, so states can:
      • Increase access to affordable, quality care and ensure appropriate compensation for a well-trained workforce
        • Make child care assistance available to all eligible low- and moderate-income families who need it;
        • Enable states to increase payment rates to providers to ensure appropriate compensation; and
        • Ensure states have the resources to implement the reforms required under the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.
      • Invest intentionally in building quality care specifically for infants and toddlers:
        • Increase the number and availability of high-quality providers;
        • Increase the qualifications of the workforce;
        • Instill more infant-toddler content in early childhood degree programs; and
        • Ensure that infants and toddlers in families with a severe lack of resources have access to quality care commensurate with Early Head Start.
    • Improve the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) to:
      • Make it refundable so that it is available to more low- and moderate-income families;
      • Increase its sliding scale to benefit more middle-income families; and
      • Raise expense limits to cover a greater proportion of families’ child care costs.

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