Policy Resource

Babies & the President’s 2012 Budget

Feb 25, 2011

Although the FY 2011 funding process is taking center stage at the Capitol, the delivery last week of the President’s FY 2012 budget proposal provided a preview of coming attractions.

On the whole, this is a baby-friendly budget, continuing the President’s strong commitment to supporting early childhood education. He proposes to increase Head Start/Early Head Start by $866 million. Child care funding would be increased by a total of $1.3 billion through a combination of discretionary and mandatory funds. These increases would sustain the level of services provided with the investments in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More good news for babies comes in the form of a proposed $50 million boost for Part C Early Intervention services. Finally, $350 million would be provided to launch the Early Learning Challenge Fund, to help build strong early childhood systems and improve access for low-income children to high-quality services.

A welcome new initiative would provide $250 million for incentives to states to improve child outcomes and the well-being of children and youth in foster care. Such an initiative would be an important opportunity for infants and toddlers, who account for 31 percent of children coming into foster care. Yet, their developmental needs often are not well served by the current child welfare system.

The proposed budget would cap overall funding at 2010 levels for the next five years. The President has clearly established early childhood programs as a priority for investment even in a time of budget austerity. Yet, increases in some programs require decreases in others. Two proposed cuts raise particular concerns: $2.5 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and $350 million from the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program. Energy insecurity, which is accompanied by housing instability, food insecurity, and inadequate heating and cooling, is critical to the healthy development of infants and toddlers. CSBG funds community agencies that fight poverty and often administer Head Start/Early Head Start programs.

Keep in mind that the President’s budget is simply a proposal that kicks off a long process to establish actual funding levels. Already the House leadership is rejecting the idea of a funding freeze for FY 2011 as endorsed by the Senate Democrats. It seems safe to predict that the FY 2012 process is likely to be extremely contentious, with many obstacles to making young children the priority envisioned in the President’s budget.


  • Author

    Patricia A. Cole

    Senior Director of Federal Policy


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