Child Care on the Front Pages

May 26, 2010

By Danielle Ewen

Every day, parents drop off nearly 12 million children at child care, according to the Census Bureau. Families depend on child care for their economic well-being and to help their children thrive. This week, a variety of media, including the New York Times and Huffington Post, picked up on just how critical quality child care is for the nation's families.

First, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) released the latest findings of the Early Child Care and Youth Development Study, which reports parents have the largest impact on children's growth and development. However, quality child care plays a major role:

Teens who were in high-quality child care settings as young children scored slightly higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement and were slightly less likely to report acting-out behaviors than peers who were in lower-quality child care arrangements during their early years...

This study has prompted discussion, such as local Washington, D.C. radio WAMU's thought-provoking conversation on "How Day Care Affects Children."

Yet as the economic recession continues to impact states, communities, and families, quality child care is becoming more difficult for families to find and afford. While the economic stimulus funds helped many states provide child care assistance to low-income working families, many still find themselves on waiting lists. In a front page article, the New York Times detailed how difficult it is for people to find and keep jobs without help paying for the costs of child care. A piece by Jim Wallis in the Huffington Post echoed the importance of child care assistance in helping families stay off of welfare.

Congress continues its interest in early childhood as well, with a hearing this week in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. After testimony on the importance of high quality early childhood settings and the need for linkages with schools, Senator Dodd highlighted the roles the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start play in supporting families. He congratulated Helen Blank of the National Women's Law Center for her decades of work to ensure that low-income working families have the supports they need to succeed and help their children flourish. A taping of the hearing is available on the HELP website (please skip to 113:33 on the video to view Senator Dodd highlight the role of CCDBG and Head Start as well as congratulate Helen Blank).   

Congress has the opportunity to keep child care on the front pages by adopting President Obama's budget request for a $1.6 billion increase in CCDBG and $987 million in Head Start through the FY 2011 Appropriations process. Significant investments in these programs will help ensure that families and their children have access to the high-quality child care programs they need, and demonstrate that Congress is in touch with what's most important to families.

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