The Nation's Infants and Toddlers Need Our Full Support

Dec 13, 2012

By Emily Firgens

There are over 12 million infants and toddlers under the age of 3 in the United States. Twenty-five percent of them live in poverty and 48 percent live in low-income families (families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level). Adverse experiences like poverty can negatively affect the development of infants and toddlers, having long-term impacts on their health and learning. Access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers can provide supports that lessen the negative effects of poverty. Sixty-three percent of mothers with infants are in the labor force, and infants and toddlers make up 30 percent of children receiving child subsidies. CLASP's Charting Progress project speaks directly to the needs of infants and toddlers, and how best to support them in their earliest years. Babies and toddlers need nurturing and responsive caregivers who can meet their diverse needs; healthy and safe environments; parents, providers, and caregivers who are supported by and linked to community resources; and families that have access to quality care options.

Understanding the demographics, families, health, and early learning experiences of infants and toddlers is crucial to effectively providing these supports to infants, toddlers, and their families. ZERO TO THREE's (ZTT) recently released National Baby Facts offers an informative picture of the nation's infants and toddlers. Findings include:

  • Seventy-five percent of infants and toddlers with a single parent are in low-income families, and 35 percent of infants and toddlers with married parents are in low-income families.
  • Sixty-three percent of infants and toddlers are white, 25.5 percent are Hispanic, 14.4 percent are black, and 4.7 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander; Hispanic and black infants and toddlers are more likely than white infants and toddlers to live in low-income families.
  • Over 8 percent of children under age 6 don't have health insurance coverage. Medicaid covers one-third of all births in the U.S. every year.
  • Twenty-four percent of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recipients are infants.
  • More than 30 percent of families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits have children under age 3.

National Baby Facts paints a picture of a diverse group of infants and toddlers. State and federal level policymakers can use this information to expand and better target child care and other supports to the needs of infants, toddlers, and their families. By fully supporting infants, toddlers, and their families, we can ensure our youngest children are healthy and ready to succeed in school and life.

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