Early Childhood Education Update (April 2014)

April 04, 2014 | Child Care and Early Education

In This Issue:

CLASP Brief: Low-Income Families Navigating Volatile Job Schedules and Child Care are Scrambling for Stability

A new CLASP brief, Scrambling for Stability, explores the challenges many low-income parents face as they navigate the mazes of volatile job schedules and child care simultaneously.  It provides an overview of the important, but limited, research in this area, as well as potential action steps, with the goal of bringing together two often juxtaposing policy and advocacy worlds: job quality and worker fairness; and child care and early education.

Utilizing existing research, the brief reveals that because volatile and nonstandard schedules are increasingly the new normal for low-wage workers, child care arrangements are often difficult to coordinate.  As a result, parents facing scheduling and child care challenges experience heightened economic insecurity when the two issues collide.  These scheduling challenges then limit parents’ child care options—which could potentially put them at risk of losing their jobs if the inability to secure child care forces them to miss work—and limits access to child care assistance subsidies that would benefit these low-income families.

Noting that this subject area needs more research and data collection to better inform future policy work and advocacy, the brief acknowledges that volatile scheduling and lack of access to high-quality, affordable child care are extremely challenging problems that, when taken together, may seem daunting.

As a starting point, the brief provides some practical steps that advocates and policymakers can take to move the agenda forward in a way that would make real differences in the lives of low-income families; these steps include developing public policies to increase job schedule predictability and stability and creating more flexible child care subsidy options.

In closing, the brief argues that the problem must be addressed on both fronts. We need better child care options and more flexible child care subsidy policies, as well as policies that reverse the trend toward low-quality jobs with unmanageable schedules.  Together, policy experts and advocates from the handful of fields that are touched by these issues can work towards improved policies that better support families’ economic advancement and children’s healthy development. 

Read the full report here>>

Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization Passes Senate; CLASP ED Testifies at House Hearing

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is an essential work support for low-income parents, providing access to child care for 1.4 million children whose parents could not otherwise afford the high costs of care. In March, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 with a vote of 96 to 2. The bill is an important step forward for improving continuity for children and their parents, ensuring children’s health and safety, and strengthening the quality of care—focusing particularly on infants and toddlers, the most vulnerable of children.

Following passage in the House, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing, “Foundation for Success: Strengthening the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program,” where CLASP Executive Director Olivia Golden testified. She discussed several key provisions of the Senate reauthorization bill as well as the need for resources to support quality improvements and ensure low-income families are able to retain access to vital help in paying for child care. At this time, there is no companion bill in the House. 

Read the testimony here>>

CLASP Brief Highlights Importance of Two-Generation Policy Agenda for Addressing Maternal Depression

This brief summarizes why early childhood and anti-poverty advocates should view addressing maternal depression—a major public health problem that interferes with a parent’s capacity to help a child develop and hinders their efforts to escape poverty—as a way to create pathways out of poverty for both generations.

The brief explains how policy and system barriers have historically prevented us from addressing maternal depression and its damaging effects on children (particularly young children living in deep poverty) — placing at risk their safety and cognitive and behavioral development.  With clear linkages established between income fluctuations and levels of depression, it’s now clear that treating maternal depression helps both mothers and children escape from poverty.

The brief notes that recent policy and system changes give us the opportunity to design and implement reforms that would increase the number of mothers who receive effective treatment. Likewise, there is strong evidence that in addition to benefiting mothers’ wellbeing, these reforms would strengthen children’s emotional and social development and learning—helping families across the country rise out of poverty.

Read the full brief here>>

CLASP 2012 Head Start State Profiles Provide State-By-State Data on Head Start Programs

CLASP’s updated 2012 Head Start State Profiles, and new interactive map, provide state-by-state data on all Head Start programs: Early Head Start, Head Start preschool, and Migrant/Seasonal Head Start.  The profiles also include information on Head Start participants, families, staff, and programs. All Head Start grantees are required to submit Program Information Report (PIR) data to the federal government on an annual basis. 

According to the 2012 Head Start PIR data:

  • Head Start served over 1.1 million children nationally—5,000 more children than the previous year.
  • 25 percent of children in Head Start primarily spoke Spanish in their homes.
  • 41 percent of children served in Head Start were white, 37 percent were Hispanic, 29 percent were black, and 9 percent were bi- or multi-racial.
  • 97 percent of children had access to a medical home and were up-to-date on their immunizations at the end of the Head Start program year.
  • 91 percent had access to a dental home at the end of the program year.
  • 96 percent had access to health insurance at the end of the program year.
  • 76 percent of families accessed at least one family support service through Head Start.

The data analyzed in these 2012 state profiles illustrates that Head Start programs, including Early Head Start (EHS) and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, are working hard to meet the needs of vulnerable families. However, only 42 percent of all eligible Head Start children and about 4 percent of all eligible EHS children in the U.S. are currently able to participate in these programs. 

View the interactive map here>>

Two Briefs from ASPE Address Achievement Gap and Impacts of Public Early Care and Education Programs

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released two research briefs about young children and the impacts of early education programs.

The first summarizes what is known about children’s achievement and development gaps by family income, socioeconomic status, and other factors.  Achievement and development gaps related to socio-economic status begin well before kindergarten and continue to widen as children grow older—with differences in cognitive and behavioral skills and health becoming apparent as early as nine months of age.  Experiencing poverty early in life relates to disparities in long-term social, educational, and economic outcomes.  Over the past few decades, gaps in achievement between children living in the poorest households and their peers living in the highest-income households have widened. 

The most consistent evidence for addressing children’s school readiness skills and narrowing the achievement gap supports high-quality early care and education programs.  In a related brief, ASPE presents a summary of what is known about the short- and long-term impacts of large, high-quality public early care and education programs in the United States on children’s development prior to kindergarten entry, including what key features of programs lead to the best outcomes, as well as how to sustain program benefits as children grow older. 

In the short-term, research indicates that one or more years of high-quality, developmentally appropriate early care and education improves a range of children’s outcomes, including language, literacy, and numeracy skills.  While only a few studies have longitudinal data to assess long-term outcomes, reductions in crime and substance abuse and improvements in high school graduation rates and adult earnings have been observed.

The brief highlights key high-quality early care and education program features that lend themselves to better outcomes for children and families, with stimulating, supportive teacher-child interactions being the most important feature. 

Read “The Early Achievement and Development Gap” here>>
Read “Impacts of Public Early Care and Education” here>>

Interactive Tool Provides Comprehensive Data on Child Well-Being Across Racial and Ethnic Groups

The Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy (ICYFP) at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management has launched diversitydatakids.org—an online tool for exploring quality of life data across metropolitan areas for children of different racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

The site allows users to access national and state-level data, as well as data from smaller localities such as metropolitan areas, school districts, and neighborhoods. Users can create customized profiles, rankings and maps of key information. Additionally, the site generates unique, equity-focused indicators of known structural factors, such as demographics, education, economic opportunity, housing, neighborhoods, and health, which all influence disparities in healthy child development.

It also features comprehensive data and analysis on child well-being and inequity among diverse racial and ethnic child populations in the United States.  It spans multiple topic areas chosen to comprise the many facets of child health and well-being (such as population demographics and diversity, education, early childhood care and education, school segregation and poverty, health, neighborhoods, residential segregation, and income and poverty) and the wide range of factors underlying child opportunity and equity.  Moreover, it provides a mapping utility, showing a range of indicator values for metros across the United States, as well as the ability to create bar charts and histograms to further visualize the data.

The tool allows viewers to see how a child’s experience varies by race and ethnicity across the country. 

View the interactive tool here>>

Urban Institute Report Supports Pre-kindergarten Access for Immigrant Families

A new report from the Urban Institute builds on interviews conducted with over 40 pre-kindergarten directors and staff, directors of early childhood education programs, and other specialists on the subject of improving pre-kindergarten access for immigrant families and English Language Learners (ELLs). 

The report outlines several strategies for improving access, including: outreach to immigrant families and English Language learners; enrolling families; and building strong relationships with parents.

Outreach: Methods to ensure immigrant families with children are aware of pre-kindergarten and available programs include getting the word out to immigrant families with children about pre-kindergarten and available programs by participating in community events, going door-to-door in targeted neighborhoods, reaching parents in places they already frequent such as grocery stores and churches, encouraging parents of enrolled children to recruit other parents, and using mass media.  They sustained outreach efforts by targeting resources to children of immigrants and ELLs, drawing from flexible funding, tapping existing staff to hire a designated cultural liaison, and weaving outreach into program reporting requirements.

Enrolling families: To help parents meet paperwork requirements and streamline the application forms and enrollment process, the report recommends accepting multiple document sources to fulfill enrollment requirements and being flexible in the ways that families can verify their income. They also suggest creating enrollment forms sensitive to immigrant family’s needs, offering multiple ways to enroll, providing enrollment assistance, and offering a variety of enrollment times and locations—an approach that benefits all families.

Building relationships: Outreach to immigrant families about available pre-kindergarten programs can become self-sustaining through building trust and good relationships with parents and communities.  To achieve this, the report recommends having a welcoming attitude, working with trusted community partners, proactively engaging and including immigrant parents, building capacity for communicating with immigrant parents, addressing logistical barriers such as volatile work schedules, and building cultural competency that supports families cultural beliefs and practices. 

Read the full report here>>

NWLC Update on Unionization of Home-Based Child Care Providers

In February 2007, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) published Getting Organized: Unionizing Home-Based Child Care Providers, a report focused on the growing movement to unionize home-based child care providers—both regulated family child care (FCC) providers and family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care providers who are exempt from regulation but receive public funds—to negotiate with the state for better compensation and working conditions.  This 2013 Update reports on legal developments between early 2010 and October 2013 that expanded—or limited—authority for home-based child care providers to organize and negotiate.

The report finds:

  • In three states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island), providers attained new legal authority to organize and negotiate with the state.
  • In Minnesota, new legislation gave providers authority to organize that was stayed (temporarily halted) by court order:
  • In New Jersey, prior authority to organize and negotiate with the state was codified.
  • In Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin, providers’ legal authority to organize and negotiate with the state was revoked.
  • In Ohio, providers’ legal authority to organize and negotiate with the state survived a challenge—the repeal of a law that would have curtailed collective bargaining rights in the state.
  • In California, there was an unsuccessful effort to establish providers’ legal authority to organize and negotiate with the state.

The home-based unionization movement has been successful in securing better and more regular compensation and benefits for providers, more efficient payment procedures, processes for resolving grievances, greater access to training, and a stronger voice in rulemaking. Yet the report finds more active opposition to unionizing home-based providers in states, in some cases related to broader anti-union activity. 

Read the report here>>

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