Early Childhood Education Update - January 2011

January 07, 2011 | Child Care & Early Education

In this issue:

CLASP RELEASES U.S. CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROFILE 2009

CLASP has released a new factsheet, U.S. Child Care Assistance Profile 2009, which summarizes recently released child care spending data for 2009. Newly released data from the Office of Child Care show that funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have been critical in holding off state cuts to child care programs, despite that total spending on child care assistance (CCDBG and TANF-related funds) declined slightly from $12.6 billion in 2008 to $12.4 billion in 2009.  State spending patterns varied greatly, with 33 states increasing overall spending and 18 states making cuts.

The 2009 expenditures include $260 million in ARRA funds that became available February 2009. Without these funds, state expenditures would likely have declined even further and an additional seven states would have cut spending on child care.  Unfortunately, these funds are now largely spent and states are struggling to keep their programs together in the face of continued budget crises. Related data on the number of children served in 2009 are not yet available. In 2008, an estimated 2.5 million children received child care assistance through all sources, including CCDBG, TANF and SSBG. If ARRA funds are not retained, this number may fall as 300,000 children may soon lose access to child care and Head Start.

Further detailed analysis of national and state trends in child care spending in 2009, as well as state-specific fact sheets, will be forthcoming from CLASP. 

STATES' USE OF EARLY LEARNING GUIDELINES FOR INFANTS AND TODDLERS

In 2002, Arkansas became the first to develop early learning guidelines (ELGs) for infants and toddlers. Since then, 31 states and 3 territories have published infant/toddler ELGs. To gain a better understanding of how these ELGs are being implemented by states and integrated into early childhood systems, ZERO TO THREE and the National Infant and Toddler Child Care Initiative conducted interviews with representatives from eight states (AR, CA, ME, MN, NC, OH, PA, VA). Findings from the interviews are presented in a new policy brief, Putting Standards Into Practice: States' Use of Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers. The brief discusses how states are disseminating the ELGs and educating providers and others on how to incorporate them into practice. In addition, the brief highlights how states are linking the ELGs to quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) and aligning them with other system parts, such as standards for older children.

According to the brief, states are implementing ELGs for infants and toddlers through a variety of approaches. Some states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, require providers participating in a QRIS to use the ELGs at some or all rating levels. Other states provide trainings on how to use the ELGs through their state professional development systems. Maine, for instance, has a 30-hour, 8-session training course on its infant/toddler ELGs as part of its core knowledge training program. States report that copies of the ELGs are distributed through state agencies, child care resource and referral offices, and other partnering organizations. In addition, some states, such as Georgia, Michigan, and Kansas, have aligned their infant/toddler ELGs with Head Start, pre-kindergarten, and K-12 standards. 

THE IMPACTS OF CHILD CARE INSTABILITY ON LOW-INCOME CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

The Urban Institute has recently released a report that examines the impacts that child care instability has on children and families, particularly those in low-income households. The report, Child Care Instability: Definitions, Context, and Policy Implications, first provides a definition of child care instability and clarifies the meaning of related terms, such as continuity of care and changes in child care. Drawing on key findings from the research literature on child care stability, the report then addresses the following issues:

  • Frequency: Occurrence of child care instability among different populations of families
  • Children's development: Effects of care instability on child development, attachment, and outcomes
  • Parental employment: Effects of care instability on parental work schedules, job changes, and unemployment
  • Family stability: Effects of care instability on income, health, housing, and household composition,
  • Causes: Factors that contribute to child care instability
  • Child care subsidy/voucher use: Effects of subsidy use on care stability

The report identifies the conditions needed for stable, quality child care and offers overall five strategies to improve the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. These strategies include specific ideas on how to expand access to stable care for low-income families and help providers maintain quality programs. 

INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE RELEASES DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE CHILD AND ADULT CARE FOOD PROGRAM

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides meals and snacks to more than 3 million infants and children. Foods served through this program must meet certain regulations on nutritional quality. The current regulations, however, are based partly on nutrition information that is two decades old and does not reflect what present research says about health and nutrition. In response to the need for an update, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies to assess the current nutritional needs of CACFP recipients and provide recommendations on how to improve the program's meal requirements.

The IOM's assessment and recommendations are available in a new report, Child and Adult Care Food Program: Aligning Dietary Guidance for All. Among its recommendations, the IOM advises that healthy infants under six months be fed only breast milk or formula; solid foods can be gradually introduced beginning at six months. For children, age one and older, the IOM advises that more varieties of fruits and vegetables be required in meals as well as greater portions of whole grains. In addition, fats, sugars, and sodium should be reduced. The IOM calls for expanded training and technical assistance for CACFP providers to implement the recommended meal requirements and more streamlined monitoring and reimbursement systems to reduce providers' reporting burdens. 

CHARACTERISTICS OF STRONG CHILD CARE LICENSING PROGRAMS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CONSISTENT PROTECTION IN CHILD CARE

The National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) has released a new policy brief, Strong Licensing: The Foundation for a Quality Early Care and Education System. Based on a NARA research paper to be released later this month, the brief explains the role that child care licensing systems play in protecting and fostering children's healthy growth and development. Licensing regulations are the foundation on which other quality measures are built. States set their own licensing rules, requirements, and enforcement practices. However, there are three main parts to a licensing program: the licensing statute, the licensing rules/requirements, and the licensing agency.

The brief identifies key features within each of these parts that indicate a strong licensing program. For instance, strong licensing programs have statutes requiring initial and subsequent regular background checks of caregivers. Meanwhile, licensing rules in a strong program address all aspects of a child's well-being. This includes a child's physical, emotional, and cognitive development. To ensure compliance among facilities, strong licensing agencies have enough staff to support routine monitoring of child care facilities. Inspections should be conducted twice a year or more as needed, and inspectors should not have caseloads of more than 50-60 facilities. The brief also offers six recommendations to federal agencies to promote consistent protection and quality care across states. 

STATE CHILD POVERTY RATES: THE OUTLOOK FOR 2010

First Focus and Brookings have released a new report, Child Poverty During the Great Recession: Predicting State Child Poverty Rates for 2010. The report predicts the child poverty rate for each state for 2010 based on a data analysis of state unemployment rates, child poverty in 2009, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits usage. Last September, the U.S. Census Bureau's annual release of poverty data revealed that more than one in five children lived in poverty in 2009. Since this release, most states have experienced modest increases in unemployment. However, usage of SNAP benefits has grown significantly. Between the first six months of 2009 and the first six months of 2010, the report finds that the average monthly SNAP caseload rose by 21 percent from 33.5 to 40.3 million SNAP recipients. All states except Missouri experienced an increase in SNAP recipient rates by at least one percentage point.

The report predicts that the total number of children living in poverty will grow from 14.7 million children in 2009 to 15.6 million children in 2010. By next September, the child poverty rate is expected to increase for most states with poverty rates ranging from 11 to 33 percent; the national average rate is expected to reach 21.3 percent. About half of states (26 states) are predicted to have child poverty rates of 20 percent or higher in 2010, compared to only a quarter of states (14 states) during the pre-recessionary period, 2000-2007. 

IMPROVING CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT TRAINING FOR PRESCHOOL TEACHERS

A new MDRC report, Making Preschool More Productive: How Classroom Management Training Can Help Teachers, evaluates the effectiveness of the Foundations of Learning (FOL) Demonstration, an intensive teacher training and consultation project implemented in two cities: Chicago, Illinois and Newark, New Jersey. The FOL Demonstration was developed to improve preschool teachers' ability to support young children's emotional and behavioral development. Participating teachers were given classroom management training, weekly classroom consultations, and stress management preparation. In addition, individual clinical services were provided to a small number of children identified as needing further support.

The new report presents results from the Newark site where researchers evaluated fifty-one preschool classrooms. About half of the classrooms had received the FOL intervention, while the other half received no intervention. Among the researchers' findings on teachers:

  • Teachers in FOL classrooms showed improvements in their ability to manage children's behavior and create a positive emotional classroom environment.
  • Teachers in FOL classrooms scored higher on instructional time, management of classroom time, and use of engaging tools than teachers in control classrooms.
  • Teachers in FOL classrooms demonstrated no significant difference in the quality of language instruction that they provided to children compared to teachers in control classrooms.
  • In the year following the FOL intervention, participating teachers continued to implement the practices that they had learned.

Among the researchers' findings on children:

  • Children in FOL classrooms showed lower levels of conflicts compared to children in control classes, although there was no change in the quality of teacher-child and peer interactions.
  • Children in FOL classrooms showed higher levels of engagement than children in control classrooms.
  • In the year following the FOL intervention, reports by kindergarten teachers indicate that the intervention had a limited lasting impact on children. 

STATE REPORTS: BUILDING PUBLIC-PRIVATE EARLY CHILDHOOD PARTNERSHIPS IN MAINE AND DISPARITIES AMONG NEW MEXICO'S CHILDREN

Two new papers examine early childhood developments in Maine and New Mexico. These papers are:

  • Early Childhood as an Economic Investment - This issue brief by Maine Children's Alliance discusses opportunities for Maine to develop and build on early childhood public-private partnerships. Public-private partnerships come in a variety of forms and can include small and large businesses, philanthropic organizations, state agencies, and other stakeholders. Eleven states have formal public-private partnerships. The brief illustrates some of the ways in which these partnerships are implemented. For instance, North Carolina has an organization that oversees the state's early childhood activities, including distributing funds to local partnerships and providing professional development resources. In Nebraska, public-private partnerships have a specific goal of expanding public pre-kindergarten. The brief highlights various steps that the private sector in Maine can take to support early childhood. These steps include investing in the state's quality rating system, Quality for ME. The private sector can provide financial incentives to early childhood programs and providers to attain certain quality benchmarks. In addition, the private sector can support the educational advancement of the early childhood workforce through investments in training, technical assistance, and scholarships. The brief identifies various funding sources to help support these public-private partnerships.
  • Making Sure All KIDS COUNT: Disparities Among New Mexico's Children - This report by New Mexico Voices for Children is the first in a series that will identify the obstacles hindering some children in the state from thriving and opportunities to overcome these challenges. In this first report, the organization reviews the current demographic landscape in New Mexico and provides data on key indicators of child well-being, such as health, education, and socio-economic status. In New Mexico, the child population is significantly diverse. More than 500,000 children live in the state. Of this population, 55 percent are Hispanic; 28 percent are White; 10 percent are Native American; and 3 percent are Black. The report finds that there are major gaps in health and well-being within this diverse population. For instance, the share of women receiving late or no prenatal care is higher among African American, Hispanic, and Native American women than White women. Among children under age five living in poverty, more than two-thirds are from minority groups. Fifty-five percent are Hispanic, and another 14 percent are Native American. The report offers recommendations to improve the health and educational outcomes of children, help working families meet basic needs, and create racially/ethnically fair policies and practices.
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