Early Childhood Education Update - May 2011

May 03, 2011 | Child Care & Early Education

In this issue:


CLASP has recently added data on Early Head Start programs and young child demographics for 2009 to its DataFinder. The DataFinder is a custom, easy-to-use tool developed to provide select demographic information as well as administrative data on programs that affect low-income people and families. Users can create and download custom tables that present a national picture, a state picture, or a comparative look at states and communities. Data can also be compared across years. CLASP has compiled these data from multiple sources, which are cited in the user-generated tables.

Among the data currently available in the DataFinder, users can find information on young children and early childhood programs, such as:

  • Young Child Demographics - Race, ethnicity, family income level, and immigrant family status of young children (UPDATED)
  • Head Start/Early Head Start - Data on Head Start children, families, staff, and programs, for all Head Start grantees combined as well as for Early Head Start grantees alone (UPDATED)
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) -CCDBG expenditure data as well as data on CCDBG participation, including child age, care settings, and family co-payments
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - TANF expenditure data, including the amount of funds transferred to CCDBG or spent directly on child care 


Young children, particularly those in poor and low-income families, who are associated with one or more risk factors, such as low parental education and high residential mobility, are vulnerable to various poor outcomes, including those related to development, health, and school achievement. To help policymakers and other stakeholders determine the prevalence of at-risk young children in their state (including the District of Columbia), the National Center for Children in Poverty has developed a Young Child Risk Calculator. The tool calculates the percentage of young children with selected risk factors using data from the American Community Survey from the years 2007 to 2009. The tool divides young children into three age groups: under age 3, ages 3-5, and under age 6. After selecting an age group, users can find the percentage of young children with one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Households without English speakers
  • Large family
  • Low parental education
  • Residential mobility
  • Single parent
  • Teen mother
  • Unemployed parent

In addition, users can obtain the percentage of children who have a risk factor and are poor/low-income. The tool also provides a breakdown of the share of children experiencing one, 1-2, and 3 or more risk factors.


Children's health and well-being are strongly affected by the environments in which they are surrounded. In particular, three environmental settings - schools, child care facilities, and communities - have significant influences on whether children receive the nutrition and physical activity they need to be healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new report, Children's Food Environment State Indicators Report 2011, the fourth in a series of reports examining environmental and policy factors that affect the health and nutrition status of children, youth, and adults. The new report presents national and state-level data on key behaviors, policies, and environmental components that impact the prevalence of childhood obesity and healthy eating among children. In particular, the report examines whether states have regulations among the three environmental settings on three key indicators: restriction of sugar drinks, access to drinking water throughout the day, and limiting of screen time.

For child care facilities, the report finds that only a small share of states has regulations on the three indicators in child care centers or family child care (FCC) homes.  According to data from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, more than a third of all children under age six that are not yet in kindergarten attend a child care center; FCC homes also serve a considerable portion of young children. Yet, the report finds that only two states have regulations restricting sugar drinks, while only 18 states have regulations limiting screen time. Additionally, just over a half of states require access to drinking water throughout the day. The report provides links to additional resources where data can be obtained on state health and nutrition requirements in both types of child care facilities. 


The Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released a new resource, Tip Sheet for Early Childhood-Child Welfare Partnerships: Policies and programs that promote educational access, stability, and success for vulnerable children and families. The resource is the first in a series of tip sheets that will be released to provide guidance to providers and policymakers on how to build effective partnerships across the child welfare and early childhood systems. This first tip sheet highlights opportunities within current federal programs and policies to build links between the early childhood and child welfare systems. Stronger collaborations can help to improve child outcomes and ensure stable, quality care for vulnerable infants and young children served by both systems. The tip sheet identifies four programs and policies in which the early childhood and child welfare systems intersect:

  • Head Start eligibility
  • Child care subsidy
  • Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
  • Title IV-E funds

In addition to these four areas, the tip sheet highlights three newer programs and policies (Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, home visiting programs, and state early childhood advisory councils) that offer the potential for further partnership building. Links to information memorandums and other resources are provided to help states obtain more information about key child welfare and early childhood programs and services that serve vulnerable children and their families. 


Several resources are available to help policymakers develop and implement home visiting programs at the community and state level and improve services for mothers and young children:

  • Home Visiting Community Planning Tool - ZERO TO THREE has developed a new tool to help communities establish or expand existing home visiting programs. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allocated federal funds to help states expand evidence-based home visiting programs in at-risk communities. To capitalize on this funding opportunity, the tool offers guidance to local leaders on meeting the funding requirements, including reviewing the demographic landscape of their community, assessing the strengths and weaknesses in available services and resources, and choosing an evidence-based home visiting that meets their community's needs. The tool identifies a group of key areas that need to be addressed in order to build a high-quality program and lays out specific questions within each area for communities to answer. These areas are:
    • Public engagement
    • Family recruitment, engagement, and retention
    • Staff qualifications and professional development
    • Partnerships and collaboration
    • Coordinated governance
    • Financing and sustainability
    • Evaluation and quality assurance 
  • Building a System of Support for Evidence-Based Home Visitation Programs in Illinois: Summary of Early Findings from the Strong Foundations Evaluation - In 2009, Illinois launched a home visiting initiative called Strong Foundations. Illinois was selected as one of 17 grantees in 15 states to receive five-year funding from the Children's Bureau to build an effective state infrastructure that would support the implementation, scale up, and sustainability of evidence-based home visiting programs. The purpose of the initiative was to implement a state system responsible for providing training, technical assistance, and other supports to home visiting programs at the local level. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, one of the initiative's evaluators, has released initial findings from its assessment of Strong Foundations. The findings are based chiefly on interviews with state-level stakeholders, program directors/supervisors, and home visitors as well as staff surveys. In its preliminary assessment, Chapin Hall provides an overview of the state system and the characteristics and quality of participating home visiting programs. Three home visiting models are examined: Parents as Teachers, Healthy Families Americas, and the Nurse-Family Partnerships. Chapin Hall then analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the initiative, highlighting particular findings in the areas of:
    • Staff development and training
    • Local system building
    • Monitoring, program performance, and quality assurance
    • Communication structure 
  • Home Visiting and Maternal Depression: Seizing the Opportunities to Help Mothers and Young Children - Maternal depression can have adverse impacts on children's development and is prevalent particularly among low-income mothers. The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine find that as many as one in five children lived with an adult who had major depression in the past year. Although maternal depression is treatable, many are not receiving services. The Urban Institute has developed a new guide that illustrates how home visiting programs can be utilized to identify mothers of young children who are suffering from depression and connect them to the help that they may need. Among mothers with infants who live in poverty and report major depressive symptoms, more than two-thirds have not spoken to a health professional or counselor about their problems. The guide draws on findings from interviews with low-income mothers, home visitors, and other service providers to offer practical recommendations on how to better serve these mothers. The recommendations are based around five overarching strategies:
    • Reach mothers who most need help,
    • Help home visitors identify depression and talk to mothers about its implications and treatment,
    • Connect to, supporting, and providing high-quality treatment,
    • Attend to young children's development as well as mothers' treatment, and
    • Offer ongoing help after home visiting. 


Two new resources highlight opportunities to improve preschool participation among all young children and strengthen linkages between the early education years:

  • Latino Access to Preschool Stalls After Earlier Gains - New Journalism on Latino Children, a project of the University of California - Berkeley's Institute of Human Development, has released new analysis on preschool participation among Latino children. The analysis finds that nationally, enrollment in preschool for 4-year-old Latino children declined from 2005 to 2009, while enrollment rates of their white and African-American peers held steady. This decline came on top of the already lower rates of enrollment of Latino children. In 2009, fewer than half of Latino children attended preschool, compared to more than two-thirds of white and African-American children. Authors of the study suggest that the recession may be the cause of the decline. Latina mothers may have lost their jobs and did not send the children to preschool or could not afford to access center-based programs. It is also possible that the growth of the Latino child population is outpacing growth in availability of preschool. Other research has showed that the supply of center-based care andpreschoolis generally lower in Latino and recent immigrant communities. More than one in four young children in the United States is of Latino origin and that percentage is growing fast. For early education to keep its promise of improving the life trajectory for children, it is imperative that early education initiatives are accessible and appropriate for all children. That means not only ensuring an adequate supply of high-quality care in all communities, but rethinking the provision of quality early education programs and how they may need to be adapted to ensure that they are welcoming and effective for children and families of various cultural and linguistic backgrounds. 
  • Building Early Learning Leaders: New Jersey's PreK-3rd Leadership Training - In New Jersey, a group of state education leaders and advocates partnered together to strengthen understanding among school districts about the importance of creating linkages from pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade and to provide school administrators with tools and strategies to create such seamless linkages. A new case study from Advocates for Children of New Jersey profiles these efforts. In the fall of 2009, the group launched the PreK-3rd Leadership Training Series to prepare school administrators on how to develop and implement an effective PreK-3rd approach to education. Over four sessions, the series presented a PreK-3rd system framework, consisting of nine key components including teacher/teaching quality, child-based assessments, transitions and family and community engagement. Participants were surveyed before and after completing the training series to gage the program's impacts. Among the survey's findings, the vast majority of respondents had Head Start and/or other community-based programs in their school districts. However, nearly a third reported knowing nothing or very little about these community programs. Even among those that had greater knowledge, nearly half reported that they had little communication with them. In addition, survey results indicate that most participants had minimal understanding of the different types of assessments used in early childhood programs and how to use these assessments to inform teaching practices. Most transition activities also centered only on the move from preschool to kindergarten and not beyond. After completing the training series, participants appeared to translate their newly-gained knowledge into practice. Sixty percent of respondents indicated that they or their staff had increased contact with community programs since participating in the training series. Moreover, about half reported that they planned to implement pieces of the PreK-3rd approach that were not presently implemented in their school, such as regular pre-k and kindergarten staff meetings or implementation of a preschool curriculum.


The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) has recently released two reports related to improving the affordability and quality of child care for low-income families. The reports are:

  • 2011 Making Care Less Taxing: Improving State Child and Dependent Care Tax Provisions - This report discusses federal and state tax provisions that help low-income families meet child and dependent care expenses as they work to support themselves. NWLC provides an overview of the federal Child and Dependent Care (CADC) tax credit as well as the different forms of state CADC tax provisions that currently exist. In 2010, the federal government and 28 states (including the District of Columbia) had tax provisions related to care expenses. The report lays out key considerations for designing state CADC tax provisions and identifies policies that states can implement to further help low-income families meet the cost of care. As a companion piece, NWLC has also released a report card that ranks states on their CADC tax provisions. The rankings are based on 12 key indicators of effectiveness. Based on these indicators, NWLC ranks New York and Oregon as the highest with a grade of "A-" followed by California, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska with a grade of "B+." 
  • Promising State Child Care Quality and Infant/Toddler Initiatives - This report illustrates the wide range of uses by states of the quality and infant/toddler set-aside in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). States are required to use at least four percent of their CCDBG allocation on activities that improve the quality of care for children with specific attention to infants and toddlers. In FY 2010, a total of $270 million was set aside in CCDBG funds for quality and infant/toddler initiatives. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided an additional $2 billion in CCDBG funding, of which $255 million was set aside for quality infant/toddler activities. Based on interviews with state child care administrators, NWLC describes common uses of the quality and infant/toddler set-aside, such as implementing quality rating and improvement systems; building resources to meet the social, emotional, and health needs of children; strengthening collaborations between early childhood programs; and supporting infant/toddler specialist networks.


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