Early Childhood Education Update - November 2010
November 04, 2010 | Child Care & Early Education
In this issue:
- Congress is Wrapping Up: Getting the Scoop on Early Childhood
- Adopting 12-Month Subsidy Eligibility: Impacts on Children, Families, and State Child Care Programs
- NWLC Releases 2010 Child Care Assistance Policies Update
- The Importance of Child Care in Building Economic Security for Low-Income Women
- Young Children of Immigrants at Greatest Risk for Poor Health and Food Insecurity
- Basic Facts About Low-Income Children, Under Age Three and Under Age Six
- Raising Pre-Kindergarten Quality Through Caring and Effective Teachers
- Making the Case for Business Investments in Young Children
- State-Specific Reports: Pre-K Year-End Results in Pennsylvania, Early Childhood Infrastructure Organizations in California, and Children's Mental Health Services in Maine
On October 6th, CLASP and the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) held an audio conference that provided a wrap-up of the congressional legislative session. The audio conference presented a summary of the 111th Congress as well as what was on the horizon for the lame duck session and the 112th Congress. Additionally, CLASP and NWLC discussed the status of appropriations bills, the Early Learning Challenge Fund, Child Nutrition, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and other important pieces of legislation. A recording and transcript of the conference call are available.
States have a great deal of flexibility in setting child care policies to promote access to child care assistance. Adopting 12-month subsidy eligibility, with limited interim reporting requirements, is one strategy states can implement to promote sustained access to subsidies and continuous care arrangements for children. A number of states are considering changing subsidy rules to allow for 12-month eligibility and others have recently changed their policies. This is consistent with annual redetermination periods in other federal programs including Head Start and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
CLASP has released a new paper, Adopting 12-Month Subsidy Eligibility: Impacts on Children, Families, and State Child Care Programs, which lays out the associated impacts of adopting an annual redetermination policy on children, parents, and state subsidy programs. State policymakers must weigh the impacts of such a change on children and families in their state, as well as impacts on their child care programs. Regardless of the length of the initial eligibility period, all states can review interim recertification procedures and reporting requirements to increase the likelihood that eligible families are successful in retaining assistance.
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) released its seventh annual report on state child care assistance policies. In the organization's latest report, State Child Care Assistance Policies 2010: New Federal Funds Helps States Weather the Storm, NWLC finds that most states did not make significant changes to their child care assistance programs in the past year; however, $2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds helped keep these programs together. States were required to commit those funds by Sept. 30, although they have an additional year to spend them. As these funds are spent, NWLC reports that states plan to further restrict access to child care assistance in response to budgetary pressures by reducing income limits, increasing or beginning waiting lists, or restricting or ending programs such as extended job search that allowed parents access to child care while they were looking for employment. Even before future potential cuts, state policies mostly remained at or behind where they were in 2001, in terms of waiting lists, income eligibility, and provider payment rates. Among the report's findings:
- Nineteen states had waiting lists in 2010, compared to 21 states in 2001.
- In 21 states, income eligibility limits were lower as a percent of federal poverty than they were in 2001.
- Only six states have set provider payment rates at the 75th percentile of current market rates, the level recommended in federal guidance, compared to 22 states in 2001.
Child care is a critical component to helping low-income mothers maintain their jobs and support their families. In 2008, nearly three-quarters of single mothers with children under age six living at or below 200 percent of the poverty level were employed. A new report, Child Care Matters: Building Economic Security for Low-Income Women, by the Women's Economic Security Campaign stresses the need to improve access to stable, high-quality child care. The report analyzes the cost and quality of available child care in California, Illinois, Tennessee, and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area (Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland). In addition, the report assesses the state of the early care and education workforce in the four geographic areas.
Child care can take up a significant portion of household income. Among the four regions, child care costs range from more than a quarter to about 40 percent of annual median income. The report observes that for low-income, working women, finding stable care is especially difficult given that many have shifting work hours or night shifts. The cost to businesses in the form of disruptions in child care totals about $3 billion a year. The report also emphasizes that high-quality child care can improve education and social outcomes for children. However, this requires a highly-qualified and well-compensated early childhood workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 20 out of 821 occupations receive wages that are lower than a child care worker. Among the four regions, the average income for a child care worker ranges from about $17,000 to $25,000.
The report illustrates various policies and programs that can improve access to high-quality child care and early education. In addition, the report offers recommendations and models for improving the conditions of the early care and education workforce.
The nation's child population is becoming increasingly diverse with children of immigrants comprising a growing share. Among the young child population, more than 20 percent of children under age six have immigrant parents; nearly all of these children (93 percent) are U.S. citizens. Children's HealthWatch examines the health status of these children in a new policy brief, Children of Immigrants: Healthy Beginnings Derailed by Food Insecurity. According to research conducted by the organization, children of immigrants are more likely than children of U.S.-born mothers to be born at a healthy birth weight and breastfed; live in a two-parent family; and have a mother who is not depressed. Yet, children of recent immigrants are at greater risk for poor health and food insecurity.
In its research, Children's HealthWatch found that young children whose mothers had been in the country less than 10 years were 26 percent more likely to be in fair or poor health compared to children with U.S.-born mothers. After 10 years, however, the likelihood of fair or poor health was about the same for both groups of children. Similarly, households with immigrant mothers that had lived in the U.S. for five years or less were 145 percent more likely to be food insecure than households with U.S.-born mothers. This likelihood decreased significantly after 10 years. The brief identifies various challenges that may contribute to the higher probability of poor health and food insecurity among recent immigrant families, such as confusion over children's versus parents' eligibility to receive food and nutrition benefits. The brief emphasizes the importance of ensuring that these vulnerable children and their families have access to food services and support.
The National Center for Children in Poverty has updated its fact sheets profiling the demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic characteristics of low-income children and their families based on 2009 Census data. The fact sheets are divided into five age groups: children under three, children under six, children 6-11, children 12-17, and children under 17. In 2009, children represented more than a third of all people living in poverty. About 42 percent of children lived in low-income households (at 200 percent or below the federal poverty level), while nearly 20 percent of children lived in poor households. Young children fared even worse. Forty-six percent of children under age six lived in low-income households, while 24 percent lived in poverty. Additional characteristics of young children (under age six) and infants and toddlers (under age three) include:
- Household income: More than half (65 percent) of young children in immigrant families lived in low-income households.
- Geographic residence: Fifty-three percent of young children in urban areas lived in low-income families, compared to 38 percent of young children in suburban areas and 54 percent of young children in rural areas.
- Household mobility: Twenty-one percent of young children living in low-income households moved in the past year, compared to 18 percent of low-income infants and toddlers.
- Parental education: Eight-eight percent of young children who had parents with less than a high school degree were low income. The share was roughly the same for infants and toddlers.
- Health care: More than half (59 percent) of low-income young children received health insurance through Medicaid, while 25 percent received insurance through their state's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For infants and toddlers, the share was 61 and 25 percent, respectively.
- Regional differences: The percentage of infants and toddlers that lived in low-income families ranged from half of infants and toddlers in the South to 38 percent of infants and toddlers in the Northeast.
A new report, Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers, by three scholars from the University of California, Berkeley and the Children's Learning Institute at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston explores the problem of inconsistent quality among pre-kindergarten programs and presents new research on effective practices and strategies that can help address this challenge. Research studies have shown that high-quality pre-kindergarten programs can have positive, long-term impacts on children from low-income families. When the quality of programs varies, however, the benefits to children may be temporary or inconsistent. Some recent research evidence suggests that intensifying regulation by state government, such as requiring higher teacher credentials, also produces minimal developmental benefits to children. Among new evidence of successful approaches, the report finds that teachers who develop sensitive, nurturing relationships with children and who also organize challenging learning tasks yields positive results. Effective teacher development includes ongoing professional development and refinement of teaching practices, mentoring for new teachers, and monitoring of classroom instruction and activities. The report describes two teacher-development models (Classroom Assessment Scoring, CLASS; Texas Early Education Model, TEEM) that incorporate these elements and discusses how models like these can be brought to scale. For instance, Georgia and Texas have used the CLASS model to improve their state pre-kindergarten programs. The report also discusses how these models can inform overall federal and state policy.
Two new papers present the case for why investments in young children are a smart business decision. The two papers review the research literature on early childhood and highlight key findings, such as the importance of the early years on brain development and the long-term economic returns from investments in early childhood programs. High-quality early childhood education can yield significant benefits and cost-savings in the form of higher academic achievement, lower crime rates, and other positive child outcomes. Each of the papers suggests promising practices and steps that the business community can take to support young children. These ideas range from promoting early childhood policies to state legislators to supporting the child care industry through incentives that reduce staff turnover. Both papers also present examples of businesses that have made significant investments in early childhood initiatives or have taken leadership roles in their states, serving as young child advocates. The two papers are:
- Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education: This paper was developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for a Competitive Workforce as part of an initiative to expand early learning opportunities for young children.
- Mobilizing Business Champions for Smart Investments in Young Children: This paper is part of a comprehensive report on creating a national children's agenda produced by First Focus.
Three new reports analyze early childhood programs, organizations, and services in three different states. These reports are:
- Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts: End of Year Report, 2009-2010 - This report released by the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning provides an assessment of the state's pre-kindergarten program, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, which is now in its third year of implementation. In 2009-2010, Pre-K Counts served children in 62 counties. These children lived in households earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, and about half had at least one other risk factor, such as learning English as a second language or having special needs. The report finds that more than 70 percent of children enrolled in the program finished the year with age-proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills. In addition, the average classroom score based on the Environment Rating Scale (ERS) improved from the previous year, increasing from 5.5 to 5.73. The report observes that more than three-quarters of Pre-K Counts teachers had a Bachelor's Degree. Moreover, the percentage of teachers with an ECE teacher certification grew nearly 25 percent from the past year.
- Beyond Centers and Homes: The Workforce in Three California Early Childhood Infrastructure Organizations - This report from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment presents findings from a survey distributed to staff working in three types of early childhood infrastructure organizations in California: child care resource and referral agencies, local First 5 commissions, and as child care coordinators. More than 1,500 staff in these three organizations responded to the survey. The purpose of the survey was to investigate the backgrounds and characteristics of these staff, including gender/age, ethnicity/language, educational background, job tenure/career history, and earnings. The survey also explored the professional development needs and career aspirations of these staff. Among the survey's results, the report finds that the majority of staff from these three organizations are female and middle-aged. In addition, these staff members are ethnically diverse; approximately half are people of color. About one quarter of the staff have worked in their organization for more than 10 years, and almost two-thirds have a Bachelor's degree or higher. On professional development needs, half of the staff in the three organizations reported a desire to increase their knowledge of child development.
- A Guide to Challenges in Children's Mental Health: The Views of Maine Stakeholders - This report from Maine's Children Alliance examines the challenges of meeting the mental health and family support service needs of children and their families, particularly in the current economic downturn. According to key service providers in Maine, there has been increasing demand for mental health services and other supports as families deal with unemployment, increasing poverty, and other stresses. The report presents input from seven state organizations that deal with children's mental health services: Maine Parent Federation, Inc., Maine Association of Infant Mental health, Maine Head Start Directors Association, Maine Association of Mental Health Services, Disabilities Rights Center, and Jobs for Maine's Graduates. These organizations find that early interventions are important to preventing more several mental health issues from occurring, which can be costlier to address and require more comprehensive action.