Early Childhood Education Update - September 2010

September 09, 2010 | Child Care & Early Education

In this issue:


The nation's child population is becoming increasingly diverse with children in immigrant families comprising an increasingly large share of the child population. Access to quality child care and early education experiences for young children of immigrants is critical to these children's success in school and in life. Yet, many families face challenges in accessing services. Many early childhood programs and services also face challenges in meeting the diverse needs of immigrant families in a culturally-competent manner.

A new report from CLASP, Early Education Programs and Children of Immigrants: Learning Each Other's Language, lays out the federal and state policy landscape for serving young children of immigrants in early care and education. The report was written for an Urban Institute roundtable, "Young Children in Immigrant Families and the Path to Educational Success," held on June 28, 2010. The event featured presentations and discussion among researchers, decision-makers, and policy experts at the federal, state, and local levels with wide-ranging experience in early childhood, K-12, and immigrant family issues. The report recommends increasing funding for the early childhood system as a whole and provides concrete policy options to better serve children of immigrants and English Language Learners in all settings through a range of vehicles, including reauthorizations of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), implementation of the 2007 Head Start Act, and creation and implementation of state preschool program standards. Successfully including immigrant families in child care and early education initiatives requires strategies and collaborations among providers, policymakers, and immigrant-serving organizations.

Additional papers from the roundtable are:


CLASP has recently updated its collection of state examples profiling infant/toddler policies and initiatives. The state examples are part of CLASP's Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care, an ongoing project that links research to policy ideas and examples that support the healthy growth and development of infants and toddlers in child care settings. Each state example presents a brief profile of the policy, including how the policy was developed and implemented. CLASP's collection of state examples currently covers topics on:

  • Building the supply of quality care (new example added),
  • Promoting family engagement,
  • Promoting access to comprehensive services,
  • Promoting competitive compensation and benefits,
  • Providing education, training, and support,
  • Establishing core competencies,
  • Promoting continuity of care,
  • Supporting a diverse and culturally competent workforce,
  • Improving center ratios and group sizes,
  • Promoting health and safety,
  • Promoting stable, quality subsidy policy, and
  • Providing information on infant/toddler care.


The U.S. Census Bureau has released a new report, Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005/Summer 2006. The report presents previously released spring 2005 data and new summer 2006 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), currently the only survey conducted by the Bureau that collects information on child care arrangements. Included in the report are child care data on children, from birth to age 15, and selected family characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, mother's employment status, and poverty status. Among the report's highlights on children under five years old in the spring of 2005:

  • Types of child care: In 2005, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of preschool-age children were in some type of regular care arrangement. About 41 percent were cared for by relatives, 25 percent were in an organized care facility, 13 percent were in other nonrelative care, and 11 percent were in both relative and nonrelative care.
  • Hours spent in child care: The longest average time spent in care (33 hours/week) was for preschool-age children with employed mothers who were cared for in centers.
  • Infant care: Among children less than 12 months of age, 34 percent were cared for by grandparents, while 18 percent were cared for in child care centers.
  • Families in poverty: Among families in poverty with employed mothers and preschool-age children, about 27 percent relied on grandparents for child care, 27 percent on fathers, 19 percent on child care centers, and 5 percent on family child care providers.
  • Full-time versus part-time employed mothers: Children with mothers that worked full-time were more likely to be cared for in child care centers (25 percent) and family child care homes (10 percent) than children with mothers that worked part-time (14 and 8 percent, respectively).
  • Day versus night shifts of working mothers: Children with mothers who worked night shifts were more likely to be cared for by their fathers (39 percent) compared to mothers with day shifts (18 percent).
  • Historical trends: From 1997-2005, there has been a slight increase in the use of center-based care, nursery/preschool, and Head Start (20.4 to 23.8 percent) and a decrease in the use of family child care or nonrelative care in a child's home (20.2 to 15.6 percent).

In the summer of 2006, the report finds that more than half (55 percent) of preschool-age children were not in a regular care arrangement. Of the preschoolers in regular care arrangements, nearly half were cared for by a relative, while almost a quarter were cared for in an organized facility (child care center, nursery/preschool, and Head Start). The report also finds that 42 percent of preschool-age children with employed mothers and 75 percent of children with nonemployed mothers were not in a regular care arrangement.


The Urban Institute has released several new studies related to child care and early education. These studies are:

  • Understanding Quality in Context: Child Care Centers, Communities, Markets, and Public Policy: This study examines the question of why there are differences in levels of quality among child care programs, even among those that have similar resources. To better understand what factors impact the level of quality achieved among child care programs, the Urban Institute conducted interviews with child care center directors in four demographically diverse counties (Jefferson County, AL; Hudson County, NJ; King County, WA; and San Diego County, CA). Information collected from these interviews was then compared with data from classroom observations using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) and the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, Revised (ECERS-R). The study presents key findings on how center directors define quality, their perspectives on the role of teachers, and the financial context in which they operate. In addition, the study analyzes the effect of mandatory versus voluntary standards on program quality. Based on the interviews and classroom observations, the study offers policy recommendations for helping low-achieving programs reach higher levels of quality.
  • Using Data to Promote Collaboration in Local School Readiness Systems: This study examines the results of a project launched by the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP). The project aimed to improve local school readiness systems by encouraging data collaboration. The project was launched in eight NNIP partner cities: Atlanta (GA), Chattanooga (TN), Cleveland (OH), Denver (CO), Memphis (TN), Miami (FL), Milwaukee (WI), and Providence (RI). Each of the selected cities was tasked with identifying all organizations that provided school readiness services in the community and the types of data that these organizations collected. The cities were then asked to engage other relevant local organizations and stakeholders in the project and prepare a brief that evaluated the conditions of children living in low-income neighborhoods versus those living in other neighborhoods. As the project's last step, the cities were asked to hold a community forum to discuss their brief's findings and ways to improve their local school readiness systems. The study profiles the experiences of the cities in accomplishing these three tasks and provides recommendations for states based on lessons learned from the cities' experiences.
  • Infants of Depressed Mothers Living in Poverty: Opportunities to Identify and Serve: This study examines the conditions of infants living in poverty whose mothers are depressed. Nationally, 11 percent of infants living in poverty have a mother who has severe depression. The study provides information on the characteristics of these households, access to services, and parenting approaches, as well as existing services and supports that can assist the mothers. Among the study's major findings, infants living in poverty with severely depressed mothers are more likely to have mothers who also face domestic violence and substance abuse problems than infants with nondepressed mothers. While depression is treatable, many mothers with severe depression do not receive services. Many of these mothers, however, access public assistance benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These assistance programs serve as opportunities to identify severely depressed mothers and connect them to available treatment services.


Child care consultants provide technical assistance and support in a variety of fields relevant to infant/toddler care, such as home visiting, nutrition, early intervention, and oral health. Twenty-three states also have formal infant/toddler specialist networks. In a new brief, Coordinating Child Care Consultants: Combining Multiple Disciplines and Improving Quality in Infant/Toddler Settings, the National Infant and Toddler Child Care Initiative offers guidance to states on coordinating and preparing child care consultants from various disciplines to better serve infant/toddler providers. The brief highlights the benefits of coordination, such as improved ability to track, monitor, and evaluate the quality of consultants and services provided to providers. Three models are outlined for describing the interaction process between consultants and providers and how states may coordinate multiple services. The brief also includes a set of questions for states to assess the level of coordination among their own existing system of consultants. The questions require states to consider key issues, such as infant/toddler providers' access to consultation services, professional development opportunities that promote coordinated consultation, and funding sources that support coordination efforts. To further assist states, the brief offers examples of collaborative child care initiatives in Connecticut, Maine, and Region I states.


The National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) and the National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center (NCCIC) have published The 2008 Child Care Licensing Study, a comprehensive report on child care licensing policies and regulations for child care centers, small family child care (FCC) homes, and large/group FCC homes in all states plus the District of Columbia. To complete the study, NARA collected data from all state child care licensing agencies via an online survey that was sent in May 2009. The study includes information on a wide range of licensing policies and regulations, such as:

  • Licensed facilities,
  • Frequency of licensing,
  • Inspections and monitoring,
  • Staff qualifications and ongoing training requirements,
  • Child staff ratios and group sizes,
  • Facility requirements, and
  • Supervision of children.

Overall, the study finds that in 2008, there were nearly 330,000 licensed child care facilities providing more than 9.8 million child care slots. Of these facilities, 107,999 were child centers, 199,216 were FCC homes, and 23,467 were other licensed facilities. The study also found that in 2008, 16 states made changes to child care center licensing regulations, while 14 states made changes to small FCC home licensing regulations, and 11 states made changes to large/group FCC homes.


Several new resources are available that focus on pre-kindergarten and school readiness:

  • Funding Cuts to State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten Programs in FY10 & 11: This brief from the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) provides a summary analysis of the effects of the recession on state appropriations for pre-kindergarten. During FY 2010, 16 states cut funding for pre-kindergarten initiatives for a total of $248.3 million. Of this funding cut, two states restored back a total of $5.6 million in FY 2011. Another $89.6 million is proposed to be eliminated from pre-kindergarten programs in FY 2011.
  • State Approaches to School Readiness Assessment: This report from the National Conference of State Legislatures provides an update on how states currently assess school readiness based on assessments conducted in kindergarten. Presently, half of states conduct statewide kindergarten assessments, 4 states are in a rollout phase or have an assessment under development, and 21 states have no statewide assessment. The report examines how data is used and reported within the 25 states that conduct statewide assessments. In addition, the report provides information on the population of children that are evaluated, areas of readiness that are assessed, assessment instruments that are used, and how data is reported and used.
  • Engaged Families, Effective Pre-K: State Policies that Bolster Student Success: This report from Pre-K Now identifies policies that promote family engagement in early childhood education and offers examples of states that are implementing these policies. The report describes five components that are critical for effective family engagement. These components are:
    • Family participation in decision making related to their child's education,
    • Linguistically and culturally appropriate communication between families and early learning programs,
    • Inclusion of families' knowledge, skills, and backgrounds in the learning experience,
    • Program support for families to enhance home environments, and
    • Ongoing training and professional development for teachers that promote family engagement.


Over the last 30 years, there have been significant demographic changes in the young child population and increasing evidence of the benefits of high-quality early childhood education, particularly for at-risk children. In response to these developments, Washington State created a Department of Early Learning (DEL) in 2006 and mandated in state law that an early learning plan be developed. After more than a year of planning and input, the state has recently released a comprehensive 10-year early learning plan. The plan is the result of efforts led by the DEL in collaboration with the state Early Learning Advisory Council, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Thrive by Five Washington.

The Washington State Early Learning Plan presents a framework for building a comprehensive early learning system over the next ten years that prepares young children for success in school and beyond. To attain a "ready and successful state," the plan outlines five overarching areas of readiness that must be achieved:

  • Ready and successful children,
  • Ready and successful parents, families, and caregivers,
  • Ready and successful early learning professionals,
  • Ready and successful schools,and
  • Ready and successful systems and communities.

The plan identifies key outcomes within each readiness area that the state must work towards accomplishing. Strategies for attaining these outcomes are suggested as well as indicators to measure the state's progress in each area.


Children Now has released a new guide, California's Early Learning and Development System, to help the state early learning advisory council (ELAC) and policymakers in California navigate the state's current early childhood system. The ELAC is tasked with making recommendations on improving and monitoring services and supports for young children. The guide lays out all available early childhood programs and services in the state, as well as all funding streams that support early learning. In addition, the guide identifies the departments/agencies or organizations responsible for overseeing these programs and funds.

Overall, California invests nearly $4 billion annually in federal and state funds on early childhood programs and support services. Six major sources of federal funding are used to support early childhood in the state: Head Start/Early Head Start, Child Care and Development Block Grant, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Social Services Block Grant, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. State general funds, tobacco tax dollars, and other local funding provide additional support to early childhood programs and services. Based on the existing capacity of the state's early childhood system, the guide makes four recommendations to improve the system:

  • Make better data available to guide system building,
  • Investigate untapped and underused resources,
  • Advocate for increased federal resources, and
  • Build systemic, long-term connections between programs that support young children, including those that focus on early learning and development, health, and child welfare.


A new report, State Case Studies of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Systems: Strategies for Change, by the Commonwealth Fund profiles four states (Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) that have made progress in building comprehensive mental health systems for children from birth to age five. The report highlights the states' successes and challenges in expanding screening services and early intervention supports for young children. Among major actions that these states have taken to build comprehensive systems:

  • Colorado - Through strong stakeholder engagement and planning, as well as support from high levels of government, the state has implemented a federally funded early childhood mental health initiative called Project Bloom. In addition, the state has made strides in establishing medical homes, a diagnostic classification system, and infant and early childhood mental health consultation services.
  • Indiana - The state screens and tracks children in child welfare and has standardized health and behavioral health screenings for prenatal and postpartum women. The state also has an active Early Childhood Comprehensive System (ECCS) program that has improved parents' access to information online.
  • Massachusetts - As a result of increased interagency collaborations and court order mandates, the state's Medicaid system has undergone major reforms that have improved early childhood mental health services. The state has a Children's Behavioral Health initiative supported by Medicaid and a comprehensive IDEA Part C Early Intervention system that works with child welfare to identify and support at-risk children.
  • Rhode Island - The state has a community-based mental health system that serves children of all ages and has implemented mental health initiatives for young children with the support of SAMHSA grants. The state's children services agency collaborates extensively with the state's health department. In addition, the state has taken steps to develop Medicaid partnerships, provide child care consultation services, and promote parent partnerships.

Based on the experiences of the four states, the report presents lessons learned in administration and finance, early identification and access, and workforce development. The report also discusses the need to further close the gap between research and practice.















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