Early Childhood Education Update (September 2013)
September 03, 2013 | Child Care and Early Education
In this issue:
- CLASP Releases Better for Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies
- CLASP Welcomes Olivia Golden As Executive Director
- New Child Care Technical Assistance Network (CCTAN) Website Provides Access to Important Resources
- Child Care Choices Study Offers Insight into Parents' Decision-Making Process
- Research on Dual Language Learners (DLLs) Sheds on Light on Appropriate Policies and Programs
- Infants and Toddlers Addressed in State Early Learning Challenge (ELC) Grant Projects
- Review of Previous Early Childhood Research Offers Direction for Future
A recent CLASP report, Better for Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Policies, presents data from a recent state survey of child care subsidy, licensing, and quality enhancement policies. It provides a national picture of infant-toddler child care-one that shows significant room for improvement.
Collectively, state infant and toddler policies are not meeting the needs of our youngest children and their families. Babies in child care need high-quality care with warm, responsive, and skilled caregivers; healthy and safe environments; and linkages to community supports. Comparing state policies to key benchmark policies finds that too few infants and toddlers have access to such settings-and while particular state policies offer promise, no state has in place a comprehensive set that fully meets the needs of infants and toddlers.
Key findings include:
- In most states, child-to-provider ratios and group sizes exceed national expert recommendations. Further, a handful of states do not regulate group size at all.
- While more than half of states (30) reported having specific infant-toddler training for providers, most state requirements for number of hours of training are minimal, and the content of training curricula related to infants and toddlers is limited.
- Twenty-one states report licensing standards that require a consistent primary caregiver for infants and toddlers. A few additional states encourage continuity of care through other means, including regulations, policies, or waivers.
- Most state standard subsidy reimbursement rates for infants in center-based care fail to meet federally recommended levels.
- Twenty-two states report offering rate differentials or higher payment rates for infant-toddler care. Higher payment rates for infant-toddler care can offset higher costs and support quality enhancements.
- Forty-one states report subsidy policies that pay child care providers for days when a child is absent, a policy particularly important for infants and toddlers who have more frequent illnesses and require more frequent doctor visits than older children.
- Fourteen states reported using direct contracts with child care providers in their subsidy system to increase the supply or improve the quality of subsidized infant-toddler care.
Olivia Golden joined CLASP as executive director in August 2013. An expert in child and family programs at the federal, state, and local levels, Olivia brings a wealth of knowledge on child care and early education issues and a track record of delivering results for low-income children and families in the nonprofit sector and at all levels of government. During her eight years in senior executive roles at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Olivia was a key player in expanding and improving Head Start, creating Early Head Start, and tripling the level of funding for child care. Most recently, prior to joining CLASP, Olivia was a fellow at the Urban Institute (UI) where she was a thought leader on such topics as the importance of a two-generation approach to addressing poverty and supporting vulnerable children and families; the education needs of young children of immigrants; the promise of home visiting programs to identify and respond to maternal depression; and how streamlining public benefit programs can better support low-income families. Olivia brings to CLASP the leadership role in a major multi-state initiative, Work Support Strategies, which provides six states with the opportunity to design, test, and implement reforms to improve low-income working families' access to health reform, nutrition assistance, and child care subsidies. CLASP's Child Care and Early Education team co-leads the project's technical assistance on child care subsidy administration. In addition to bringing dynamic leadership to CLASP, Olivia also broadens our organization's expertise and depth on early childhood and family issues.
The federal Office of Child Care (OCC) announced the launch of its new Child Care Technical Assistance Network (CCTAN) website. The site offers extensive materials from the CCTAN National Centers and also includes resources that OCC's own technical assistance (TA) network has created. Materials cover topics pertinent to the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program, including information on: data and technology, professional development and workforce, quality improvement, subsidy innovation and accountability, communications, health and safety, research, and state systems, as well as, information from the National Tribal Center and Child Care Aware.
Some examples of resources users can expect to find on the site include:
- CCDF Data Explorer, which allows users to compare CCDF data over time and among States and Territories.
- State Profiles that offer demographic information about the children and families in child care.
- Fundamentals of CCDF Administration Website, which offers comprehensive information on the CCDF program, broken down by topic and subtopic. It's intended to be used as a reference for specific policy and program questions.
The Maryland Child Care Choices Study series of research briefs explores the child care decisions, expenses, financial support, and maternal depression of parents who applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 2011. The research briefs offer insight into families' decision-making processes and choices for child care, as well as instances of maternal depression among mothers applying for Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA), Maryland's TANF program.
- Child Care Decision-Making Process and Child Care Choices among Applicants for Temporary Cash Assistance: This brief examines sources of information parents use in learning about care arrangements, the duration and difficulty of their search process, and their priorities and child care choices. Findings show that a majority of parents used the internet to learn about their options, but chose a provider using information from family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Twenty-five percent of parents said their decision-making process was somewhat or very difficult. Impoverished parents were more likely to cite trust and/or comfort with a caregiver as a priority whereas those using subsidized care were more likely to cite the quality of care arrangement as being most important. Children in subsidized care were more likely to be cared for in a child care center, and more than half of children not in subsidized care were cared for by family, friends, or neighbors in the child's home. One-quarter of children were cared for in multiple arrangements. The findings indicate the importance of providing parents with accessible information about child care options and the quality of these options.
- Child Care Expense and Financial Support for Child Care among Applicants for Temporary Cash Assistance: This brief focuses on the strategies families applying for TCA use to pay for child care and whether or not they receive financial support to help pay for child care. Sixty-five percent of parents using non-parental care report that they received help in paying for child care, either through a subsidy or another source. Almost half of those using non-parental care do not pay anything out-of-pocket for child care for any of their children. Parents who use a partial subsidy for care paid about one-fifth of their weekly household income for child care; those who paid completely out-of-pocket spent one-third of their weekly household income on child care. Sixty-eight percent of children in partially subsidized child care were cared for in centers; a high proportion of children in free or unsubsidized arrangements were cared for by informal providers. And, parents receiving partially or subsidized care are more likely to cite quality as the most important reason for choosing their child's care arrangement. The findings indicate that increasing low-income families' access to child care subsidies, especially full subsidy, would increase the likelihood that families choose higher-quality care.
- Maternal Depression among Applicants for Temporary Cash Assistance: Over half of the mothers in the study reported that they felt down, depressed, or hopeless in the past year. Of the mothers who experienced feelings of depression, 47 percent reported that their symptoms were persistent or concerning to them. Forty percent of unemployed mothers reported depressive symptoms. Parents who felt stressed by parenting more commonly also reported depressive symptoms. Together, these findings suggest the substantial need for mental health services and support for mothers who apply for TCA. It is also critical to make services available to mothers through a variety of settings, providers, and networks that low-income mothers trust, such as home visits, early childhood settings, and peer support groups.
The Foundation for Child Development (FCD) published Challenging Common Myths about Young Dual Language Learners: An Update to the Seminal 2008 Report to address recent research that expands on what we know about how young children acquire a second language and the consequences of growing up learning multiple languages. The report addresses two new commonly held beliefs about young children learning English as their second language and updates five beliefs. The growth of DLL children in early childhood programs has grown significantly in the past few decades; 10 states experienced more than 200 percent growth in their population of DLL children. The report offers guidance on how to develop policies and programs that best support DLL children.
Based on recent research, the report finds that: DLL children are very capable of learning academic content in two languages, that there are cognitive benefits to doing so, and that all children benefit linguistically, culturally, and economically from learning multiple languages. Research shows that many early literacy skills developed in the home language can be transferred to English. Additionally, accurate and valid assessment information for DLL students must be obtained to ensure they are receiving developmentally appropriate instruction.
The report offers a set of implications for moving forward on the federal, state, and local level. These include:
- Supporting both DLLs' home language and literacy development and English language development.
- Examining family engagement policies and practices through the lens of diversity.
- Reviewing current state early learning guidelines to ensure they are inclusive of, and appropriate for, DLLs.
- Designing, implementing, and evaluating instructional practices to ensure they help DLLs develop essential academic concepts and take into consideration appropriate home language and cultural contexts.
- Providing early childhood teachers and staff with professional development and training on culturally and linguistically appropriate practices.
- Supporting children's bilingualism whenever possible.
- Assessing DLLs' linguistic and conceptual knowledge in both their home language and English.
Fourteen states have received Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grants, ranging from $20 to $70 million, since the program started in 2011. While states have not directed a significant portion of state funds to infant-toddler specific activities, there are state activities that will support the youngest children. Many states are engaging in general activities of revising early learning guidelines, implementing quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS), increasing access to coaching and mentoring for early childhood educators, and strengthening health and developmental screening practices - all of which can help support infants and toddlers.
ZERO TO THREE's (ZTT's) brief, The Early Learning Challenge Grant is Helping States Better Serve Infants and Toddlers, offers an overview of state RTT-ELC grant winners' activities that will benefit infants and toddlers. Listed below are some examples of state activities ZTT highlights in its brief:
- California has developed contracts to provide infant-toddler trainings to home visiting program staff; provide training on developmental screenings; and develop multiple online courses that provide overviews of the California Collaborative for the Social-Emotional Foundations of Early learning (CCSEFEL) teaching pyramid.
- Delaware is adding two infant-toddler specialists to its QRIS technical assistance group to address a recognized need for supporting improved quality among providers who care for very young children.
- Minnesota is developing a 30-hour infant-toddler certificate curriculum to meet the state's QRIS training requirements. Additionally, the state is providing low-cost training around health and safety to family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) caregivers; 76 percent of children in FFN care in the state are under age 3.
- North Carolina is developing a contract with the Center for Child and Family Health and the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University to support Transformation Zones, which are select counties implementing a series of early learning strategies, in developing the capacity to implement a universal newborn nurse home visiting program.
- Rhode Island has recognized the increased cost of infant care, so the state designed its QRIS Program Quality Rewards to support infant care for children up to 18 months. Centers and homes that offer infant care and achieve a level of 3, 4 or 5 are eligible to receive Program Quality Rewards.
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), housed in the U.S. Department of Education, has released a report synthesizing the early intervention and early childhood education research they've funded and that has been published in peer-reviewed outlets through June 2010. The report reflects on lessons learned throughout this research and focuses on four areas of research in particular:
- Early childhood classroom environments and general instructional practices;
- Education practices designed to impact children's academic and social outcomes;
- Measuring young children's skills and learning; and,
- Professional development for early educators.
In addition to summarizing lessons learned, the IES report offers important early education research questions that have yet to be thoroughly examined. These questions include:
- What are the crucial features of high-quality early childhood education?
- Which instruction is most effective for which children and under what circumstances?
- How do we effectively and efficiently support teachers in improving their instruction?