Early Childhood Education Update - January 2009
Jan 09, 2009 | Teresa Lim
In this issue:
- CLASP Releases State-By-State Profiles of Child Care Spending and Early Education Investments
- Improvements in the Illinois Early Childhood Workforce
- Global Child Care Needs
- The Importance of Child Care for Houston Families
- Infants and Toddlers in the District of Columbia
- The Science of Early Brain Development
- Mental Health Problems in Early Childhood
- The Impacts of Home Visiting on the Quality of Home-Based Child Care
- NCCP Releases Book On Low-Income Children In The U.S.
- The Economic Cost of Recession-Induced Child Poverty
CLASP released updated state-by-state profiles of child care spending and early education investments. The revised profiles can be found using CLASP's new interactive Child Care and Early Education Data Map. Data can be searched by either topic or state. The profiles provide information (where available) on:
- Child Care Assistance and Participation
- Community-Based Pre-Kindergarten
- Head Start Program Data
- State Early Head Start Initiatives
- Infant/Toddler Initiatives
For child care spending, the profiles analyze the most recently available data from the Administration for Children and Families as well as data from previous years. The profiles look at child care spending from the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds used for child care in federal fiscal year 2006 as well as CCDBG participation in 2007.
The McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership and the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative released a joint report, Who's Caring for Kids? The Status of the Early Childhood Workforce in Illinois - 2008. The report is a follow-up to a paper published in 2001, which examined the conditions of the early care and education industry in Illinois. Education, compensation, and professional development were among some of the issues that the 2001 paper analyzed. The new report looks at changes that have occurred in these issues and others since then. Overall, the report finds that major improvements have been made to the field of early care and education in Illinois. These improvements include greater training and education opportunities, increased state coordination of early care and education activities, and expanded access to early childhood services and resources. Six major developments are highlighted:
- Establishment of the Illinois Early Learning Council
- Establishment of the Illinois Professional Development Advisory Council
- Creation of the professional development network, Gateways to Opportunity
- Launching of the universal pre-kindergarten program, Preschool For All
- Creation of the early childhood resources project, Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map
- Launching of Illinois Quality Counts - Quality Rating System
The report also identifies a number of challenges that continue to face the early childhood workforce. Among them is a need for greater compensation, particularly among community-based programs. While the educational level of lead teachers in community-based programs has increased, the report finds that these teachers are being drawn to public schools where salaries are higher. In addition, the report highlights a need for highly qualified leadership. Since 2001, the proportion of directors that reported having a college degree or higher declined from 72 percent to 66 percent. Given the changing demographics of the Illinois population, the report also highlights a greater need for a diversified early childhood workforce better trained in serving the needs of families from different cultural backgrounds.
A new United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report, The Child Care Transition (Innocenti Report Card 8), examines the growing child care needs of families among the economically advanced countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As economic factors, such as low wages, drive both parents to work full-time jobs, the need for child care has significantly increased. In particular, the number of children in OECD countries who spend time in out-of-home child care has drastically expanded. About 80 percent of three to six year olds are in some form of early care and education; about 25 percent of children under age three are in child care. Many OECD countries have also seen increases in the percentage of infants under age one that are in child care. In the U.S., over half of babies under one are in some form of care. The report emphasizes the importance of ensuring that these young children receive the highest quality of care possible. The quality of care and interaction that children receive during their early years affects all facets of their development. Drawing on recent neuroscience research, the report highlights evidence showing that young children need warm, nurturing, and stable relationships with family and caregivers for optimal growth. As countries shift more toward a competitive, knowledge-based economy, early education is also seen as an important investment for future academic success and breaking cycles of poverty. The report lays out ten benchmarks for establishing minimum, international standards in the availability and quality of child care. The benchmarks address the following areas:
- Entitlement to paid parental leave
- Development and implementation of a national plan for child care with prioritization for disadvantaged children
- Adequate child care provisions for children under three
- Access to care for children under four
- Training for all staff
- Higher education and training for certain staff
- Appropriate staff-to-child ratios
- Availability of public funding
- Declining child poverty levels
- Outreach to disadvantaged families
Using these benchmarks, the report ranks the U.S. near the bottom out of 25 surveyed OECD countries. The U.S. meets only three benchmarks concerning: subsidized and regulated child care services for children under age three, teacher training, and staff-to-child ratios. The highest ranking country was Sweden, which met all 10 benchmarks.
The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) released a new fact sheet, The Importance of Child Care: More Help Needed for Houston's Families. NCCP has previously published a fact sheet on child care needs in San Antonio. The new Houston fact sheet finds that the supply of affordable child care is not meeting demand among low-income families in Houston, Texas. Over three-quarters of low-income Houston families have parents who are employed; the majority of these parents work full-time, year-round. The report finds that for a single-parent family with two children, child care can be the largest expense out of the family budget, surpassing the cost of housing. Using the Center for Public Policy Priorities' (CPPP) Family Budget Estimator and NCCP's Family Resource Simulator, the fact sheet estimates that a single parent in Houston with one school-aged and one preschool-aged child would spend about $918 a month on child care compared to $768 on housing. Access to child care assistance, however, is limited in Houston. As of December 2007, the waiting list for a subsidy had over 8,000 children. In addition, many working families, who are just above the income eligibility for assistance, are struggling to afford the high costs of quality care. The fact sheet uses the Family Resource Simulator to further to evaluate a subsidy's impact on a low-income family. For a family with one parent and two children, the report calculates that the subsidy would allow the family to meet daily expenses and have about $2,000 annually in surplus to set aside for savings, provided that the parent has a full-time job paying $9/hour and receives additional work supports (federal income tax credits, food stamps, and public children's health insurance).
The District of Columbia State Board of Education commissioned a new report, Infants and Toddlers in the District of Columbia: A Needs Assessment. The report looks at the current accessibility, quality, and affordability of care for infants and toddlers in the District. About 37.6 percent of DC children under age three live in low-income families compared to 43.4 percent nationally. The report finds that there is an overall lack of affordable, quality child care. Among the report's findings:
Accessibility: 6,453 children under age four are on waiting lists for child care slots at centers. Among 348 child care centers, only 149 slots are available for infants. While these centers can serve up to 3,893 children under age two, there are about 13,000 total DC children under age two.
Affordability: The average annual expense for infant care in a licensed center in the District is $12,000. With the median family income at $36,238, the report assesses that quality infant care at a center-based program can take up over half of a family's income before taxes. In 2006-07, 22,377 children received child care subsidies, or about 71 percent of subsidy-eligible children. This percentage is high compared to the national average range of 15-20 percent.
Quality: The percentage of child care centers (30 percent) and family home providers (25 percent) with national accreditations is relatively high when measured against the national market. Although the number of nationally accredited programs in the District is increasing, caregivers continue to receive a low average salary of $22,850. The report provides various recommendations for improving services for infants and toddlers, including identifying and maximizing potential funding sources and developing uniform, structured standards and credentials for specialized care.
The Center on the Developing Child released a new brief, InBrief: The Science of Early Brain Development, the fourth in a set of briefs summarizing the scientific findings presented at the National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy. The new brief highlights five critical concepts of brain development that occur during the period of early childhood:
- The brain develops over time, beginning before birth and carrying on to adulthood. Early experiences are important as they establish the foundation upon which all other learning and growth are built.
- Both genes and experience impact brain development. Young children need nurturing, stimulating interactions with family and caregivers. Without these experiences, the brain does not develop normally, leading to health and behaviors later on.
- The brain's ability to change declines with age. The early years of life are the most effective time to influence brain development. During these years, the brain is flexible and easily able to absorb new concepts and adapt to changes.
- The brain is a complex organ that coordinates cognitive, social, and emotional skills. These intertwining skills must all be nurtured during the early years as they set the precedent for future success and well-being.
- Toxic stresses, such as extreme poverty or repeated abuse, during the early years of brain development can have long-term, negative impacts. These toxic stresses become imbedded into the brain's foundation and manifest into learning difficulties, behavior problems and other types of health issues.
A new working paper, Mental Health Problems in Early Childhood Can Impair Learning and Behavior For Life, by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child examines the adverse impacts of mental health problems formed during the early childhood years. The paper reviews scientific research showing that early childhood is a period of particular vulnerability for mental well-being. For instance, the mental health of young children is strongly affected by the quality of their surrounding environment and relationships. Young children exposed to constant, adverse conditions, such as extreme poverty or poor child care, have increased risk of severe mental health problems. The report also highlights evidence that suggests that young children's responses to emotional experiences are very different from adults given their underdeveloped brains. However, there is inadequate understanding about how to diagnose these reactions and symptoms unique to young children. Although researchers have developed criteria to detect some disorders, the report emphasizes the need for further study on how to identify and assess early forms of serious mental health issues. If left untreated, mental health problems that are formed during early childhood can grow in severity and become harder to treat as an adult. To ensure the healthy mental development of young children, the report identifies key issues to address in early childhood policies. Among them, many early childhood professionals lack training in how to detect early signs of mental health issues and family problems that may affect a child. The report emphasizes the need for comprehensive, coordinated services that consider all aspects of a young child's surrounding environment and relationships. This broad-based approach should involve all key players in a young child's life, such as parents, extended family members, and early childhood providers. Overall, the report finds that early action and prevention strategies can be both cost-saving and psychologically more effective than treatments done at a later age.
The Cornell Early Childhood program released a new brief, Can Home Visiting Increase the Quality of Home-Based Child Care? The brief analyzes findings from the Caring for Quality (CFQ) Project. The CFQ Project launched a program that aimed to improve the quality of home-based child care through two measures: home visiting and networking. The program provided both registered and informal home-based providers with one-on-one interaction and onsite training with a home visitor and networking meetings with other providers. Home visits occurred twice a month for a minimum of nine months and a maximum of one year. During these visits, providers received training and resources outlined in "Supporting Care Providers Through Personal Visits," a revised form of the Parents as Teachers (PAT) Curriculum for family providers. Home visiting activities also incorporated elements of the Family Development Credential empowerment approach to family workers. In addition to home visits, providers participated in networking meetings, which were small gatherings of no more than seven providers. Providers set the time, location, and content of the meetings, while home visitors facilitated the meetings. The program was first implemented in an upstate New York community in 2005-2006; a second cycle of the program was launched in 2006-2007. In total, 53 registered and 44 informal providers participated in the program. The brief finds that at the launching of the CFQ program, home-based child care programs showed on average a minimal level of quality. However, the quality of care significantly improved for providers that participated in the CFQ program compared to those that were not in the program.
Evaluations using the Family Day Care Environmental Rating Scale (FDCERS) show that the quality of care increased for CFQ participants. Among the brief's findings, overall FDCERS scores increased from 3.94 to 4.25 for providers in the CFQ program. Scores among many of the FDCERS subscales also increased. For instance, there were marked improvements in language and reasoning, learning activities, social development, and adult needs. In contrast, non-participant providers experienced decreases in their FDCERS scores from 4.45 to 4.07 in a year. The brief also assesses quality of care using an adapted Health and Safety Checklist. Again, CFQ program providers showed improvements in quality, meeting an increased number of items on the list. While non-participants also met a greater number of health and safety criteria, there was a simultaneous large increase in the number of items that they did not meet. Overall, the brief finds that CFQ providers who more engaged in the program displayed larger improvements in quality. Similarly, CFQ providers who began with the least amount of experience in child caring demonstrated the largest quality improvements. Given the program's results and feedback from providers, the brief recommends greater funding and investment in home visiting programs. The networking meetings were found less helpful or critical to improving program quality.
The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) released an updated data book, Low-Income Children In The U.S.: National and State Trend Data, 1997-2007, based on data from the U.S. Current Population Survey. The book presents a breakdown of national and state-by-state data on low-income children and their families. The data provide information on:
- Family income
- Parental education/employment
- Parental marital status
- Child's race/ethnicity/age
- Parental nativity
- Family structure
- Home ownership
- Residential area/move/region
Since 2000, the overall number of U.S. children under age eighteen living in low-income families rose from 16 to 18 percent. This increase occurred after a decade of decline. Among the states (plus the District of Columbia), over half experienced an increase in children living in low-income families, while only 18 states showed some decline. In 2007, over 12 million U.S. children lived in low-income families.
A new First Focus brief, The Cost of Doing Nothing: The Economic Impact of Recession-Induced Child Poverty, looks at the economic consequences of child poverty caused by recession. The brief estimates that an additional 2.6 to 3.3 million children will fall into poverty as a result of the current economic slump. Given that poverty has adverse effects on a range of issues affecting the state of the economy, this increase translates to even greater economic losses. The brief reviews various research studies and reports, which find that child poverty contributes to lower future earnings, higher health care costs, and increased criminal behavior. Among key findings that are highlighted, children who live over half of their childhood in poverty earn 39 percent less on average than median income children. In terms of health outcomes, the costs of poor health quality stemming from poverty can add up to over a quarter of a million dollars lost over a child's lifetime. The report also analyzes data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and finds that during the 1990s recession, children who fell into poverty as a result of the economic downturn were thirteen times more likely to remain in poverty for additional time after the recession's end compared to children that had not experienced recession-induced poverty. Using these results and further analysis, the brief estimates that about 25 percent of children who experience recession-induced poverty are likely to remain in poverty for at least 50 percent of their remaining childhood. For the current three million children in danger of recession-induced poverty, the brief calculates that the total losses attributed to child poverty add up to over $1.7 trillion during the course of their lifetime, or about $35 billion annually in GDP. These significant long-term consequences illustrate the critical need to prevent additional children from falling into poverty as a result of the recession.