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Infant-Toddler Quality Child Care

For working parents, child care is a mandatory factor in their ability to earn a living for their families, yet too many employers make it impossible to juggle those work and family obligations. The economic reality of our country is that most families today consist of working parents – either a single parent doing it on her own, or two working parents trying to juggle work schedules to care for their children. The danger of losing a job or missing a promotion because of illness, pregnancy, or taking care of loved ones when so many companies are focused solely on the bottom line leaves too many moms and dads having to choose between their jobs and their families.

Our nation’s labor standards have not caught up to the significant changes in our family workforce. Our nations labor standards have not been updated in decades. Congress and the Administration must commit to creating a child care system that would assist families while simultaneously helping employers’ bottom lines, but both employers and policymakers have been slow to recognize how fundamentally our lives have changed and what needs to be done to make our workplace policies match the way that we live and work today.

Strengthening Infant/Toddler Child Care System Policies and Practices: A Tool for Advancing Infant/Toddler Child Care Quality

This tool is designed to support State child care leaders and I/T stakeholders as they assess, prioritize, plan, implement, and evaluate State policies to strengthen the quality of child care services that infants, toddlers, and their families receive. The tool also aims to assist I/T child care leaders as they create strategies, policies, protocols, and systems that:

  • Identify relationship-based care as essential to quality I/T child care

  • Engage, inform, and connect with families of infants and toddlers

  • Strengthen the quality and conditions of the I/T workforce to help meet the unique needs of infants and toddlers in child care settings

  • Increase the supply, health and safety, sustainability, and quality of I/T child care settings

  • Coordinate and integrate cross-sector systems that serve infants, toddlers, and their families.


Orientation to Strengthening State and Territory Infant/Toddler Child Care System Policies and Practices: A Tool for Advancing Infant/Toddler Child Care Quality, is a brief series of slides that present an overview of the background, resources, and structure of the Tool. It provides a self-guided introduction for professionals interested in using this new resource.

National Webinar on Strengthening State and Territory Infant/Toddler Child Care System Policies and Practices: A Tool for Advancing Infant/Toddler Child Care Quality. The PowerPoint and recording of the National Webinar introducing this tool is also provided here with additional information on how States and Territories can use the Tool. 11

Strengthening Infant/Toddler Policy    Size 870.51 KB
Publication Date: June 21, 2017
Resource Type : Tool

The Benefits:

Decades of research have documented the far-reaching effects of early learning and caregiving experiences. The findings include:

  • Children who receive high-quality child care have better outcomes in socioeconomic and health conditions as adults.

  • Child care benefits children’s behavioral development;high-quality and responsive child care “provides emotional support, reciprocal communication, accepts the need for growing independence, and provides cognitive stimulation that scaffolds the young child’s early learning.”8

  • Long-term analysis suggests that enrollment in early childhood education can increase earnings in adulthood

       by 1.3 to 3.5 percent.9

  • Access to higher-quality care, along with organized activities in middle childhood, have been associated with

       higher academic achievement at age 15.4

  • Children who participate in high-quality programs have positive lasting effects on IQ scores, and lower incidences of childhood obesity and chronic illness.10

Quick Facts:

  • More than 11 million children younger than age five are in some form of childcare in the United  States

  • Quality affordable child care has long-term benefits

Researchers have found that the quality of child care is important to the cognitive, language and social development of young children, with consistent and emotionally supportive care being hugely beneficial to children and families. Choosing quality care is important for babies and toddlers, who need nurturing, safe environments in order to thrive. 

  • Average cost of center-based infant care exceeds 27 percent of median household income for single working parents. For parents and families of color, these challenges are exceeded.


  • 60 percent of children under age six have both parents in the workforce and working mothers make up 40 percent of the workforce


  • Parents often miss work due to issues related to child care. It impacts the bottom line for families and employers.  Over a six-month period, 45 percent of parents are absent from work at least once due to child care breakdowns (e.g., provider is sick or closed, child is sick and unable to go to child care, missing an average of 4.3 days.


  • 65 percent of parents’ work schedules are affected by child care challenges, an average of 7.5 times over a six-month period. An estimated $28.9 billion in wages is lost annually by working families who do not have access to affordable child care and paid family and medical leave. U.S. businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion annually due to employee absenteeism as a result of child care breakdowns.

         Annual Cost of Care Report Shows Child Care Outpaces Nearly All Other Family Expenses Nationwide

         2018 Full Report published by Childcare Aware of America - A Review of Prices and Proposed Solutions for a                 Broken System

Barriers to High-Quality Child Care


Many families have no quality child care options in their immediate communities.1  he positive effects from high-quality programs and the negative effects from poor-quality programs are magnified in children from disadvantaged situations or with special needs, and yet, these children are least likely to have access to quality early education and child care.1,2,3,4

Preschool enrichment with family engagement and improved quality of child care through licensing and accreditation are two approaches for enhancing parenting practices, parental education, social support, and access to community resources, while simultaneously creating optimal learning environments for young children.


Preschool enrichment with family engagement programs provide high-quality early education and care to economically disadvantaged children to build a strong foundation for future learning and healthy development. These programs also provide support and educational opportunities for parents. Services are available to children and families provided they meet basic qualifications, such as being residents in a high-poverty school area eligible for federal Title I funding, demonstrate need, and agree to participate 5 or having incomes at or below the federal poverty level. Parent involvement is emphasized as critical in the child’s development and in increasing children’s success in school. Programs often begin in infancy or toddler age group and may continue into early or middle childhood. Improved quality of child care through licensing and accreditation.


Accredited child care ensures that the quality of children’s daily experiences are positive and supportive. Based on research and the development of young children, the National Association for the Education of Young Children 6 has identified program standards and criteria for accreditation, which are the quality indicators or characteristics believed to best promote child well-being and foster a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment. These characteristics can help parents make better child care choices for their children because they indicate a much greater likelihood of high quality care.

Evidence exists that preschool enrichment programs with family engagement and accredited child care can prevent child abuse and neglect and may provide other benefits to children and families, such as enhanced parent-child interactions.

  1. Sandstrom H, Giesen L, Chaudrey A. How Contextual Constraints Affect Low Income Working Parents Child Care Choices. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2012. Available at:

  2. Smith K, Adams N . Child Care Subsidies Critical for Low Income Families Amid Child Care Expenses. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy; 2013. Available 

  3. Magnuson KA, Waldfogel J . Early childhood care and education: effects on ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. Future Child. 2005;15(1):169–196

  4. Murphey D, Cooper M, Forry N. The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends; 2013. Available 

  5. Chicago Public Schools. (2014). Child Parent Center. Retrieved from Childhood/Pages/ Childparentcenter.aspx.

  6.  National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2015). NAEYC early childhood program standards and accreditation criteria: Revised guidance for assessment – Effective October 1, 2015. Retrieved from viewstandards.

  7. J. Heckman, “Quality early childhood education: Enduring benefits,” Heckman Equation. (2009). Retrieved from https://

  8.  S. H. Landry et al. “Enhancing early child care quality and learning for toddlers at risk: The responsive early childhood program, ”Developmental Psychology, 50(2), 526–541 (2014). Retrieved from

  9. “The Economics of Early Childhood Investments,” Executive Office of the President. (2014). Retrieved from

  10. D.L. Vandell et al. “Cumulative and differential effects or early child care and middle childhood out-of-school time on adolescent functioning,” Child Development. (2018). Retrieved from

  11. The Early Childhood Training and Technical Assistance System (ECTTAS) National Centers promote excellence through high-quality, practical resources and approaches. They are designed to build early childhood program capacity and promote consistent practices across communities, states, tribes, and territories. These centers bring together the knowledge and skills from Head Start, child care, and health partners across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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