Magazine article Policy & Practice

Child Care

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Child Care

Article excerpt

Child care plays a central role in the success of working families across the nation. Through the federal Child Care and Development Fund, state agencies are able to provide low-income working families with subsidized child care. With limited resources however, states are challenged in providing child care that is high in quality, adequate in supply, and affordable. Yet, child care that meets these critical criteria is dually beneficial to children and working families. On one hand, it serves as an economic necessity that allows parents to secure and retain employment and reduce dependency on public assistance. At the same time, quality child care promotes healthy child development and prepares children to be successful in school and life. These benefits are well supported by the research literature. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics finds that quality child care is particularly important for children from economically disadvantaged families and those with low maternal education, since they are at high risk of not being ready for school.


Child Care is Vital to Working Families--High-quality child care allows working families to secure and retain employment in today's workforce. Research from the Economic Policy Institute finds that:

* Single mothers who receive child care assistance are 40 percent more likely to remain employed after two years than those who do not receive this assistance.

* Mothers with a high school degree or less were just as likely as mothers with some college education to experience increased employment tenure when receiving child-care subsidies.

* Former welfare recipients with young children are 60 percent more likely to still be employed after two years if they receive help paying for child care.

Child Care Promotes Success in School and Beyond--High-quality child care also offers a direct benefit to children, providing them with a safe, nurturing environment that promotes school readiness, high school completion, and skill-building for success in life. For infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, quality early care and education creates positive early learning experiences that promote optimal brain development, shaping the child's intellectual, linguistic, social-emotional, and physical skills. In turn, these developmental skills help children think critically, learn from teachers and peers, make friends, express thoughts and feelings, build confidence, and cope with frustration--all foundational skills needed for success in school and beyond. Quality early care and education settings help young children acquire these basic skills that then facilitate important academic skills such as reading comprehension and math.

For school-age children, quality after-school programs keep elementary and middle school students safe and healthy during the afternoon hours when juvenile crimes tend to soar. These programs keep youth constructively engaged when they might otherwise be getting into trouble on the streets, taking drugs, joining gangs, or engaging in other inappropriate behavior. Quality after-school programs also provide youth with academic supports such as homework help and tutoring to inspire learning success. In quality after-school settings, trained youth workers develop children's self-esteem, teach respect and community involvement, and impart values and habits for success in life. In turn, youth who attend these programs get better grades, have better personal conduct in school, and stay in school instead of dropping out.

A Return on Investment--The direct link between child care and our economy is clear. Well-respected studies by business leaders and economists at the Center on Economic Development calculate a high return on investment--as much as $17 for every $1 invested in high-quality programs. Not only does high-quality care play a critical role in alleviating the economic burden our country is currently facing by providing safe, affordable care so that parents can immediately secure and retain employment, it also develops human capital down the road by cultivating crucial academic and life skills that children need to succeed in school and later in life as adults. …

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