Each week, nearly 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care setting for an average of 35 hours. It’s a statistic that gets mentioned often in conversations about the importance of child care in every community across the United States, and with good reason. Working families understand the need to not only have their children in a child care setting that will keep them safe and out of harm’s way, but also to ensure that in the years where the most critical development occurs that they are in a setting that promotes early learning.
With so many families looking for safe, but affordable child care, one thing is certain; Families need effective and efficient policies that work for working families.
The good news is that Washington is paying attention. In mid-February, in front of classrooms of pre-school children, the President announced a plan that would create public pre-k programs in every state, or help support the 39 states that already have pre-k programs. In May, the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule that would positively impact the quality of children in all child care settings, including special focus on health and safety measures. And just this week, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the primary federal grant program that provides child care assistance for families and funds child care quality initiative, with enhanced health and safety standards to keep children safe in child care.
When Congress and the Administration are taking notice of the need for quality programs for children, from birth through age five, and taking action to make policies work better for the families that need them most, it’s important to make sure that we are supportive of all policies that work to support working families. Whether those policies create and expand public pre-k programs, or assist in the development and expansion of partnerships between child care programs and Early Head Start programs, or require comprehensive background checks of all providers receiving federal funds to care for children, or even making it easier for parents to find and sort through information to learn more about the available options for quality child care in their area, the simple truth is that all of these policies benefit families and children.
Today is the National Early Learning Day of Action and advocates across the country are talking about why it’s critical to invest in young children. Every child in every community across America deserves a fair shot at high quality and safe early learning opportunities that positively impact their development in the years when it’s most crucial. Working families are the foundation for the entire country. It’s time to make sure policies that work for working families, especially those that enhance their children’s early learning opportunities, are at the forefront of any policy discussion.