NCECF presented the keynote address at the Rockingham County Eggs and Issues Elected Officials Breakfast on February 8th, 2019.
Every day, approximately 15,000 infant toddler teachers are paid to care for and educate approximately 66,085 infants and toddlers enrolled in licensed child care programs across North Carolina. These early educators have the enormous responsibility of safeguarding and facilitating the development of our youngest children while they are spending the majority of their waking hours in child care when their parents work. These infant toddler teachers must have the knowledge, skills, and resources to provide consistent, nurturing, and positive relationships to support their healthy development and learning.
An acute shortage of child care subsidy funding exists, especially for families of infants and toddlers. In North Carolina, an estimated 102,971 infants and toddlers whose parents are working are eligible for child care subsidy.2 In 2018, 19,842 infants and toddlers received subsidy—only 19% of all eligible babies in North Carolina.3 Another way to estimate need is by looking at the child care subsidy waiting list. While not all eligible families apply for subsidy, in September 2018, 12,802 infants and toddlers remained on the waitlist. Of the children under age six waiting for subsidy, 56% were infants and toddlers.4 By any measure, there is a dramatic need to increase access to child care assistance and quality early care and learning programs in North Carolina.
Supporting pregnant women at work reduces infant mortality, improves maternal and infant health, and reduces doctor and hospital visits. When children have good health in utero and good birth outcomes, they are more likely to have good physical health and on-track development during childhood and throughout life.
Providing new parents with the opportunity to care for a child benefits everyone involved. The first weeks and months of a child's life are critical to development. Because of the important role of parents in this early period, paid family leave can have effects on relationship-building, parental involvement, health, and well-being that last throughout a child’s life.
High-quality, affordable health care helps parents work and support their children. Parents can’t get to work, or take care of their children, when they’re not healthy. Unfortunately, in North Carolina approximately 500,000 North Carolinians don’t earn enough to buy private health insurance, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. In North Carolina, over 15% of parents of infants and toddlers are uninsured, and closing this “coverage gap” would provide over 100,000 parents the improved health and access to the care they need to thrive, which in turn improves children’s health and development.12 To improve the health of current and prospective parents and their children, North Carolina should take advantage of available federal funding to expand access to insurance coverage.
A stable, secure relationship with a nurturing, caring adult is a key factor in young children’s development. Parents play the lead role in their children’s healthy development, but all parents are stretched in the earliest months and years of their children’s lives. Home visiting programs, which match parents with trained professionals to provide in-home support during pregnancy and throughout their child’s first years, are an effective method to support families, particularly when they are part of a comprehensive and coordinated system of services.
Census population estimates have a big impact on North Carolina’s federal funding for family supports as well as the fairness of our local resource allocation. Every family missed in the census results in a loss for North Carolina. Young children have been undercounted in the past, so it’s critical that we reach their families to ensure that Census 2020 accurately reflects North Carolina’s needs.
North Carolina is considered a “child care desert” when it comes to quality infant toddler care. Overall only 18.7% of the infant-toddler population can be served in the existing supply of licensed infant-toddler programs.1 On average, more than five families with infants and toddlers are competing for every available licensed child care space. Quality infant toddler care can be even more scarce, even in those counties that do offer infant toddler care in existing child care programs.
During the first years of life, babies’ experiences are built into their bodies—shaping the brain’s architecture and building the foundation for future learning, behavior and health. Yet current and historic laws, policies and practices—both official and unofficial—have created and maintain widespread barriers to opportunity and success for babies and toddlers of color.
This brief disaggregates data on key NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading shared measures of success to shine a light on the current disparities in outcomes—and opportunity—among groups of young children and their families.