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.
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.
Think Babies™ NC seeks to advance policies that support the healthy development of North Carolina’s babies and toddlers. It is aligned with the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative and the NC Early Childhood Action Plan. Think Babies™ NC is led by the NC Early Education Coalition with support from the NC Early Childhood Foundation and a Leadership Team of state and local organizations focused on advancing public awareness and policy solutions for infants, toddlers, and their families.
Paul Lanier, author of the North Carolina Landscape Study of Early Home Visiting Programs, shares the report’s findings and recommendations.
The purpose of this landscape study was to address basic questions regarding home visiting in North Carolina have been largely unknown, including: How many families receive home visiting? What program models are operating and where? How large is the home visiting workforce in our state? Where are the largest areas of unmet need? What are the facilitators and barriers to