Because children’s experiences in the first five years of life establish the foundation for ongoing learning and progress, high-quality early care and education for all children is critical. Unfortunately, the American system for the provision of early care and education is deeply fragmented and severely under-resourced, which results in vastly uneven quality of and access to services. Quality child care access and affordability is a particular hardship for low- and moderate-income families, exacerbating inequities that can then persist for generations. That is why policymakers at every level of government need to prioritize investments in the child care system the same way they do infrastructure investments, because an effective child and early education system supports not just families but the economy and society overall.
At the same time, the United States lacks adequate national policies to support parents’ ability to remain in the labor force after having children, many parents—mostly mothers—drop out. This has important ramifications for their future work prospects, including their career path and earnings potential, which in turn have implications for family income levels, family well-being, and the economy as a whole. Lastly, it should not be overlooked that nearly 2 million adults, mostly women, are currently paid to provide early care and education services to more than 12 million children across the country. If these jobs were properly rewarded, they could be a desirable form of employment in every community. All of these challenges can be addressed with bold state, local, and federal investments in America’s children and families.
Parents too often lack viable options: both staying at home and going to work are unaffordable.