Washington, D.C. — Infants and toddlers—the cohort leading the demographic shift toward the United States becoming a nation that is majority people of color and the group that experiences poverty at the highest rate—are the focus of a new report released today by the Center for American Progress. The report explores the patchwork of federal programs serving infants and toddlers and recommends a set of strategies to better align these services to make sure all children have a strong start and an equal opportunity to succeed in life. While rising inequality and racial and ethnic diversity have played prominently in national policy discussions, infants and toddlers—the population most affected by these changes—have been largely absent from the conversation.
“With so many families still working to recover from the recession, today’s infants and toddlers are especially affected by rising economic inequality in the United States,” said Katie Hamm, Director of Early Childhood Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “The current approach to service delivery for young children is fragmented and under-resourced. It is imperative that we make a greater effort to align and expand the current patchwork of social support programs to serve young children in a cohesive way that best sets them up for success now and in the future.”
The report was released at an event held at CAP that featured a discussion examining how infants and toddlers serve as an important bellwether for the future of the country and how the United States can combat inequality by investing in the youngest members of the next generation. To provide a more robust and seamless approach to service delivery, considering growing diversity and poverty among the nation’s youngest children, the report offers the following policy recommendations:
- Increase funding for infants and toddlers consistent with the cost of providing quality care and education.
- Create single entry points for early childhood programs serving infants and toddlers.
- Allow states to apply for federal infant and toddler funds through a single application with the goal of aligning services.
- Invest in developing more evidence-based programs for diverse populations.
- Enhance outreach efforts to all communities.
“Today’s infants and toddlers are tomorrow’s adult workforce,” said Vanessa Cardenas, Vice President of Progress 2050 at CAP. “In order to move toward closing the racial income and achievement gaps, policymakers must first close the school-readiness gap, which requires investing in our nation’s youngest citizens—our most valuable resource.”
To read the full report, “Aligning and Investing in Infant and Toddler Programs,” click here.
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