Early Childhood

The first five years of life are a critical period of development that sets the stage for lifelong health and learning. While these early years are a time during which young children are particularly vulnerable to scarcity and instability, they also represent a key opportunity for proactively strengthening child and family well-being. Having access to high-quality, affordable child care with wraparound supports, for instance, has been linked to long-term improvements in health, learning, and economic stability, particularly for children from low-income families. Some policies and programs have been successful in reducing child poverty over time, but broader policy decisions and long-standing underinvestment have largely failed to account for the needs of young children and their families. Systemic inequities in access to basic needs—such as housing, food, healthy environments, and financial security—disproportionately affect marginalized and low-income communities, exacerbating disparities that have lasting, intergenerational consequences.

Investing in our nation’s early childhood system represents an investment in our families, communities, and economy. Proactive, holistic policies are necessary to ensure that all children have access to healthy, safe, and supportive environments in which to grow and thrive.

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States Are Taking Action To Address the Child Care Crisis Article
An empty classroom is pictured at a New Glarus, Wisconsin, child care center.

States Are Taking Action To Address the Child Care Crisis

Federal COVID-19 relief funding for child care stabilization grants ended in September 2023, but a number of states have stepped up this year to address the child care needs of working families.

Anna Lovejoy

Building a Comprehensive State Child Care Agenda Past Event

Building a Comprehensive State Child Care Agenda

Join CAP's Early Childhood Policy team to learn how the recently released data dashboard and state policymaker toolkit can be used to increase investments in child care and early learning programs.

Data Dashboard: An Overview of Child Care and Early Learning in the United States Report
Preschool students in Washington, D.C., are joined by the interim chancellor for District of Columbia Public Schools.

Data Dashboard: An Overview of Child Care and Early Learning in the United States

The Center for American Progress has developed a data dashboard that allows users to explore national- and state-level data trends on a range of child care and early learning topics, including access to affordable care, the child care workforce, Head Start, and exclusionary discipline policies.

Related Resources on Child Care and Early Learning Article
A 3-year-old walks to a park with her family in Rockville, Maryland.

Related Resources on Child Care and Early Learning

This webpage offers a list of resources that can help make the case for investments in child care and early learning at the state level.

the CAP Early Childhood Policy Team

The Child Care Sector Is Still Struggling To Hire Workers Article
A teacher leads a morning warm-up session for young children in Frederick, Maryland.

The Child Care Sector Is Still Struggling To Hire Workers

Amid a tight labor market and lack of sustainable funding, the child care sector’s shortage of good jobs persists, exacerbating its challenge to attract and retain workers.

Rose Khattar, Maureen Coffey

CAP Comments on the EPA’s Proposed Rule on Lead Dust Levels in Child-Occupied Facilities Article

CAP Comments on the EPA’s Proposed Rule on Lead Dust Levels in Child-Occupied Facilities

The Center for American Progress submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to the agency’s proposed lower lead dust hazard standards and clearance levels for child-occupied homes and child care facilities.

Strengthening Early Childhood Health, Housing, Education, and Economic Well-Being Through Holistic Public Policy Report
A child stacks duplo legos to make a tower in a Head Start classroom for children ages 3 to 5.

Strengthening Early Childhood Health, Housing, Education, and Economic Well-Being Through Holistic Public Policy

The preschool years present a critical developmental period sensitive to changes in public health and social policy, for which robust investments in programs that support families can improve intergenerational outcomes.

5 Things To Know About the Child Care for Working Families Act Fact Sheet
An early childhood educator zips up the coat of her 3-year-old student .

5 Things To Know About the Child Care for Working Families Act

The Child Care for Working Families Act aims to expand access to and lower the cost of care for families, support child care workers, and address racial and gender disparities in the child care system.

the CAP Early Childhood Policy Team

CAP’s Comments on FDA Draft Guidance for Lead Levels in Foods Marketed to Babies and Young Children Article

CAP’s Comments on FDA Draft Guidance for Lead Levels in Foods Marketed to Babies and Young Children

The Center for American Progress submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in response to the agency’s proposed draft guidance intended to reduce lead in foods marketed for infants and young children.

States Can Improve Child Care Assistance Programs Through Cost Modeling Report
A child care worker engages children during an activity.

States Can Improve Child Care Assistance Programs Through Cost Modeling

The current process states use for setting child care subsidy reimbursement rates only looks backward, building low wages and scarce resources into the future of child care.

Maureen Coffey

Top 5 Actions Governors Can Take To Address the Child Care Shortage Report
Photo shows a woman in the foreground holding a baby with another teacher and toddlers in the background, in a room filled with toys.

Top 5 Actions Governors Can Take To Address the Child Care Shortage

Governors must take the lead in instituting policies that fairly compensate early childhood providers for the skilled work they perform, incentivize the creation of programs in child care deserts, and relieve families of the high cost of care.

Anna Lovejoy

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Building an Economy for All

Building an Economy for All

Economic growth must be built on the foundation of a strong and secure middle class so that all Americans benefit from growth.

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