The Care and Education Landscape for Children from Birth Through Age 8
To provide context for the environment in which the professionals who are the focus of this report work, this chapter describes the complex landscape of systems that provide or support services for young children and their families, including practice settings, professional roles, and funding streams. Professional learning systems, also a key part of this landscape, are discussed in Part IV.
Early childhood services, programs, and interventions for children and their families are delivered or provided in a number of different settings in both the care and education and the health and social services sectors. These settings are summarized in Figure 2-1. This figure shows, within each setting (single band), how children are served over different age spans as they grow up. It also shows the junctions within a sector (represented by bands of the same shade) at which children tend to cross over from one setting to another over time; for example, a child may cross over from center-based childcare or Head Start to elementary school. These junctions illustrate the need for continuity along two dimensions. Continuity over time is essential to help provide consistent, high-quality experiences for children as they age, especially as they transition to different settings. Continuity across settings and sectors is vital as well. At any given age, a child may spend time in multiple settings. For example, a 6-year-old child may attend an elementary school, be in a family childcare setting after school, participate in a community-based program once per week at the local li-
FIGURE 2-1 Settings where children from birth through age 8 receive care and education, health, and social services.
brary, receive health screenings in school, go to a pediatric health clinic, and participate in programs or receive services administered by a social service agency. (See also the discussion of continuity in Chapter 5.)
A variety of different professional roles contribute to the development and early learning of young children across sectors and settings. Roles in the care and education sector are summarized in Figure 2-2, while Figure 2-3 captures some of the major roles in the health and social services sectors. Note that while this report focuses on the professional workforce for young children, families are included among the adult roles in care and education in the overview presented here because they are the most important adults in the life of most young children, with the potential to make the greatest contribution to determinants of the child’s future success. An ongoing study and forthcoming report of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council will focus on strengthening the capacity of parents of young children from birth through age 8.1
Collectively, Figures 2-1 through 2-3 illustrate how, depending on the practice setting, different professional roles may interact with varying age ranges and therefore may require different specialized skills building on knowledge and competencies shared among all care and education professionals. For example, an educator in a family childcare center that provides after-school care may work with children from birth through age 8 and beyond. Conversely, an educator in a center-based preschool may work only with children aged 3-5, and in any given year, an educator in an elementary school typically works with only one grade. In the health and social services sectors, many professionals work with children across the entire 0-8 age span.
Conclusion About Settings and Professional Roles
Children between birth and age 8 spend time in a variety of settings, both informal and formal, and interact with a wide range of professionals and other adults. All of these settings and interactions offer the potential to support healthy development and early learning, and children can meet developmentally informed expectations for early learning when they are immersed in high-quality environments with professionals who are promoting their progress and working in positive ways with their families.
1 More information about this study can be found at www.iom.edu/activities/children/committeeonsupportingtheparentsofyoungchildren.
FIGURE 2-2 Adults who support children from birth through age 8 in the care and education sector.
FIGURE 2-3 Major categories of adults who support children from birth through age 8 in the health and social services sectors.
Numerous funded programs and other sources of funding contribute to services that support the development and early learning of children from birth through age 8 across the care and education, health, and social services sectors. These include federal, state, and local governmental sources as well as nongovernmental sources of funds such as private businesses and philanthropic organizations and out-of-pocket payments for childcare and education. Historically, different programs and funding streams may have been initiated with different purposes in mind—for example, public school to provide equal access to education, childcare subsidies to enable adults to work, and Head Start and other prekindergarten programs to equalize access to early childhood education and reduce disparities in academic and other outcomes. Regardless of their original intent, most of the programs that serve young children are increasingly recognizing their potential to contribute to comprehensive development across domains, and as a result are adopting shared long-term goals for school success and health (Bartik, 2011; Partnership for America’s Economic Success, 2010).
Child development and early learning and health are recognized on many levels as a public good with benefits for society as a whole, and there is a long tradition of public investments in achieving these benefits, especially for children and families who are disadvantaged. Many different avenues of public investment exist through federal programs as well as state and local initiatives. Revenues for these investments derive not just from general funds but also from designated allocations based on voter referenda in some states.
Federal expenditures for children include education, health, income security, early care and education, nutrition, tax provisions, and housing and social services (Hahn et al., 2014). More than 80 federal programs and tax provisions benefit children. The 10 largest programs and tax provisions for children accounted for more than three-quarters (77 percent) of the total $664 billion spent on children in 2013. Of these, Medicaid is the single largest program, spending $72 billion on children in 2013. The next three largest federal expenditures on children are tax provisions: the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, and the dependent exemption. These are followed by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, social security benefits for dependents and survivors under 18, child nutrition programs, Title I funding for educating disadvantaged children, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant (Hahn et al., 2014).
For care and education for children from birth through age 8, there are major federal funding programs in the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, such as the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program; the Child Care and Development Fund; Head Start/Early Head Start; Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs; Preschool Development Grants; Race to the Top funds; and grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The U.S. Department of Defense is another source of federal funding for care and education, providing prekindergarten through grade 12 education programs for children of active duty military and U.S. Department of Defense civilian families (U.S. Department of Defense, n.d.) as well as childcare, including Child Development Centers, Family Child Care, and School Age Care (Military One Source, n.d.).
While federal funding represents a large public investment in children, state and local government funding sources also make a major contribution. Education and health expenditures account for nearly all (96 percent) of state and local spending on children (Hahn et al., 2014). State and local sources for expenditures on early care and education include state general funds; dedicated funds, which include tobacco and lottery-specific taxes; and tobacco funds (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2011). Property taxes support most of the funding provided for education by local government (New America Foundation, 2014). Other local sources include miscellaneous charges and receipts and other local tax initiatives (Tax Policy Center, 2013).
Federal, state, and local government investments in children vary by age. A study examining 2011 federal spending and 2008 total government spending found that state and local governments provide the majority of total public investments in children aged 6 and older, while the majority of public investments in children aged 0-2 comes from the federal government, which also provides about half of public investments in children aged 3-5. School-aged children receive the highest total public spending, while the youngest children receive the highest federal spending (Edelstein et al., 2012).
Outside government, philanthropic organizations are one source of private funds for care and education programs and other services for children from birth through age 8 (Mitchell et al., 2001). With business leaders increasingly concerned about the available pipeline of skilled workers, especially for jobs requiring strong technological, mathematical, literary, or information-processing skills, the business community has shown some interest in investing in education, including early learning. One avenue
to this end is investment in early childhood care and education through childcare benefits or subsidies for employees or through direct provision of childcare services. Another avenue is through the engagement of business leaders in advocacy to foster greater government investment. Although not as widespread, in some cases businesses and corporations invest directly to improve the availability and quality of care and education programs in their communities (Mitchell et al., 2001).
Private investments of philanthropies or business and corporate sponsors are sometimes paired with public action and funding for initiatives to improve the availability and quality of early care and education programs and services. Such partnerships can occur on a statewide level but are more commonly local, resulting from the direct collaboration of local business leaders, public officials, and local and national philanthropies in pooling resources to effect changes that none would be capable of accomplishing alone. Several examples of these partnerships are included in Chapter 5 and Appendix G.
Another nongovernmental, noninstitutional funding stream is out-of-pocket payment for services. Across the entire socioeconomic distribution of families in the United States, a large burden of the costs of early care and education is borne directly by families themselves through fees and tuition. Children from low-income families are eligible for government-funded programs, as eligibility for enrollment is based on family income. Families who are ineligible for these programs and lack employer-based childcare benefits must pay for these services out of pocket. Furthermore, in states in which state-funded full-day kindergarten is not compulsory, some families pay for kindergarten tuition costs directly (Guernsey and Holt, 2012). Some families make additional direct, out-of-pocket investments in education through out-of-pocket tuition for private elementary schools.
Many families whose income is above the level that would qualify for public programs nonetheless do not earn enough to afford out-of-pocket tuition expenses for prekindergarten and childcare programs (Guernsey and Holt, 2012; Wat, 2008). Fees have increased significantly: families were paying $94 per week in 1997, and this number had increased to nearly $180 by 2011 (Whitebook et al., 2014). These costs can exceed college tuition fees (Wat, 2008). Families earning $30,000 to $60,000 are less likely to enroll their children in center-based programs, and often choose less expensive programs in which quality often suffers. Enrollment in ac-
credited, high-quality programs tends to increase for families with annual salaries above $60,000 (Wat, 2008).
Implications of Funding Diversity for Continuity in Care and Education for Children Aged 0-8
The number and diversity of funding streams for care and education reflect a range of investments in early childhood, but they also are one reason why, as discussed below and in detail in Chapter 5, continuity in care and education for children from birth through age 8 is challenging. Each funding stream is subject to the policies of the agency or institution from which it derives. For the most part, each has its own requirements as to scope of services allowed, quality standards (or lack thereof), eligibility criteria (including ages served), and reporting and accountability. Some states and federal agencies are experimenting with harmonizing some of these requirements to promote greater continuity and provide families with easier access, or are changing governance structures to facilitate these experiments. As discussed in Chapter 1, this committee was not charged with conducting a review of financing, but as detailed in Part V, the reality is that the commitment of significant resources will be necessary to effect the comprehensive changes in workforce development required to achieve the quality of professional practice that is needed. Therefore, some examples of innovative and alternative funding approaches for improving care and education for young children are provided in Appendix G.
Conclusion About Funding
A wide range of resources contribute to supporting the health, well-being, and education of children from birth through age 8. Many federal programs support child development and early learning. In addition, many funds invested in children come from state and local sources and from sources outside of government, including philanthropy, the business sector, and out-of-pocket payments by families. Therefore, avenues for oversight and accountability reside at the national, state, and local levels and both within and outside of government.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE CURRENT LANDSCAPE FOR THE CARE AND EDUCATION WORKFORCE
The number of settings and variety of professional roles with which a child interacts over time represent a wide array of opportunities for exerting positive influence on a child’s development and early learning. However, the landscape of services, settings, and funding streams described in
this chapter clearly illustrates how complex a challenge it is to ensure that the quality and developmentally informed progression of services remains consistent across standards, professional practices, professional learning supports, policies, governance, funding, and continuous improvement and accountability systems.
At a fundamental level, although they have been grouped in this report as care and education professionals to reflect the aspiration of continuity and consistency, not all of the various professionals who work with young children are seen or see themselves as part of the same professional landscape. Educators in elementary schools are embedded in systems whose scope extends through high school, with a perceived identity that often inclines to the later grades and does not lend itself easily to a primary identity as a professional with a role in early learning. At the same time, “early childhood education” systems and professionals tend to encompass primarily the preschool years and center-based programs. Center-based care does sometimes start in the infant-toddler years, but many of the professionals in settings that serve infants and toddlers, as well as professionals in family childcare, who span multiple age ranges, have a much more diffuse identity that is matched by much less well-defined infrastructure across all aspects of systems and supports. Other professionals, such as home visitors, early intervention specialists, and mental health consultants, have a clear role in the early learning of children, yet they occupy a space that cuts across—or drifts within—the care and education, health, and social services sectors depending on how implementation is organized in a given state or municipality. In keeping with this range of identities, numerous and varied organizations and institutions—including national- and state-level professional associations as well as research, policy, and advocacy organizations—provide guidance and set standards.
The result is that—although the science of development and early learning indicates that every environment can be a learning environment for young children and that everyone who works in that environment has a role as an educator—there currently are very different systems and expectations for different settings and professionals. Therefore, silos among funding sources and levels, policies, professional learning systems, professional expectations and requirements to be qualified to practice, and compensation and benefits challenge the central goal this report is intended to advance: the achievement of greater continuity and coherence in high-quality care and education for children from birth through age 8. The remainder of this report presents the committee’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations with respect to meeting this challenge.
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