The first three years of a child’s life shape every year after. Parents play the lead role in their child’s healthy development. But that responsibility can be overwhelming in a baby’s earliest months and years. Study after study shows the positive effects of early childhood education. It helps children learn the skills they’ll need socially, in school, and in careers.
Brain Development is Important
A child’s brain develops rapidly from birth to age three – faster than any other phase in life.
Parents Want and Need Support
All families with young children are stretched for time and resources.
Paying for Quality in Early Education Pays Off
When we support infants and toddlers, we build a strong community.
DC policymakers have taken great strides toward building a comprehensive early childhood system in DC. This includes the Birth-to-Three Act that promises to make a difference for every DC family. The act builds on and connects with the success of DC’s universal pre-K program, which now reaches 70% of 3-year-olds and 90% of 4-year-olds. When fully funded and implemented, the Birth-to-Three Act has the potential to be just as impactful.
We all have a stake in ensuring the success of the new law. Families want what’s best for their children. Businesses are more successful when their workers have reliable child care. And early childhood educators love their jobs, but struggle to make ends meet on wages barely above the minimum wage.
Today, there is often a disconnect between the multiple agencies that serve young children and families. This means parents must navigate confusing systems. And early childhood service providers can be stuck in silos. Our campaign prioritizes the coordination of care and services that families of infants and toddlers need most to flourish. In addition to adequate funding, DC needs better coordination between early development, child care, and health care programs and services.
Through the Child Care Subsidy program, the city makes child care affordable for families that struggle with low wages or public benefits and need financial assistance. Right now, not enough families who need financial support are eligible for subsidy vouchers.
Still, high-quality child care in DC is expensive and scarce for the majority of families. It’s a challenge even for families with jobs that pay well. And, COVID-19 pandemic is only making it worse. We believe that no DC family should spend more than 10% of their income on child care. Once the needs of our lower-income families are met – many of whom are Black or Brown – we’ll work to expand support to families of all income levels.
We believe that every DC family should have access to the support they need to ensure their child’s healthy development. DC has a set of great programs to help parents navigate the early years of their children’s lives. Yet not all programs are funded adequately. Parents may not even know that services like home visiting and lactation consultants exist. Mental health support for infants and toddlers can ensure whole health and well-being during a child’s most early developmental years. And support for caregivers and early childhood educators is just as important. The added chaos and stress due to the COVID-19 crisis makes caring for the mental and behavioral health of children, parents, and educators more necessary than ever.
DC needs to expand the pool of skilled and experienced early childhood educators. To create more seats as well as higher-quality care, DC must pay the absolutely essential professionals who care for young children better.
DC child care workers are paid an average of $15.25 per hour. This is not enough for anyone to live on. Further, it fails to acknowledge the training and deep skills required of early educators. That means that many skilled child care workers leave for better-paying positions as soon as they can. Increasing pay for early educators will also address DC’s income inequality — particularly for the women of color who make up the largest part of the early educator workforce. Our youngest residents’ benefit most when DC’s early childhood educators are financially secure and stay at their jobs.
Achievement in DC public schools is a tale of two cities. It starts in children’s earliest years, before they even get to school. By investing in high-quality early care and education for infants and toddlers, DC can secure the brightest possible future for all of our children and our city. Above all, we’ll reduce the racial achievement inequities in our schools.
Across DC, children living in low-income neighborhoods are at a real disadvantage. With few health and education resources, they are less likely to be ready for school. So many fall behind in the early grades. This happens because children aren’t getting the early care and education they need to thrive. And too many families are locked out of access to developmental support programs.
What DC Can Do:
The high cost, uneven quality, and lack of supply of child care is an enormous burden for all. The average cost of child care in DC is the highest in the nation. Only 8% of our families can truly afford the $24,243 cost of infant care. And more than one in four families live in areas with few or no child care options. In DC, infant care is three times as expensive as attending University of Maryland.
What DC Can Do:
Right now, many young families do not have access to city programs including child care subsidies. These programs aim to put DC families on the path to more economic stability. Many childcare providers rely almost exclusively on the District’s subsidy program to offer their child care services. The result is many providers struggle to keep their doors open. It’s because payments from the subsidy program aren’t enough to cover what DC says is needed to provide quality care.
It’s time to reimburse early childhood education programs for the full amount it costs to provide excellent care. With steps like equitable pay for early educators, DC can improve quality and access for all of DC’s youngest residents. And importantly, with fair pay for child care workers, businesses can attract, retain, and elevate the high-quality workforce critical to giving DC children every opportunity to succeed.
What DC Can Do: