Early Childhood Development

Girl in Head StartAccess to quality early childhood development programs is central to any effort in order to break the cycle of poverty. We focus our U.S. education policy efforts on investments for young children, birth to age five. We believe that Head Start and Early Head Start give children a better chance to succeed in school and in life. We also believe in the importance of affordable, quality child care so that parents may work while their children learn.

In 2012, more than 16 million children were living in poverty. Infants and toddlers only account for 25 percent of the population, yet have the highest poverty rates of any age group in the United States. The family’s economic condition during early childhood may be far more important in shaping children’s ability, behavior, and achievement than conditions later in childhood. Poverty can hinder children’s ability to learn and be healthy and affects their social, emotional, and behavioral development.

Research has shown that participation in a quality early childhood education program provides children with the necessary social, emotional, and cognitive skills that continue to develop throughout their life. The skills they gain also contribute to reduced costs to society through decreases in services, crime rates, and higher productivity later in life. By investing in quality early childhood education, we are providing opportunities for early intervention while laying a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning and prosperity. We know that the young children of today are the workforce and parents of tomorrow.

Education, particularly early childhood education, is crucial to giving our children the opportunity to achieve. Programs that seek to help those born into poverty or help low-income families pay for child care are absolutely vital in ensuring that every American child receives the education he or she deserves. Programs like Head Start that are designed to provide support for the parents, children, and families with resources that enable them to succeed.

A 2014 national poll found that 71 percent of voters (including 60 percent of Republicans) support increased investments in early childhood education, even if it increases the deficit in the short-term, so long as it pays for itself in the long-term by improving the educational, health, and economic situations of children. The poll also found that ensuring children get a strong start is near the top of the list of national priorities, coming in only behind creating jobs and economic growth.

For many parents, child care is essential in order for them to work. For families leaving welfare, child care is pivotal to a parent’s ability to make a smooth transition from welfare to work. For child care arrangements to support working families, they must be affordable, available, reliable, and of good quality. Many low-income parents, however, have difficulty finding child care settings that are affordable and flexible enough to accommodate their work schedules, while also meeting their child’s developmental needs.

In addition, we believe having a holistic approach to fostering early childhood development is key. This includes access to quality and affordable health care for childrenchild nutrition programs, and access to paid leave as critical components of early childhood development policy. Because so much of brain development occurs in the early months and years, RESULTS supports policies that ensure that all families have access to some paid maternity and paternity leave, and paid sick days.