IN A SHARP CHALLENGE to the new administration and Congress, Zero to Three, an organization dedicated to the well-being of young children, parents and families, has called for enactment of legislation to vastly improve the status of early child care in America.
“Four million babies will be born in theUnited States during President Donald J. Trump’s first year in office,” it declares in a report issued in April. They will comprise the nation’s future work force – its leaders and builders. “The decisions made by the administration and Congress in the next few years of these babies’ lives,” the report points out, “will directly influence their growth and development and, in turn, their ultimate readiness to take on the nation’s future challenges.”
The report, Investments in the Future Must Start with Babies, emphasizes the well-known fact that in the first three years of life, or over the course of this administration’s current term, 90 billion neuron connections will have been made in each of these four million babies’ brains “that are critical to later success.” It warns that with more than one-in-five babies living in poverty today, many will “start to fall behind before their first birthday, often the result of hunger, abuse, neglect, environmental chaos, or violence. While these factors cannot be erased from their lives completely in the short run, we must invest in ensuring that they can also experience nurturing, loving relationships than can “buffer them from long-term negative effects.” Investing in early development starting with babies, it emphasizes, is critical to our nation’s future.
Specifically, it calls for:
- Supporting parents as they raise their young children by creating a national paid family leave program and a parenting edge initiative that uses a public health approach to support parents of young children.
- Expanding the ability of communities to support infant and toddler brain development through early care and learning programs and child welfare. This would include extending Early Head Start to infants and toddlers in poverty, providing financial resources so that all families can have access to quality, affordable child care, improving the quality of infant and toddler care, and redirecting the child welfare system to ensure stable relationships and healthy development for infants and toddlers experiencing maltreatment.
- Promoting and funding the mental health of infants, toddlers, and families by expanding the availability of early childhood mental health services and creating a well-qualified infant and toddler mental health workforce.
The science is clear, the report concludes. “Investments in the future must start with babies. To build the nation’s economy, create a skilled work force and establish safer, more caring communities, comprehensive and holistic solutions need to be in place…. Four million future scientists, teachers, doctors, mechanics, and athletes are counting on it.”
For more information on the report and other issues relating to early child care, log into zerotothree.org/