California’s Youngest Children

  • More than 500,000 infants are born in California every year.

  • California is home to 3.2 million young children, ages 0-5.

  • California’s zero-to-five population is ethnically and racially diverse: 53% are Latino, 28% are white, 10% are Asian and 6% are African American.

  • In California, 694,000 (22%) children, ages five and younger, live in poverty. Nearly 1.4 million (45%) live in low-income families (below 200% of the federal poverty level, or $44,100 annually for a family of four).

  • Over one-third (39%) of California’s zero-to-five population live in families where the most knowledgeable adult does not speak English well.

Benefits of Early Learning & Development

  • Children’s early experiences impact their future development and school readiness. The early years are when the brain grows the most: 85% of children’s core brain structure is developed by age four, providing the foundation for their future health, academic success, and social and emotional well-being.

  • Socio-economic factors are evident in school-readiness. When entering kindergarten, the average cognitive score of the nation’s most affluent children is 60% higher than that of the nation’s poorest children.

  • By age three, children in more affluent families will have heard 30 million more words, on average, than children in low-income families. This difference is likely to contribute to future achievement gaps, as children’s vocabulary development by age three has been shown to predict school achievement in third grade.

  • High-quality preschool generates about $7 for every $1 spent, yielding government savings on welfare, education and criminal justice, as well as increased earnings for participants.

  • Children who attended higher quality kindergartens, as measured by overall class test scores, have higher college attendance and are more likely to earn more at age 27.

Affordability of Early Learning & Development Opportunities

  • The average annual cost of care for an infant in licensed family child care in California is $7,937, and $11,850 in a licensed center. The average annual cost of providing licensed center-based care for a preschooler is $8,234.

  • California is the nation’s fifth least affordable state for center-based infant care, with the cost of care representing more than 40% of the median income for a single-parent household.

  • Considering the average cost of licensed family infant care is $153 per week, a California parent making minimum wage and working forty hours a week (earning $320 a week) would use almost half of their income for childcare, leaving roughly $170 a week for all other necessities such as food, shelter and transportation.

Access to Quality Early Learning & Development Opportunities

  • Child care centers in the state are routinely inspected once every five years, unlike those in the majority of other states, where visits, on average, are once a year. One likely cause of this problem is the ratio of centers to child care licensing staff, which is 229:1.

  • In 2009, licensed child care was available to only 27% of children with working parents.

  • 11% of the state’s 3-year-olds and 24% of the state’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in state preschool or Head Start programs. Still, just 40% of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly-subsidized preschool programs. When combining public and private enrollment, it is estimated that 51% of California’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool or nursery school, up from 43% in 2001.

  • Latino children are the least likely among the racial/ethnic groups to attend preschool. This national trend is also evident in California, where only 42% of Latino children attend preschool, compared to 60% of white, 56% of Asian and 53% of African American children.

  • Only 8% of eligible children, ages 0-2, are enrolled in publicly-subsidized early learning programs in California.

  • The average number of California children, ages 0-13, served each month by federal Child Care and Development Block Grant funding was cut nearly in half between 2001 (202,000 served) and 2008 (104,900 served). Roughly 60% of those children affected were ages five and younger.

  • Among the nearly 200,000 eligible children on county waiting lists for child care assistance, 34% (66,059) are ages 0-2 and 43% (83,078) are ages 3-5. Only 23% (45,343) are ages 6 and older.

Coordinated and Integrated Early Learning & Development System

  • California’s early learning and development system is a web of state and local programs that provide services that are financed through a combination of federal, state and local funding sources. Three state agencies oversee approximately 26 early learning programs. The California Department of Education (CDE) is the primary state agency responsible for program administration. The two other agencies are the California Department of Social Services and California Department of Developmental Services.

  • In addition to state agencies, First 5 California, the 58 First 5 county commissions, and a number of local agencies funded by Head Start and Early Head Start provide comprehensive early childhood services to children birth to age five. They coordinate education, child care, health and other important services for young children.

  • CDE’s Child Development Division (CDD) serves over 500,000 low-income children each year through its contracts with nearly 800 public and private agencies.38 The children range in age, from birth through age 12, or up to age 21 for those with exceptional need.

  • 48% of children served through CDD are under age six.

  • CDD administers 37 early learning quality improvement and professional development initiatives aimed at improving California’s early learning and development system.

  • First launched in California in 1998, the Nurse-Family Partnership®, an evidence-based home visitation model, serves more than 8,400 families in eleven California counties.

Transition from Early Learning & Development to K-12

  • California received $1.8 million in federal funding to plan an Early Care and Education data system that would connect with K-12. Early learning data is essential for quality assessments. It also helps teachers and providers identify additional supports and services that some children may need.

  • SB 1381 (Simitian) pushes the kindergarten cut-off date back from December 2 to September 2 to ensure all children who enter kindergarten are at least five years old. For children born between September 2 and December 2, a “transitional kindergarten” year will be established.

  • Children in low-income families typically enter kindergarten 12-14 months behind the national average in pre-reading and language skills, demonstrating the fact that disparities in children’s developmental outcomes widen throughout early childhood.

  • Approximately 40% of kindergartners in California are English learners. Only 11% of students originally designated as English learners are re-designated Fluent English Proficient (FEP), indicating they have met district criteria for English proficiency.

  • Kindergartners who enter school behind are likely to remain behind as they move through the education system. Early gaps in school readiness that are evident in kindergarten are mirrored in third grade standardized test results.

  • Kindergarten readiness data has been collected in several California counties so that parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers can better address the needs of children as they enter school and move through the early grades.

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