Infant & Toddler Care
Infants and toddlers are least likely to get help paying for childcare
Between birth and three, babies’ and toddlers’ brain development is rapid and children are gaining many critical skills. More than 80% of brain growth occurs before a kid’s third birthday. Disparities for poor children begin to emerge in this period, and quality early care helps reduce these developmental gaps. But California isn’t meeting the need for affordable child care. Currently our subsidies cover as little as 55% of the cost of care.
Access: Nearly half of California’s infants and toddlers are from families struggling to make ends meet and who rely on a variety of child care options. Currently, the majority of child care requests are for kids three and under. Yet, even with recent increases, state spending on infant and toddler care has decreased by 30% since the recession.
Affordability: Infant and toddler care is more expensive than preschool. Child care can eat up over half of a minimum wage salary, but California only provides subsidies to nine percent of eligible babies and toddlers.
Quality: The quality of infant and toddler care can vary. In some cases the state sets very minimal or no standards. Studies find that the younger a child, the less the caregiver is paid, regardless of their qualifications. This makes it hard to maintain caregiver continuity, which is vital to the quality care kids need.
Pro-Kid® Policy Agenda
California should help more families access high-quality, safe, reliable and enriching child care in a variety of settings for children ages birth to three and ensure our state’s children, parents and caregivers are connected to community-based family supports and services.
After years of budget cuts that ended infant and toddler child care subsidies for many struggling families, California is taking small but important steps toward improving access and ensuring affordable, quality care for the families that need it most. Currently, over 30,000 infants and toddlers are enrolled in a subsidized program. Soon an additional 7,000 new slots will be prioritized for infants and toddlers, and provider reimbursement rates will increase. But this still leaves the majority of the over 300,000 eligible kids without subsidies. The state has also dedicated one-time funding for improving program quality and increased funding for infants and toddlers with exceptional needs in early care and education settings. In addition, federal investments are helping Early Head Start programs in California expand services to pregnant women, children birth to three and their families, who are living in poverty.