Child Care Crisis Worst for Infants, Toddlers; Here are Some Solutions

By Jess Berthold

Communications Director

Families with infants and toddlers bear the brunt of our nation’s child care crisis in terms of lack of supply, high prices, and low quality, but research indicates there are concrete ways to improve the situation, a new brief from Opportunities Exchange finds.

Defining the problem accurately is key to finding solutions. Most data on child care supply don’t distinguish by age of child (a problem in itself), but those that do show infants and toddlers suffer the most:

Subsidy allocations contribute to the problem. Only 28% of federal Child Care and Development Fund spending and 8.5% of Head Start funding go to children under age 3, despite the fact that 46% of low-income children under age six with working parents are infants and toddlers. CCDF and Head Start are the largest source of funding for this age group—often the only source, the brief notes. What’s more, market prices—on which subsidies are based—are lower than the actual cost of delivering infant-toddler care. Yet providers can’t raise market prices, because they already are too high for families to pay in many cases.

What are the solutions? The brief suggests several:

  • Consider targeted rate increases for infant-toddler slots instead of blanket increases for children of all ages
  • Shift from market prices to cost modeling in setting public reimbursement rates, to close the gap between infant-toddler care costs and prices.
  • Collect and provide data on child care supply and enrollment by age of child to providers, so they can better manage enrollment and on-time payment (and thus cash-flow)
  • Create shared “back offices” among providers for business management tasks, so individual child care directors can focus on teaching and learning
  • Pilot alternative staffing strategies, such as establishing micro-centers in existing facilities, to streamline the costs of care
  • Support policies like Paid Family Leave that help families care for their own children.

It’s good news that our country has made strides in improving the affordability, quality and supply of care for children older than three. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the youngest among us.

There are many great ideas in this brief; we encourage you to check it out here!

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