High-quality child care can combat effects of poverty

By Leadell Ediger, executive director of Child Care Aware of Kansas

Those of us in the early childhood field know that high-quality child care and early learning experiences are more involved than just providing basic care. Early learning is quality child care and preschool opportunities that expose children to positive learning experiences that are critical to their emotional, social and intellectual development. When young children trust their caregivers to respond consistently to their needs, they learn to regulate their emotions and behavior. Strong social-emotional skills are the foundation of lifelong learning. We know this is especially true for young children who are living in poverty. For low-income families, finding high-quality child care not only boosts the performance of their children in school, but actually combats the effects of poverty, according to a study in the journal Child Development, by meeting their need for consistent care so that they can seek employment.

“The real takeaway here is that even minimal exposure to higher quality child care protects children from the harm done by living in poverty,” said co-author Eric Dearing, an associate professor of applied developmental psychology in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. “When it comes to early child care, quality matters more for children in poverty than for affluent children in promoting the long-term academic achievement of the former up to similar levels as the latter.”

With this knowledge of current research, it seems even more important for low-income families to be able to utilize child care subsidy assistance to access higher-quality child care and get these great results. The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), reauthorized by Congress in November 2014, requires states to provide families with consumer information related to health and safety issues, information about the availability of child care assistance and the quality of child care providers as a start. In fact, CCDF wants states to prioritize increasing quality in child care settings that low-income families can access. So even the federal government is making the important connection between child care quality and outcomes for at-risk children.

This is great news for low-income families that want the best for their young children but their economic situation is precarious at best. Let’s do what’s right for Kansas families.

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