State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies Need Improvement

Last month, CLASP released Better for Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies documenting where state policies stand in relation to a set of key child care subsidy, licensing and quality improvement policies that support the healthy growth and development of infants and toddlers in child care settings. Data in this report were collected through a state survey, as well as from publicly available data sources. Collectively they offer a baseline of policies important for babies in child care.

Overall, we find state infant and toddler policies are not meeting the needs of our youngest children and their families. Too few infants and toddlers have access to quality settings -- and while particular state policies offer promise, no state has in place a comprehensive set that fully meets the needs of infants and toddlers.

For several years, CLASP’s “Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care” project has linked research to policy ideas. The foundation of the project is a Policy Framework comprised of four key principles describing what young children in child care need:

  • Nurturing, responsive providers and caregivers they can trust to care for them as they grow and learn;
  • Parents, providers, and caregivers supported by and linked to community resources;
  • Families that have access to quality options for their care; and
  • Healthy and safe environments in which to explore and learn.

Under the above framework, CLASP researched key state infant and toddler policies. Highlights of our findings include:  

  • In most states, child-to-provider ratios and group sizes are larger than national expert recommendations. Further, a hand­ful of states do not regulate group size at all.
  • While more than half of states (30) reported having specific infant-toddler training for providers, most state require­ments for the number of hours of training are minimal, and the content of training curricula related to infants and toddlers is limited.
  • Forty-one states report subsidy policies that pay child care providers for days when a child is absent, a policy particularly important for infants and toddlers who have more frequent illnesses and require more frequent doctor visits than older children.
  • Fourteen states reported using direct contracts with child care providers in their subsidy system to increase the supply or improve the quality of subsidized infant-toddler care.

State policies are key, as are increased investments at all levels --federal, state and local -- to ensure that our youngest children have access to high-quality care during their formative early years.

We can and should to do better for our babies.

You can read the full report here. Please contact Hannah Matthews, Director, Child Care and Early Education at CLASP for more information on your state’s policies and how to advance policies that make a difference for babies.