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From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
landscape in unprecedented ways. Prior to the 1996 legislation, states were prohibited from requiring recipients who were single parents caring for infants to participate in work-related activities. As of June 2000, 14 states have used the new flexibility granted by the legislation not to exempt automatically from work requirements parents whose youngest child is less than 1 year old (and most of them require work when the infant reaches 3 months of age). An additional 23 states require mothers receiving benefits to work when their children reach age 1 (State Policy Documentation Project, 2000). Moreover, for single mothers, over half of the states require 30 or more hours of work per week. As a result, the population of children in child care is likely to include more very low-income infants than has ever before been the case.
WHAT IS CHILD CARE?
What do we mean by child care? It is not just day care, given the growing numbers of children who require supervision while their parents work nontraditional and shifting hours. It is also not just care. Beneficial outcomes for children in child care are associated with settings that provide both nurturance and support for early learning and language development. Accordingly, previous distinctions between “early education” or “pre-school” and “day care” have unraveled. In fact, child care may be seen as providing a number of services, including the provision of nurturance and learning opportunities for children, preparation for school, support for working parents and reduction of poverty, respite care in child welfare cases, and access to supplemental services such as vision and hearing screening, developmental testing, feeding programs, and even parent support and literacy programs (Fein and Clarke-Stewart, 1973; Lamb, 1998; Scarr and Eisenberg, 1993).
While many of these purposes are complementary, the distinction between child care as a developmental program for children and child care as a support service for working parents continues to guide different emphases in policy debates (Blau, 2000). This is most apparent with respect to the differing attention given to issues of the quality of care supported by different policies. For example, 25 percent of all new funds for Head Start, which emphasizes developmental goals, is set aside for quality improvement initiatives. In contrast, only 4 percent of the funds for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) —the major source of child care support tied to welfare reform—is dedicated to quality improvements. There are indications, however, that the political divide between these two tiers of child care policy making is becoming less distinct, as funding streams for state prekindergarten, Head Start, and CCDF-funded child care programs