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First 5 Explains: Early Learning

The early years of a child’s life lay the foundation for success in school and life. According to research, 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 5. To support this critical time in a child’s early learning and development, it is essential for families to have access to quality early learning programs.

The majority of California’s 1.5 million infants and toddlers live in low-income households, and only 14% of these children are receiving the subsidized care they need. Families face a number of challenges including affordability of and access to quality child care.

The average annual cost of licensed child care for families is exorbitant at approximately $16,452 for a child care center, and $10,609 for a family child care home (Regional Market Rate Survey of California Child Care Providers Final Report, April 2017).

While California’s early learning system struggles to serve income-eligible children of every age, the need for child care assistance among working families with infants and toddlers is desperately needed.

It is estimated that only 14% of income-eligible infants and toddlers are actually receiving subsidized child care services (Includes Head Start and CalWORKS Stage 1. Understanding California’s Early Care and Education System, Learning Policy Institute, 2017. Based on LPI analysis of 2015 ACS population data. More recent LPI analysis suggests that the percentage of eligible children served in 2017 was similar to 2015. When the Legislature updated the income eligibility guidelines in July 2017 more children became eligible, yet more children were also served in 2017)

The severe shortage of infant and toddler care is creating a crisis for working parents, their families, businesses, and California’s future. The state needs to begin this FY 2018-19 budget year with critical investments for new child care spaces, adequate per-child funding, age appropriate facilities and infrastructure, and professional development for all care settings.

First 5 LA is working in partnership with early childhood education advocacy and service organizations to urge the California legislature to support a one billion dollar increase in the FY 2018-19 budget to meet the needs of the state’s working families.


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