Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Report: Large Numbers of Children Underserved by Federal and State Early Care and Education Programs

Access Worsening Under Sequestration

NEW YORK CITY & WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) released Investing in Young Children: A Fact Sheet on Early Care and Education Participation, Access, and Quality. The joint report reveals how significant underinvestment in early care and education programs at the state and federal levels has left large numbers of children underserved.

"The data in this report clearly show that we aren't doing enough to get infants and toddlers the support they need," said Hannah Matthews, director of child care and early education at CLASP. "Far too often, the vulnerable children who most need quality child care and early education programs can't access them."

Major findings in the report include:

  • Family economic hardship is the predominant risk factor associated with academic failure and poor health. Nationally, 25 percent of children under six live in poverty. Other risk factors include having a teen parent, living in a household without English speakers, and having parents without a high school degree.
  • Children are underserved by the three largest federal child care and early education programs: Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and Head Start and Early Head Start. Funding for CCDBG has not kept pace with inflation and growing need. Since 2006, approximately 150,000 children have lost access to child care subsidies and an additional 30,000 will lose subsidies as a result of sequestration.
  • Although funding for Head Start has increased by $1.2 billion, demand has exceeded its growth. Only 42 percent of eligible children are served by Head Start preschool and just 4 percent are served by Early Head Start. As a result of sequestration, 57,000 children have lost or will lose access to Head Start services in 2013.
  • For child care and early education to be effective, it must be high-quality. However, states are not meeting recommended benchmarks. Currently, only 4 states (Conn., N.D., Ore., Vt.) meet benchmarks for both class size and adult-child ratios, while 33 states meet neither of these critical benchmarks.

"Across the states, large numbers of low-income children who could get on a path to school success by attending a high-quality preschool program are denied this opportunity," said Sheila Smith, director of early childhood at NCCP. "If you are a toddler or a four-year-old who never gets off a waiting list, you've lost your chance to benefit from preschool. The best strategy for improving educational outcomes for low-income children is increased state and federal investments in high-quality child care and early education programs. Every child deserves this."

Matthews added, "It's a really fundamental responsibility, preparing kids to succeed in school and in life. And we can and must do better."

The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) is the nation's leading public policy center dedicated to promoting the economic security, health, and well-being of America's low-income families and children. Part of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, NCCP is financially self-reliant with funding from public and private sources.

CLASP develops and advocates for policies at the federal, state, and local levels that improve the lives of low-income people, with a focus on strengthening families and creating pathways to education and work. Through careful research and analysis and effective advocacy, we foster and promote new ideas, mobilize others, and help advocates and government implement strategies that deliver results for people across America. For more information, visit and follow @CLASP_DC.