Services aimed at improving health and education outcomes for infants and toddlers from low-income families are often underfunded and provided in scattershot fashion according to a June report by the Center For American Progress, a left-leaning, nonpartisan policy institute.
Home visiting, child care, and supplemental nutrition are among the many services available for children under the age of 3 who are living at or below the poverty level. With nearly one-third of the nation’s young children in that category, providing sufficient and easy access to services is critical to ensuring kindergarten readiness, according to the report.
However, most such services are underfunded, meaning they are not available to all of the children eligible to receive them, report authors found. Early Head Start, for example, provides coordinated early-childhood development services and family support, but the program serves less than 4 percent of eligible children.
Compounding the problem, there are at least 19 separate federal funding streams that go to fund infant and toddler services, according to the report. (See Table 1, Page 10.) These streams often come through disparate agencies and can lead to complicated delivery systems that leave some families unable to access all the services for which they are eligible.
Many cities and states have taken or are taking steps to consolidate their services for this population, according to the report. Programs in Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio, and Washington are among those highlighted in the second half of the report as leaders in the effort to streamline services.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.