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Early Childhood

Providing children with high quality early learning and development opportunities in the first years of their lives can have lasting consequences for their health and well-being throughout childhood and into adolescence and adulthood. Research has shown that when children face adversity in their early years, policies and programs that provide children with high quality care and early education can improve outcomes later in life. HHS strives to increase young children’s access to high quality care, promote positive health and development, boost school readiness, and support overall well-being for young children and their families.

Two major HHS programs aim to provide children with access to high quality care and early education opportunities. The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) provides subsidies to working families with young children to help with the costs of child care. The CCDF program aims to promote family economic self-sufficiency, as well as provide children with access to safe, high-quality child care. In Fiscal Year 2013 CCDF served over 1.4 million children. The Head Start program, which includes Early Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, provides high-quality early education and comprehensive services to low-income children ages 0 to 5 and their families, as well as pregnant women. Head Start serves over 1 million low-income children and their families.

ASPE works in close collaboration with HHS offices and other agencies to conduct research and policy analysis that informs these and other early childhood programs and policies. ASPE conducts analysis on a range of important and timely early childhood policy issues and topics, such as paid family leave, parental employment, children experiencing homelessness, infant and early childhood mental health, prevention of preschool expulsion, home visiting, parenting/co-parenting and fatherhood, the early care and education workforce, the cost and price of early care and education, and the early education experiences of dual language learners.