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 early education and child care can reduce the odds of negative outcomes later in life. The efforts of HHS in the area of early childhood development strive 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 early learning and care 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 and families. The Head Start program, which includes Early Head Start and the new 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. During the 2013-2014 program year Head Start served over 1 million low-income children and their families.

ASPE works in close collaboration with other HHS offices to conduct research and policy analysis that informs these early childhood programs and policies. Additionally, ASPE conducts analysis on a range of other important and timely early childhood topics, including infant and early childhood mental health, home visiting, prevention of preschool expulsion, children experiencing homelessness, the early care and education workforce, and the early education experiences of dual language learners.