Better Strategies for Babies: Strengthening the Caregivers and Families of Infants and Toddlers
The early childhood field has known for decades that the quality of a child's early experience has a great impact on his or her growth and development. Recent research confirms that at no time in a child's life is the nature of the environment, and especially the earliest relationships, more crucial than during the infant and toddler years. At the same time, there is also increasing pressure for mothers with very young children to work. Thus, those responsible for policy and program efforts for
... program efforts for babies and their families face a significant challenge: simultaneously providing healthy environments for infants and toddlers, promoting strong parent-child relationships, and supporting parents' ability to work. This issue brief explores emerging efforts that aim to meet the needs of infants and toddlers in low-income families by: (1) addressing access and quality issues related to child care for infants and toddlers and (2) stimulating strong and nurturing parent-child relationships, while at the same time supporting lowincome parents with babies (both infants and toddlers) who are currently in the workforce or who are moving into the workforce. (Although child health and nutrition are also very important, this issue brief does not address these topics.) Specifically, the brief identifies the policy and program implications of the special needs of this age group. It describes opportunities and barriers presented by current policy and programs related to child care, early childhood development, and welfare reform. The issue brief outlines some approaches being explored by programs, communities, and states to assist families in ways that take into account families' needs, preferences, and working lives. It ends with a discussion of five key approaches to promoting the healthy development of infants and toddlers in the context of promoting family economic security.