Early Head Start – Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships: Why Do We Need Them?

Amanda Bryans

The youngest children in America are also the poorest. Twenty-five percent of infants and toddlers nationwide live in families below the official poverty line. One in eight babies live with families in deep poverty, with household incomes at half or less of the poverty line. As many as one in four children are at risk for a social delay or developmental disability, but only 61 percent of infants and toddlers receive a developmental screening.

Many children from low-income families are enrolled in child care. Only one in 10 eligible families with an infant or toddler receive a child care subsidy. With or without a subsidy, parents must piece together care that provides a safe environment for their child while they work. Children may attend child care centers, family child care homes, or receive care from relatives or neighbors. Frequently, parents rely on a combination of these arrangements. Families often need care for nine to 10 hours per day and may work irregular hours. Many child care providers work long hours to meet these needs.

Currently, the need for child care is met through a host of formal and informal services. About four percent of income eligible children and their families are enrolled in Early Head Start (EHS). EHS meets children's comprehensive needs, including education, health, mental health, oral health, social, emotional, nutrition, and parent engagement services as well as services to children with disabilities. All enrolled children receive hearing, vision and developmental screening, and ongoing assessment. Programs must use evidence based curricula and meet teacher-child ratio and group size requirements. EHS staff work to engage parents as the first and most influential teachers of their children. About half the infants and toddlers in EHS attend centers that operate at least six hours per day, year round. Likewise, a small percentage of EHS children receive services in family child care homes. The others mostly receive home-based services.

It's clear that many, many infants and toddlers living with low-income families need both full-day, full-year care and comprehensive services. It is for this reason that the EHS-CC Partnerships opportunity, which combines the strengths of EHS services with the continuity, flexibility and reach of child care, is so significant.

Alone, EHS does not have the resources to provide full-day, full-year care that meets the needs of many income eligible working families. Similarly, child care does not have the resources to provide the comprehensive services that are prerequisites of better outcomes for the most vulnerable children. Integrating comprehensive services into the array of traditional child care settings creates new worlds of opportunity for infants, toddlers, and families.

Do you think that an EHS-CC partnership is needed in your community? Explore the EHS-CC Partnership Toolkit for to learn about the requirements and how to apply.

Amanda Bryans is the Education and Comprehensive Services Division Director, Office of Head Start.

Early Head Start – Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships: Why Do We Need Them? HHS/ACF/OHS. 2014. English.

Last Reviewed: April 2014

Last Updated: October 19, 2015