How States Can Improve Well-being for All Children, from Birth to Age Five

State governments have a unique opportunity to improve children’s developmental trajectories. An integrated approach can help.

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Toddler Well-Being
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Early Childhood is a critical period that determines a person’s ability to reach his or her lifelong health, social, and economic potential. Comprehensive early childhood well-being—which consists of physical and mental health, cognitive functioning, and social and emotional development—has strong links to long-term outcomes such as educational attainment, annual income, and mental health. Research shows that there are significant economic benefits to ensuring young children receive the care they need. Therefore, a comprehensive early childhood health and education system is a crucial component of determining our nation’s future. In fact, one study found that every dollar invested in early childhood well-being has the potential to produce approximately $8 in returns for society.1

However, quality, access, and coordination of early childhood well-being programs and initiatives vary considerably from state to state. Many states spend their early childhood funds less efficiently than they could, and not all families have sufficient access to affordable, high-quality, development-oriented healthcare, childcare, and preschool. In 2015, almost two decades after the passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), 5 percent of children did not have health insurance. That same year, more than half of three- and four-year-old children in the United States were not enrolled in preschool.2 And among programs that participated in states’ Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), 30 percent of center- and home-based licensed childcare programs scored . .

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