Supporting Young Children and Families: An Investment Strategy That Pays

Julia B. Isaacs

U.S. public investment in children typically begins only when they enter public school at age five or six. The care of young children before then is almost exclusively in the domain of parents. Yet many parents today are stretched thin, in both time and money. Despite the challenges facing young families, the federal government has provided little direct support.

The President should work with Congress to expand early childhood programs that have proved cost-effective and to promote tax and workplace policies to reduce burdens on young families. More specifically, he should:

  • Provide federal funding for high-quality, center-based preschool programs for three- and four-year-old children, open to any family that wishes to enroll their child, and fully subsidized for the poorest families;
  • Send nurse home visitors into the homes of all first-time pregnant women in economically impoverished families, to promote sound prenatal care and the healthy development of infants and toddlers through age two; and
  • Support young families at all income levels through a federal-state initiative to provide up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave after birth or adoption.

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