Infant-Toddler Child Care Challenges Undermine Arkansas’ Strength
Quality child care can help grow the economy, increase public safety, and enhance national security
Quality child care can strengthen the current and future workforce, contribute to a strong economy and public safety, and enhance national security. However, Arkansas’ working parents with infants or toddlers know how difficult it is to find child care that’s accessible, affordable, and truly beneficial to their child’s development during one of the most crucial periods of life, while Arkansas employers know the negative economic impact of these child care challenges. COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges.
Our 2019 ReadyNation national study found that the infant-toddler child care crisis has an annual cost of $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. These costs impact working parents, employers, and taxpayers. The estimated cost for Arkansas is $348 million.
The stakes are enormously high for the many Arkansas families who depend on parents’ employment, as well as for children, who depend on nurturing, stimulating environments for healthy brain development during the first three years of life.
The infant-toddler child care crisis could cost Arkansas $348 million each year in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue.
But there are other consequences.
Our national security relies on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, educational deficits, health issues, substance abuse, and crime currently prevent 74 percent of Arkansas youth from qualifying for service. Early brain development sets the stage for children’s future success. Without improvements to the child care system, our nation risks having an even smaller recruiting pool in the future.
Further, Arkansas’ jails are full of people serving time for serious and costly crimes. It doesn’t have to be that way. Providing children with high-quality early learning opportunities can help reduce the human and fiscal costs of crime in the future.
Arkansas lawmakers must protect and expand programs that enhance the affordability and availability of quality child care – particularly for infants and toddlers – and foster continuing innovations at the state and local level that address this problem. A fundamental feature of child care quality is highly-qualified teachers who are well-trained both before and during their service and who need to be adequately compensated.