Report | May 9, 2018

How High-Quality Child Care Can Improve Military Readiness in Illinois

High-quality child care helps prevent the problems that disqualify 70% of young Illinoisans from military service

Our national security depends on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, educational deficits, health issues, and behavior problems currently prevent 70 percent of young Illinoisans, and 71 percent of all young Americans, from qualifying for service.

There is scientific consensus that early brain development sets the stage for children’s future success. Two-thirds of children under the age of 5 in the U.S.–and seven out of 10 young children in Illinois–have parents or a single parent who works outside the home, and many of these children are not in high-quality child care. Without improvements to the child care system, our nation risks an even smaller recruiting pool in the future.

The research is clear: Strong early childhood programs can lay the foundation for successful learning, encourage children to live active and healthy lives, and instill good social skills that prevent later behavioral issues. And all of these, in turn, represent the foundation for building a strong, volunteer military.

Major General (Ret.) Randal Thomas, U.S. Army

In this report, we cite research demonstrating that high-quality child care can support children’s success and military readiness, in three categories: education, fitness and behavior.

Despite these benefits, this report also shows that many Illinois families struggle to find affordable quality care. In fact, the average annual cost of center-based child care for infants in Illinois exceeds the cost of in-state college tuition.

For these reasons, the retired admirals and generals of Mission: Readiness urge Illinois state legislators to protect and strengthen funding for early care and education, particularly the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). This critical program ensures that struggling families have access to high-quality child care when parents are working or attending school.

Support for high-quality child care is an investment in our future national security.

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