New Report Highlights Need for State Budget Action to Address Inequities in Early Childhood Development and Family Well-Being


March 18, 2022

Report From Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) Reveals Children of Color Make Up 90% of Child Population in NYC Communities Where Barriers to Early Childhood Development Are More Common

CCC Calls on NYS to Expand Access to Early Care and Education, Tax Credits & Integrated Pediatric Supports

 

New York, NY – Today, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) released the “School Ready Communities: An Early Childhood Opportunities Index,” a new report that outlines the barriers children continue to face to attain the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional skills to be prepared to start kindergarten. As New York State lawmakers work to finalize the FY2023 state budget, CCC is calling on them to include key investments that ensure families and children thrive, including expanding access to high quality, affordable infant and toddler care and early education programs, Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education, integrated primary and behavioral health care for children and caregivers, and lifting incomes through tax credits.

The report highlights how inequities experienced by New York City families in household incomes, infant and maternal health and development, and early care and education access impact young child well-being and school readiness. The report revealed that children of color make up 90% of the child population in communities where barriers to child development are more common and found that infant mortality for Black babies remains three times higher compared to white babies.

  • Other key findings from the report include:
    Nearly half of children under the age of five live in households with incomes either below or near the Federal Poverty Level;
  • One in five students in public schools have a disability, defined as any child receiving an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as of the end of the school year;
  • Kindergarten students comprise around 20% of all initial referrals for special education;
  • More than 80% of families with at least one child under the age of five cannot afford childcare in home-based programs.

“Investments in early childhood programming pay dividends over a child’s lifespan. As the State and City continue on the path to a more equitable recovery, attention must focus squarely on the families and communities hit hardest by the pandemic,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “Every child in every family should have the opportunity to thrive, and the earliest years of a child’s life are full of critical milestones that influence a lifetime of outcomes. In the budget negotiations currently underway, City and State leaders have a critical opportunity to prioritize investments in universal early care and education, as well as to advance policies that lift family incomes and connect children and their caregivers to developmental, health and mental health supports essential to good health and wellbeing, all of which ultimately support children’s school readiness.”

The full report can be found here.

The report leverages CCC’s online database of community-level data to create the Early Childhood Opportunities Index, a composite index of eleven indicators of early childhood health and opportunities for school readiness. Each community in New York City is ranked based on whether barriers to early childhood health and school readiness are more or less common.

To understand each community’s profile, the report highlights several Community District Spotlights, including:

  • Morrisania, Bronx: Ensuring adequate access to community resources across early childhood systems is critical in Morrisania, a community which experiences a combination of higher share of mothers receiving late or no prenatal care (16.7%), higher share of young children living in or near poverty (74.6%), higher share of students with a disability (27.3%), and an average Pre-K program quality score (3.99) lower than the city average.
  • Brownsville, Brooklyn: Addressing systemic inequities in infant and maternal health are critical in Brownsville, where higher shares of babies are born preterm (12.7%) and with low birthweight (12%), and the infant mortality rate (7.3) is among the highest in the city.
  • North Shore, Staten Island: Responding to needs of children experiencing developmental delays in the early years is a critical need on the North Shore of Staten Island where one in three students had a disability, defined as any child receiving an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as of the end of the school year (7,000).
  • Washington Heights, Manhattan: The need for increased supports to lift incomes for families with young children and reduce access barriers to high quality child care are critical in Washington Heights, where more than half of children under five live in or near poverty (51.8%) and only one in ten families (11.3%) can afford home-based infant/toddler child care.
  • Elmhurst Corona, Queens: Expanding access to early childhood systems that are equipped to address the needs of immigrant families is critical in Elmhurst/Corona, which has significantly higher shares of individuals with limited English proficiency (49.6%), high rates of children under five living in or near poverty (55.4%), and small share of families (5.5%) who can afford home-based infant/toddler child care.

“Our analysis illustrates how families with young children across the city face barriers to school readiness, and more so in several communities where there is an even greater need for investments to support child and family well-being,“ said Bijan Kimiagar, Associate Executive Director for Research of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “Our goal is to inform equitable public policies and budgets at the state and city level that ensure families in every community have access to programs that strengthen child health, education and developmental opportunities and outcomes.”

Based on these findings, CCC is calling on New York’s government leaders to take action to support all families with young children and promote child health, development, and school readiness. Among them, immediate actions that must be taken in negotiations underway for the State Budget for FY’23 include:

  • Expanding access to the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits to combat child poverty. Economic policy tools such as these are proven to lift incomes and support families in overcoming barriers to child development and school readiness. While both the Senate and Assembly One-House Budget Resolutions prioritize enhancements and reform, the Legislature and the Governor can step forward as leaders in child poverty reduction. CCC is calling on State leaders to ensure the FY’23 adopted budget deepens both the State and New York City Tax Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), permits advanced monthly payment options, and expands eligibility to immigrant households. Furthermore, CCC is urging the Legislature and the Governor to enact reforms of the Empire Child Tax Credit in the FY’23 budget by ensuring the credit not only reaches households with children under four years of age who are currently excluded, but also provides the most robust credit to the lowest income households with the youngest children.
  • Building a comprehensive and holistic birth-to-five early care and education system. Access to early care and education can have a transformative impact on children’s development and their long-term social and economic wellbeing; it also plays a critical role in parental employment stability and economic mobility. Both the Senate and Assembly proposed historic investments that, while different, would create a path to universal child care by investing $3 billion in income eligibility expansion for subsidies, increased reimbursement rates for providers that reflect the actual cost of care, and robust support for workforce stabilization. Both Senate and Assembly One-House Budget Resolutions build on the Governor’s Executive Budget proposal with additional investments in Universal Pre-Kindergarten (pre-K). CCC urges the Legislature and the Governor to reach consensus; the FY ’23 adopted budget must create a path to universal early care and education that addresses the profound unmet need for affordable, high quality infant toddler care and pre-K that exist for families across communities. This path must also commit to address the immediate and long-term needs of the early care and education workforce.
  • Strengthening Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education Programs and eliminating disparities in access. Both Early Intervention (EI) and Preschool Special Education (PSE) have long suffered from chronic underfunding and inadequate rates, which have led to a shortage of providers and ultimately impeded children’s access to sorely needed services. Regarding Early Intervention, in 2021 the Legislature passed and the Governor enacted a covered lives assessment which requires commercial insurers to contribute $40 million to the EI program. Advocates have been pushing to use some of these funds to support much-needed increases in EI reimbursement rates. The Assembly One-House Budget Resolution includes funding to lift EI rates by 11 percent, and we urgently need commitment on the part of the Senate and Governor to secure this rate enhancement. Regarding preschool special education, the Governor has committed to raising preschool special education rates by 11 percent. Additionally, Senate and Assembly One-House Budget Resolutions propose developing a new rate setting methodology for PSE, and both the Senate and Assembly include proposals to ensure more appropriate levels of funding for schools that serve students with disabilities. CCC is calling on State leaders to ensure that EI rates increase, ensure the PSE rate setting methodology is revised, and ensure rate increases for PSE are sustained.
  • Strengthening supports for families in pediatric and early education settings by expanding access to two-generation intervention models. Pediatric offices are one of the few settings where children are guaranteed to meet with a health professional on a regular basis, and therefore offer a critical opportunity to identify and address the needs of young children and their families. Governor Hochul has put forward a proposal, supported by the Senate and Assembly, which would increase funding for the HealthySteps program, which brings together experts in child development and pediatric primary care to provide access to young child developmental supports for families. Other important proposals in the One-House Budget Resolutions would expand Medicaid postpartum coverage to one year – including for all immigrants – to ensure new moms have access to essential physical and behavioral services during the critical first year of their child’s life. The Assembly’s One-House Budget Resolution also expands the array of prenatal and postpartum services covered by Medicaid to include dyadic services, among other services. CCC urges the Legislature and the Governor to ensure that enhanced funding for HealthySteps and comprehensive and inclusive postpartum expansions are included in the FY’23 adopted budget. These positive proposals can be built upon further by addressing insurance billing barriers that inhibit the ability to provide comprehensive support for young children and caregivers in pediatric settings, and by identifying ways to integrate and financially support the provision of developmental supports and behavioral health care in early care and education settings.

Finally, the report demonstrates the need for action to be taken at both the City and State level to address significant gaps in publicly available data and calls attention to the need to support efforts to create population-based estimates for the number of young children meeting developmental milestones and for greater coordination between data systems across early childhood programs. The collection and public dissemination of data in this manner is critical to ensure areas in need of attention are identified, new initiatives are monitored, and future budget, legislative, or programmatic action is data informed.

CCC is an independent, nonpartisan child advocacy organization that leverages data on the well-being of children and families to inform budgetary, legislative and programmatic decisions made at the federal, state, and local level. By measuring indicators across six domains of well-being – including economic security, housing, health, education, youth, and family and community – on an annual basis, CCC’s Child and Family Well-Being Index is designed to illustrate where risk factors cluster and draw attention to community districts across the City where barriers to child and family well-being must be addressed.

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About CCC

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) educates and mobilizes New Yorkers to make the city a better place for children. CCC’s advocacy combines public policy research and data analysis with citizen action. CCC casts light on the issues, educates the public, engages allies and identifies and promotes practical solutions to ensure that every New York City child is healthy, housed, educated and safe. For more information about CCC, visit www.cccnewyork.org

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