Policy & Research

Establishing Best Practices for Early Learning Facilities

A new report finds early learning facilities are not designed with the needs of young children in mind and provides a framework for improving these institutions.

Establishing Consistent best practices for Early Learning Facilities 

Approximately 129,000 center-based early care and education programs serve nearly 7 million children in the United States, but many of these facilities do not promote early learning and expose children to health and safety issues, according to a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center.  Some of these early learning facilities are in repurposed buildings that were not designed with the needs of young children in mind, and many communities do not have any early learning facilities at all.

The report finds that children are extremely vulnerable to environmental issues such as lead, mold and dust and that exposure can have long-term health effects and result in developmental consequences.  Other public safety issues include young children who have frequent hand-to-mouth activity, easily accessible electrical outlets, unsafe drinking water and open windows and gates.

"Investments in early learning facilities — both center-based and home-based care — are an investment in communities themselves and support children, parents and businesses alike," said Linda Smith, director of BPC's Early Childhood Initiative.

The BPC recommends the following principles to improve early learning facilities:

  1. Early learning programs are critical to the health and success of local communities and the national economy. Every child deserves equal access to affordable, developmentally appropriate, high-performing early learning facilities.
  2. Early learning programs are an essential workforce support and an essential component of the workforce system. Investments in early care and learning facilities should be an element of federal, state and local economic-development strategies.
  3. Home-based early learning programs and programs in other settings require infrastructure investments to address facility needs.
  4. Early learning facilities — and the policies that support them — should be flexible and adaptable to account for changes in the workplace, caregiving and other systems that impact children and families.

The report also offers recommendations for actions that federal, state and local governments can take in improving early learning facilities. The report is supported by a number of early learning and government associations, including the Children's Investment Fund, Early Learning Policy Group, KinderCare Education, the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities.

The full report can be found here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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