In establishing the blueprint for Early Head Start, this Committee also laid out a bold vision for influencing child care for thousands of other infants and toddlers. The Committee presented a challenge for all Early Head Start programs: they could provide center-based care directly or form partnerships with center and home providers in their communities, ensuring that all children in these partnerships—not just the Early Head Start children—would receive care that met the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
Quality child care—whether provided in Early Head Start centers, community centers, community family homes, or by relatives—has become a priority for Early Head Start. A majority of Early Head Start children need quality child care because it is important to their development. Existing literature suggests that good quality child care can enhance early development, especially for low-income children. There is evidence that a great deal of infant care does not meet standards for good quality (Cost, Quality and Child Outcomes Study Team, 1995; Galinsky, Howes, and Kontos, 1995). The Head Start Program Performance Standards set a bar for quality that is higher than what is typically found in infant-toddler care today.
This brief explores the extent to which Early Head Start was able to meet the expectations of the Advisory Committee for Early Head Start children to receive good quality child care and for Early Head Start to extend resources to enhance quality in child care in communities where programs are located. It demonstrates that considerable progress has been made towards these goals and provides suggestions for the future.