The Foundation for Child Development supports research, policy, and advocacy that have strong potential to advance the learning and development of young children from birth through age eight. The Foundation is particularly interested in work that, as our mission declares, helps young children overcome the harmful consequences arising from economic instability and social exclusion, and that will strengthen their developmental potential.

Our previous efforts raised issues that are now being actively addressed by researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and advocates. We spearheaded research that extended the definition and practice of early development from preschool to third grade. Today it’s referred to as PreK-3rd, a multi-disciplinary effort to align standards, curriculum, and assessments. Similarly, our Young Scholars Program (YSP) supported the work of junior scholars for over 10 years, producing a rich body of policy and practice-relevant research focused on the early learning and developmental needs of immigrant children.

Now, the Foundation has identified the early care and education workforce as an emerging and essential issue for the field. Enhanced federal, state, and local attention to early care and education can only have a strong positive impact on the lives of young children and their families if the professionals in the field are competent, appropriately compensated and unified. The early care and education field is facing another critical moment. Our work must adjust accordingly to focus on the early care workforce to support research and examine effective program and policy implementation.

Why the Workforce

The early care and education workforce consists of individuals who educate and care for young children across the continuum of birth through age eight. This includes lead teachers, teacher assistants, and home-based providers, as well as support professionals, such as coaches, master teachers, and administrators who work in a variety of settings, such as center-based, public school, and family child care programs. The quality of their interactions with young children and the quality of the environmental stimulation they create are critical to each child’s learning and development, which is why it’s important to ensure that early care and education professionals have the knowledge, support, and resources they need to enhance the lives of children and families.

High-quality early care and education programming across settings within the birth-through-age-eight continuum typically involve federal, state, and local government systems, as well as private systems (profit and non-profit). These programs are part of other complex systems, such as early learning standards, program standards, comprehensive assessment, data, professional development, health and mental health promotion, and family engagement, which serve children and families within various socio-cultural and community contexts. Political, financing, employment, and advocacy systems can all have a direct impact on early care programming and children’s experiences during these critical years for development.

These various systems create a framework in which early care and education professionals operate and successful program or policy implementation relies on coordination across a variety of these systems, or across elements thereof. Within this complexity, one of the Foundation’s overarching goals is to strengthen these individual and interacting systems that impact young children, their families, and the early care workforce.