28 May 2009

Increasing Our Holdings in the Baby Sector: Spending on Infants and Toddlers in the 2007 Federal Budget

The science of early brain development tells us that investing in high quality, best practice programs promotes early brain development and improves the life outcomes of children (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004). With that logic in mind, the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution jointly released a new report entitled, “Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007,” which details both direct and indirect federal spending on the youngest children (between birth and age 2) across eight categories: Health, Nutrition, Housing, Income Security, Social Services, Education & Training, Tax Credits and Reductions in Taxes.

The report finds that in 2007 the federal government spent $57 billion on infants and toddlers (about 2% of the total budget):

  • The largest share of federal spending for infants and toddlers goes to Health care, at 24% of all spending on children;
  • The next largest share of spending (23%) came in the form of tax credits, including credits for child care and health insurance;
  • Only 7% of the budget for infants and toddlers goes into child care and education;

To what extent are infants and toddlers in Shelby County participating in federally-supported, best practice programs? Currently,
  • There are 95 infants and toddlers enrolled in Early Head Start through Porter Leath (Mike Warr, 2009);
  • There are 60 families enrolled in the Parents as Teachers program in Memphis City Schools; and
  • There are 255 children enrolled in Healthy Start through the Shelby County Health Department (Shelby County Health Department, 2009).

These programs are funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds and are all consistent with nationally proven best practice models. Still, there is a large unmet need for such programs in our community. Roughly half (7,500) of the children born in Shelby County every year live in poverty, and would both be eligible for – and would benefit from – participation if slots were available (TN Department of Health, 2008).

When investing in infants and toddlers returns anywhere from 6 to 17 dollars for each dollar invested, the smart money would increase our holdings in “the baby sector.”

Tennessee Department of Vital Statistics

Shelby County Health Department

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (Summer 2004).

Macomber, Jennifer, Julia Isaacs, Tracy Vericker, Adam Kent and Paul Johnson. (April 2009). Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007. Washington D.C.: The Urban Institute and The Brookings Institution. Accessed May 25, 2009.

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