15 September 2009

Providing Consistent and Nurturing Care for Infants in the First Year of Life

Children undergo a period of rapid brain development between conception and 36 months of age. Early brain development is experience dependent. This means that infants and toddlers need nurturing, consistent care from a regular caregiver in order to develop their foundational social, emotional and cognitive skills (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004).

- In Shelby County, 60% of mothers of infants were also in the labor force (American Factfinder, 2007).
- Similar percentages of single and married new mothers are working. Fifty-nine percent of married mothers of infants were employed, compared to 62% of single mothers of infants (American Factfinder, 2007).

Tennessee Maternity Leave Laws

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 stipulates that all employees in the United States are entitled to up to 12 weeks of uncompensated leave for any of the following reasons:

• for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
• for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
• to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
• to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition (U.S. Department of Labor, 2009).

The 1987 Tennessee Maternity Leave Act law only provided unpaid leave for female employees and did not require employers to grant unpaid leave to families who were new parents through adoption (Baker Donelson, 2005). Following a 2005 amendment, the Act now entitles both male and female employees up to 4 months of unpaid leave in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or adoption. The period of leave for employees who are expecting a child can begin during or after the pregnancy at the employee’s discretion with 3 months prior notice to their employer. Leave for the adoption of a new baby begins when the adoption occurs (TN Code Annotated 4-21-208, 2005). Whether or not an employee is compensated during maternity leave is at the discretion of employers; however, some organizations allow new mothers to utilize unused, compensated sick and/or vacation time while they are on maternity leave (TN Dept of Human Resources, July 2009).

Finding Affordable, High Quality Infant Care

Who takes care of babies when mothers go back to work? In Tennessee, the two primary sources of publically funded care for infants (under 12 months of age) are Department of Human Services (DHS) child care (designed for low-income families receiving government assistance) and Early Head Start.

- In 2009, only 7% of DHS child care recipients were infants under one year of age (NACCRA, 2009). In Shelby County, this would mean that roughly 3,131 (~20% of those born every year) infants were receiving subsidized child care (TN CCR&R, October 2008).

- Currently, there are 95 Early Head Start slots in Shelby County and these are available for children between 6 weeks and 3 years of age (Warr, 2009).

As of December 2008, the average weekly cost of full time infant care in a 3 star or NAEYC accredited child care center in Shelby County was $140.00, or $7,280 annually and ranged from $110 a week to $191 a week (CUCP estimate, 2008).

If they had to pay the market rate, what percent of a family’s income would be devoted to child care? Median family income for married couples with children in Shelby County is $81,698 a year - this suggests that the average two-parent family in Shelby County would spend 8% of their income per year, per child for high quality infant care. By comparison, single mothers with children earn a median annual income of $22,007- These families would spend 33% of their annual income per child for high quality infant care.

Expanding Affordable Care: The Illinois Infant/Toddler Set Aside

Over the last few decades, our neighboring state of Illinois implemented a set of innovative child care programs that offer promising models for Tennessee. During the 1980’s, the Illinois legislature created three different programs to target services to children and their families who were between birth and age 5. In 1997, the legislature decided to combine the funding for all 3 programs into one block grant, which became the Illinois Early Childhood Education Block Grant (ECEBG). This grant money is used to fund early care and education, parent training programs and early intervention services. The legislature set aside 8% of the ECEBG to provide services directly to children from birth to age 3, and this is known as the Illinois Infant/Toddler Set Aside. The set aside became available to service providers around the state beginning in 1999. In 2004, they increased the amount of the set aside to 11% of the block grant funds and also began exclusively funding best practice proven programs (Ounce of Prevention Fund, 2007).

For the 2009/2010 fiscal year, the Infant/Toddler Set Aside will generate $37.6 million in funding for best practice programs for infants and toddlers in Illinois (CUCP Estimate, based on Bellinger, August 2009). While this does represent a 10% cut in funding from the 2008 levels, it still enables the Illinois Department of Education the leeway to create and fund high quality, affordable programs for infants and toddlers (Bellinger, August 2009). Tennessee does not have an Early Childhood Education Block Grant currently, but we do have many of the programs that were utilized to create the ECEBG in Illinois and it is not beyond our capacity to set aside a portion of those funds to create more affordable, high quality options for our youngest children.


American Factfinder. (2007). Table B13012. WOMEN 16 TO 50 YEARS WHO HAD A BIRTH IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS BY MARITAL STATUS AND LABOR FORCE STATUS. Washington D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau

Baker Donelson. (July 2005). “Amendment to Tennessee Maternity Leave Act Allows Leave for Adoptions and Male Employees,” Labor & Employment Alert. Memphis: Author. Accessed September 8, 2009.

Bellinger, Catharine. (August 2009). “Illinois Governor Protects Part of Early Childhood Budget, But Still, State Funding Drops,” Early Ed Watch Blog, Washington D.C.: New America Foundation. Accessed September 11, 2009 < http://www.newamerica.net/blog/early-ed-watch/2009/illinois-gov-protects-some-money-early-learning-all-early-childhood-programs-fac>

National Association of Child Care and Resource Referral Agencies. (March 2009).Average Monthly Number of Children Served by Age. Author. Accessed September 8, 2009.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships. (2004). Working Paper No. 1. Retrieved [August 21, 2009] from www.developingchild.net/pubs/wp/environment_of_relationships.pdf

Ounce of Prevention Fund. (2007). Illinois’ Infant Toddler Set Aside: What It Is and How It Works to Promote School Readiness. Chicago: Author. Accessed September 11, 2009. < http://www.ounceofprevention.org/includes/tiny_mce/plugins/filemanager/files/Infant%20Toddler%20set%20aside-pub%20rev%2007.pdf>

Tennessee Child Care Resource and Referral Agency. (October 2008). Personal communication with Katie Devlin.

Tennessee Code Annotated 4-21-408. (2005). Leave for adoption, pregnancy, child birth and nursing an infant. Accessed September 10, 2009. http://www.state.tn.us/labor-wfd/Title4-21-408.htm

Tennessee Department of Human Resources. (July 2009). “Maternity Leave,” State Employee Benefits. Nashville, TN: Author. Accessed July 8, 2009.
United States Department of Labor. (2009). Family and Medical Leave Act: Overview. Washington D.C.: Author. Accessed September 10, 2009.

Warr, Mike. (March 2009). Personal Communication with Katie Devlin.

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