Occasional Paper Series #42

Overlooked Too Long: Focusing on the Potential of Infant-Toddler Child Care

by Joan Lombardi

Child care appears to be emerging as a national issue. After decades of being relegated to the minor leagues of American policy, child care for working families has become front-page news. It has been almost 50 years since the passage of comprehensive child care reform. The Comprehensive Child Development Act of l971 would have provided for a network of child care programs, ensured federal standards, and provided funds to train caregivers, among other provisions. Unfortunately it was vetoed, setting back child care for decades.

It has been more than 15 years since I wrote Time to Care, a book calling for the country to redesign the child care system to promote education, support families, and build communities (Lombardi, 2003). Since then, my own children have grown up, yet the next generation faces the same issues. Parents continue to pay a substantial portion of their income for child care and the child care workforce remains grossly underpaid, affecting every aspect of quality care. In far too many American communities, the supply of care is limited, with child care deserts becoming part of the new lexicon.

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About the Author

Joan LombardiOver the past 45 years, Joan Lombardi has made significant contributions in the areas of child and family policy as an innovative leader and policy advisor to national and international organizations and foundations and as a public servant. She currently directs Early Opportunities LLC, a strategic advisement service focused on the development of young children, families, and the communities that support them.

She served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development (2009-2011), as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and External Affairs in Administration for Children and Families, and as the first Commissioner of the Child Care Bureau, among other positions (1993-1998).