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This report summarizes the roundtable "Infants and Toddlers in State and Federal
Budgets: Yesterday's Choices, Today's Decisions, Tomorrow's Options" conducted by
the Urban Institute, with support from the A.L. Mailman Family Foundation, on March
30, 2009. The roundtable's focus grew out of the widely perceived mismatch between
sharply limited public investments on infants and toddlers and an accumulated body of
research demonstrating the significance of the earliest years of life. We describe the
group's diverse perspectives and wide-ranging discussion of strategies to address this
This report summarizes major themes from the roundtable "Infants and Toddlers in State
and Federal Budgets: Yesterday's Choices, Today's Decisions, Tomorrow's Options"
conducted by The Urban Institute, with support from the A.L. Mailman Family
Foundation, on March 30, 2009. The roundtable's focus grew out of the widely perceived
mismatch between sharply limited public investments and an accumulated body of
research demonstrating the significance of the earliest years of life.
The timing of the roundtable raised the stakes even higher. The deep economic
downturn that began in 2008 poses great risks for families and creates intense budget
pressures on states. If states pull back on recent investments in young children as a result
of these pressures, the damage to young children could be exacerbated. Yet, the early
months of 2009 could represent a moment of opportunity because of enactment of the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which contains significant
investments in young children, and because a new Congress and new presidential
administration are taking a fresh look at domestic policy.
The unique features of the roundtable included its joint focus on both federal and
state budgets and its cross-program focus covering health, nutrition, and early education
and family support. Federal and state decisionmakers often have only cursory knowledge
of each other's environments and constraints and few opportunities to reflect on the most
important intersections between federal and state budgets regarding young children's
programs. Similarly, experts in health, nutrition, and early education and family support
rarely have the opportunity to talk across the different service systems about
achievements and failures on behalf of very young children. And experts in one field
often do not know of budget, policy, and performance trends in the others.
To achieve this cross-cutting conversation, the roundtable brought state and
federal budget experts together with practitioners and policymakers specializing in early
childhood and family support programs, health care, and nutrition. The discussion was
designed to share information and perspectives in order to engender new insights, not
create consensus. In particular, it aimed at three goals:
- assess the evidence about state and federal budget choices that affect young children;
- identify immediate opportunities and risks for young children related to the recession and the economic recovery package; and
- suggest both short- and longer-term next steps to yield better outcomes for children.
The first session, an overview of federal and state investments in infants and
toddlers, concentrated on the first goal. Sessions two and three addressed opportunities
and risks from the perspective of particular program areas: health and nutrition in session
two, and early childhood education and family support in session three. The final session
explored possible next steps for policy and research arising from the roundtable.
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