Shaquita Ogletree

The State of Babies Yearbook (The Yearbook), an initiative of the Think Babies campaign, created by Zero to Three and Child Trends is a tool that shows the well-being of babies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The data illuminate the fact that what state a baby is born in makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life that impacts their development.
Some key data points to keep in mind to reflect on the U.S. babies are:

• 12 million infants and toddlers live in the U.S.
• More than half our the nation’s babies are children of color
• 1 in 4 babies in the U.S. are living in poverty
• 45% of babies live in poor or low-income families
• Nearly 1 in 12 babies are born at low birthweight
• 1 in 5 babies live in a single parent household
• 9% of babies live with a grand-parent
• 61% of babies have a mother in the workforce
• Nearly 10% of mothers with young children suffer from maternal depression and anxiety disorders

States were compared across 60 indicators and policy domains in three key areas that are essential for a good start in life: Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences. The Yearbook’s system to place a state in the four tiers ranking process is:

• “GROW” for Working Effectively
• “GRO” for Improving Outcomes
• “GR” for Reaching Forward
• “G” for Getting Started

States ranking on the Good Health indicator addresses health care access and affordability, food security, maternal health, child health, infant and early childhood mental health, and food nutrition. As a lack of resources in the household, 16.5% of babies don’t have access to enough healthy food. States ranking as Working Effectively towards good health indicators among babies include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

States ranking on the Strong Families indicator addresses child welfare, basic needs support, home visiting, and supportive policies/paid leave. Access to federal cash assistance benefits only accounts for 25%of families with an infant or toddler in poverty. States ranking at the highest tier as Working Effectively towards strong families indicators include Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

States ranking on the Positive Early Learning Experiences indicator addresses early care and education opportunities, and early intervention and prevention services. The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) received the largest funding increase in history in the federal fiscal year 2019 budget and provide financial assistance to low-income families to access child care; however, only 4.2% of low- and moderate-income infants and toddlers are served by the CCDF. States ranking as Working Effectively towards positive early learning experiences include Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont.

The first three years of a child’s life matters more than any other period in their lifetime because it is when a baby’s brain creates the most neural connections and develops the fastest. The time to make every baby our national priority starts now, for more information and to see how your state ranks:

State of Babies                                            Get the Yearbook

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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