During early childhood, we develop the foundations that affect our future social-emotional health, learning, and success. Our brains are growing at a rapid pace. This creates a remarkable window of opportunity to influence our future health and well-being.
Unfortunately, services and supports are not equitably available to everyone. This increases racial, ethnic, geographic, and economic disparities in early childhood health.
Currently, only about half of U.S. preschoolers are on-track with their development and ready for school.i, ii And more than one in four of children (28%) who experience abuse or neglect are under 3 years old.iii
Supporting children, parents, and caregivers during early childhood helps avoid future challenges and costs. It improves all children’s and communities’ chances to thrive.
Our approach to early childhood
We focus on building family well-being by working with the needs of children and their caregivers at the same time. This is a two-generational approach. These interventions help reduce stress and build skills. In turn, that reduces the potential for exposure to negative experiences such as neglect, abuse, and intimate partner violence.
With our committed partners, our programs apply the science of early development to policies and practices that:
- Promote early development, nurturing relationships, and family well-being starting before birth
- Address poverty, racism, caregiver and family stress, and community conditions
- Prevent adverse early childhood experiences, exposures, and conditions
- Value the potential of every child and the strength of caregivers and communities
Initiatives and programs
- Bright Futures
- Challenge Competitions
- Healthy Start Initiative: Eliminating Disparities in Perinatal Health
- Early Childhood Systems, including
- Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems
- Infant Toddler Court Program
- Rural Health Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (IMPACT) Program
- Early Childhood Developmental Health System: Implementation in a High Need State
- Emergency Medical Services for Children
- Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
- Office of Early Childhood Development Interagency Coordination
- Our investments in the National Center for Early Childhood Quality Assurance and in the National Center on Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
- Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program
- Title V MCH Block Grant
- Bridging the Word Gap Research Network and Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network
- National Survey of Children’s Health
Gathering data and tracking progress
We gather program data and national data to track progress. We evaluate the impact of our investments.
- MIECHV Performance Indicators and Systems Outcomes (PDF - 129 KB)
- National Outcome Measures (NOMs)
- National Performance Measures (NPMs)
Our National Survey of Children’s Health serves as the data source for a quarter of our NOMs (7 of 25) and over half of our NPMs (9 of 15). It also serves as a key data source for MCH research that informs how we can best improve health and well-being during early childhood years.
i Ghandour R. M., et al. (2021). Healthy and Ready to Learn: Prevalence and correlates of school readiness among United States preschoolers. Academic Pediatrics, 21(5), p. 818-829. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2021.02.019
ii Paschall, K., Anderson Moore, K., Pina, G., & Anderson S. (2020, April). Comparing the National Outcome Measure of Healthy and Ready to Learn with Other Well-Being and School Readiness Measures. Available from: https://www.childtrends.org/project/national-outcome-measure-healthy-ready-to-learn.
iii U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2021). Child Maltreatment 2019. Available from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment.