Toward a More Equal Footing: Early Head Start in Maine

Source: Jessica Carson, University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy, National Issue Brief #122, Spring 2017

From the summary:
Policy makers and advocates nationwide recognize that funding for early childhood education is a crucial investment in the future. Critical foundational development occurs before age 5, and research consistently shows that high-quality early education for children leads to higher future educational attainment and lower likelihood of crime, and yields a return on investment of 7 to 13 percent.
Yet accessing affordable, quality early childhood education and care is a challenge for families nationwide. More than a quarter of families with young children are burdened by child care costs, and the availability and quality of child care and education are highly variable across states.
One program that connects the most economically vulnerable families with quality early childhood programming is Early Head Start (EHS). Subject to rigorous quality and staffing standards, implemented among the youngest children (prenatally through age 2), and delivered via a two-generation approach, EHS is a significant opportunity for providing quality care and education to a population that might otherwise struggle to access it. This brief explores the characteristics of EHS in Maine, compares them to the national landscape, and connects these findings to a discussion of the federal and state policy climates.

Key Findings:
– Maine has 837 funded Early Head Start (EHS) slots for more than 8,000 poor children age 0–2 in Maine. Limited funding means that EHS is unable to reach the vast majority of children living below the poverty line.
– Nearly half (47.2 percent) of Maine’s EHS enrollees participate via the home visitation service delivery model, compared with 37.3 percent nationwide.
– Maine’s EHS staff are more highly educated than EHS staff nationwide. More than one-third of center-based teachers and almost two-thirds of home visitors have at least a four-year degree, compared with about a quarter and a half, respectively, nationwide.