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Alliance for Early Success  |  December 1, 2023



As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned many lessons about what is needed for children, families, providers, and state and local businesses to survive and thrive.  The nation now has seen how important significant and stable funding is to help create affordable, available child care opportunities for all families, and how difficult it is to provide. We have also seen how essential early childhood educators are to the well-being of children and families, and the functioning of the economy. The pandemic also brought into stark relief the many inequities and vulnerabilities that have defined child care in the United States and are entrenched in all parts of the system. When the system suffers, whether from a pandemic, an economic downturn, or bad policies, the children, families, and providers who bear the brunt of the impact are more likely to be poor, people of color, women, and from rural communities.

Despite learning these lessons, we continue to see headlines every day about the need for child care so that parents can go to work. Every day, another story is told about providers who have to close, who cannot open classrooms, and who struggle to find staff.  


While the situation is dire, there are reasons to hope.  Throughout the pandemic, state and local leaders worked with parents, providers, and advocates to identify and implement meaningful policy change that can improve the child care system and address inequities. Across the country, we see advocates and policy leaders in red, purple, and blue states adopting a new mindset that centers the experiences of parents and providers and creates bolder and more permanent investments in child care. We see innovative new approaches to funding and financing. And we see leaders adopting policies that support the workforce front and center, recognizing the value of early childhood educators, who are disproportionately women of color, and their commitment to children.

In September 2020, the Alliance for Early Success released the Build Stronger Policy Roadmap, that lays out a set of policy actions that we—advocates and policy leaders at both the state and federal levels—need to implement to move toward a more equitable and ambitious child care system. This report updates that Roadmap by highlighting actual actions that states have taken since the pandemic began that are stepping stones toward transformational change.1

These actions focus on the following policy objectives:

Advance the Early Care and Education Profession

Reform Child Care Financing

Increase Access and Affordability for All Families

Provide Supports for Children, Families, and Communities

Taken together, these state policies demonstrate that the strategies we laid out in the 2020 Roadmap are not pipe dreams. Change is still possible, but only if state policy leaders take the wheel and commit to a journey to transform child care in this nation. The opportunities are in front of us, and the time to start is now.

1. Our goal was to highlight illustrative examples from states – not to document an exhaustive, 50-state scan of such policy actions.

This brief was released in December 2023 by the Alliance for Early Success. Albert Wat was the project lead.

Thanks to Danielle Ewen for supporting research for this report and contributing to the writing, Diane Girouard of Child Care Aware of America for drafting the case studies and providing additional policy examples, Mary Beth Testa for reviewing a draft and providing feedback, and Alliance allies in all the states that were mentioned in the report who reviewed information about their states and provided feedback and corrections.