Mother holding baby

Why We're Here

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A child’s brain develops faster from birth to age three than at any later period in life, building the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. We must start early to advance programs and policies that promote healthy development for our infants and toddlers.

Why Invest in Prenatal-to-Three?

Parents play the lead role in their child’s healthy development, but most parents are stretched in the earliest months and years of their child’s life. Community-based and government-funded programs and services can provide parents with support they may need at this critical and stressful time.

When we support them in their earliest years, infants grow into healthy kids who are confident, empathetic, and ready for school and life—and our communities, workforce, and economy become stronger and more productive.

Join a nationwide network of advocates working inside and outside state and local government to ensure children are on track for success in school and life by age three.

Key Focus Areas

The National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers (NCIT) is committed to advancing the most promising policies and programs that ensure families have the supports they may need in the following key areas: 

Healthy Beginnings

Supported Families

High-Quality Child Care & Learning

Healthy Beginnings

A healthy beginning starts before birth with a healthy mother. To improve chances for a strong start in life, all expectant mothers need access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care, and access to preventative and comprehensive health care for their infants. Preventative and comprehensive health care includes regular well-child visits, screenings, and referrals to necessary services to ensure infants are born healthy and continue to thrive.

Supported Families

The most effective way to support a young child is through their family. For healthy development, infants and toddlers need high-quality health care, stimulating learning opportunities, and nurturing, responsive relationships. A system of supports for families, such as home visiting and universal family connection programs, should be in place to reach every parent and child at or before birth with needed information, assessments, and referrals that offer each child a strong start.

High-Quality Child Care & Learning

All infants and toddlers should experience nurturing and responsive care in safe and stable settings. High-quality child care—whether it takes place in a child care center, or with home-based providers—should provide real developmental experiences that are interactive and stimulate engagement, building a solid foundation during the earliest years of life. Caregivers must have a high level of preparation, training, and skills, a positive attitude, and a strong understanding of child development.

Policy Priorities

Based on clear evidence around the science of the developing brain, coupled with the complexity of prenatal-to-three systems, our policy priorities are to:

Increase the number of families with children prenatal-to-age three who are connected to essential health, development, and social emotional support services. Reaching this goal requires a system of supports for families—reaching every mother and child at or before birth—with vital screenings and follow-up services including prenatal care, home visiting, early intervention, health and developmental screenings, and family resources.

 

Increase the number of low-income infants and toddlers receiving affordable, high-quality child care. Reaching this goal requires expanding access to affordable, high-quality infant and toddler child care and learning environments in settings that meet the varied needs of families.

Working together, these programs and policies can help provide parents with the full range of support they may need to create a strong foundation for healthy development and learning.

You Can Make a Difference

States and communities across the country are working with NCIT to develop and implement programs and policies for healthy beginnings, supported families and high-quality child care and early learning. States are advancing policies and funding for home visiting, high-quality child care programs, as well as universal programs to assess and support the needs of young children and their families. Communities are working more broadly—designing models, developing promising practices and sharing what works to build momentum around a common set of priorities.