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Journal Issue: Caring for Infants and Toddlers Volume 11 Number 1 Spring/Summer 2001

Statement of Purpose
Richard E. Behrman

Statement of Purpose

The primary purpose of The Future of Children is to disseminate timely information on major issues related to children's well-being, with special emphasis on providing objective analysis and evaluation, translating existing knowledge into effective programs and policies, and promoting constructive institutional change. In attempting to achieve these objectives, we are targeting a multidisciplinary audience of national leaders, including policymakers, practitioners, legislators, executives, and professionals in the public and private sectors. This publication is intended to complement, not duplicate, the kind of technical analysis found in academic journals and in the general coverage of children's issues by the popular press and special interest groups.

This issue of the journal focuses on the daily care of the nation's youngest children—those between birth and age three. During these years, the infant's brain and body, mind and personality take shape in a way that reflects both inherent biological factors and environmental influences. Early development feeds on everyday experiences of learning and nurturance that are managed by the infant's caregivers. But how is caregiving itself managed by today's families? The articles in this issue probe the striking shift in caregiving arrangements for children under age three, now that 61% of their mothers are in the labor force and more than half of them begin some form of regular child care before their first birthday. The articles discuss the developmental needs of infants and toddlers, review the findings of recent child care studies, examine public opinion surveys, summarize the ways in which employers and governments try to help parents with infants to manage employment and caregiving, and describe recent innovations that seek to improve the care that these most vulnerable children receive.

Public ambivalence about how families with infants and toddlers should respond to the competing demands of caregiving and employment has stymied policy action and impeded realistic debate about the care of children under age three. To us, it is clear that American families need and deserve a far better array of caregiving options to choose among—including paid parental leave and child care that is nurturing, appropriate, reliable, and affordable. We argue that it is the role of government to see to it that families of all income levels have equitable access to such supports—so they can give their babies the best start possible in life. We welcome your comments and suggestions regarding this issue of The Future of Children. Our intention is to encourage informed debate about the care of infants and toddlers. To this end we invite correspondence to the Editor-in-Chief. We would also appreciate your comments about the approach we have taken in presenting the focus topic and welcome your suggestions for future topics.