This report provides detailed statistics and information about early child health and development, child care quality, access to preschool, and other important indicators of success for Montana’s youngest children. Building on the significant scholarship the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has contributed on the issue, the report also outlines opportunities for new investments to support Montana’s children, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Research shows that early intervention and prevention programs can produce savings to state and local governments, including reduced costs related to remedial education, social services, and crime.
Key highlights from the report include: (1) The share of Montana’s infants enrolled in Medicaid with evidence of perinatal drug exposure more than doubled from 2010 to 2016, putting more of Montana’s young children at risk for health problems and developmental delays. (2) While Montana has made gains in reaching low-income families and young children with opportunities to attend high-quality early learning programs, less than 50 percent of 4-year-old low-income children and less than 10 percent of low-income children under age 3 have access to such programs. (3) In addition to supporting child development when children are cared for outside the home, the ability to access high-quality child care can help parents enter the workforce and be productive at their jobs. More than 60 percent of Montana children under age 6 have all of their parents in the workforce. (4) Partnerships among state and local stakeholders, nonprofit and public agencies, foundations, and the private sector offer opportunities for innovation and progress.