2023 has seen great momentum to improve outcomes and equity for young children. Many state legislatures have taken action to support infants, toddlers, their families, and caregivers. This month, we tracked several bills to increase access to doula services and child care. And multiple states have enacted economic reforms to empower working parents with financial and material resources to provide for their families. This post covers a sampling of this prenatal-to-3 legislative action, including two exciting new laws in Maryland.
The evidence is clear that, as a member of a comprehensive system of maternal care, community-based doulas can improve birth outcomes, foster nurturing relationships between new parents and babies, and increase attendance at medical appointments. We congratulate states who look to improve maternal and child health outcomes by supporting community-based doulas in their perinatal system of care.
A number of legislatures have introduced bills to cover services provided by doulas, including those in a community-based setting:
Many states’ legislation requires that doulas be certified to qualify to receive payment for covered services. This requirement may create barriers for the workforce and patients. Currently, many states do not have standardized certification requirements for doulas, and therefore training and certification varies among doula providers.
The new certification requirements in the above bills could impose significant barriers for the doula workforce. As states implement policies that support the community-based doula workforce and increase access to care, certification requirements will be an important consideration for inclusivity and equity.
Child Care Subsidies
Many states are focused on increasing access to child care—either by expanding eligibility for child care subsidies or by removing policies that limit participation. This legislative session, we also see a trend of states introducing bills to expand subsidy access to specific populations:
As legislation to expand access to child care subsidies programs is introduced, states should also look for long-term, sustainable funding sources to support changes. Without additional funds, changes to subsidy programs may increase access on paper, but lead to longer wait lists.
States can also promote access to child care by removing or adjusting current policies that make benefits difficult to access:
Economic Supports for Working Parents
Financial hardship in early childhood can disrupt healthy brain development and compromise long-term learning, behavior, and health. According to our comprehensive reviews of rigorous research, states have several effective options to increase household resources. This year, several states have introduced or passed legislation to support the economic wellbeing of families through expanded tax credits, higher minimum wages, and improved paid family leave:
Maryland has passed two exciting laws this year to put money into the pockets of working families:
Final Update Coming in June
At this point in the year, more than a third of state legislatures have adjourned sine die. By the end of this month, nearly two-thirds will have wrapped their sessions for the year. The Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center will publish our last legislative update for 2023 in June. Would you like to know as soon as the post goes live? Subscribe to our blog updates!