Who Provides Early Care and Education for Young Children with Special Needs? Findings From the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education

This Snapshot uses data from the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) to examine caregiving arrangements for young children with special needs1 to better understand where these children receive early care and education (ECE) services. Findings in this Snapshot are focused on children under age 6 and ECE providers serving children under age 6.

Key Findings

According to analyses of the 2012 NSECE:

  • Roughly 5 percent (1.2 million) of the 23 million children under age 6 in the United States had a condition that affected the way their parent cared for them. This condition includes children with diagnosed or undiagnosed disabilities, special health care needs, and behavioral or emotional needs.
  • Nearly one third (32%) of children under age 6 without special needs were cared for solely by their parents, compared to nearly one fifth (19%) of children under age 6 with special needs.
  • Among children with special needs, the most commonly used nonparental care type was center-based care. Twenty-five percent of children with special needs used center-based care, compared to 20 percent of children without special needs.
  • A greater proportion of children with special needs relied on a combination of nonparental care types (20%), compared to their peers without special needs (13%).
  • Thirty-three percent of centers that serve children under age 6 cared for at least one child with a physical condition that affected their care.
  • Twenty-two percent of listed home-based providers that serve children under age 6 cared for at least one child with a condition that affected their care.

Footnote

1 In this Snapshot, we opted for using “special needs” because the sample of children include children whose conditions affected their care but may not meet the eligibility criteria for IDEA services. We recognize the limitations of the “special needs” term, and affirm each person’s right to self-identify the way they wish.