What Policies Advance Infants and Toddlers? Evidence to Inform State and Federal Options




Bruce Fuller, Margaret Bridges, and Austin Land

Brief Type

Journal Publication


  • Early Head Start Home-Based Option
  • Healthy Families America (HFA)
  • Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP)
  • Parents as Teachers (PAT)


A variety of civic actors—government, associations, and local agencies—work to help
parents advance the vitality of our youngest children. Empirical findings accumulating over
the past half-century identify benefits for infants and toddlers stemming from three policy
models: paid leave for parents after a newborn arrives; regular pediatric assessments,
including home visiting; and quality caregivers situated in homes or centers. We review
what is known about the effects of these policies, along with constituent elements of
quality (mediators) that operate proximal to children's health, cognitive, and emotional
growth. Much has been learned about how such collective action, carried out by local
organizations, advance infant–toddler development. Methodological advances foster new
knowledge: moving closer to causal inferences and pinpointing social mechanisms that
enrich infant–toddler settings. Less well understood is how policy levers can move the
malleable elements of program quality to raise the magnitude or sustainability of program
effects. We note the benefits of income-support efforts for fragile families, while urging
new work on how economic dynamics touch the capacity of parents and caregivers to
better nurture infants and toddlers. (author abstract)

Data Collection Methods



For More Information

Fuller, B., Bridges, M., & Land, A. (2020). What policies advance infants and toddlers? Evidence to inform state and federal options. Social Policy Report, 33(1), 1-43. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/sop2.6
Author Contact Information:
Bruce Fuller


  • Participant, Family, and Program Outcomes