and Pratt, 1985). Another provision of the act, Aid to Dependent Children (later renamed Aid to Families with Dependent Children) ensured a federal entitlement to a guaranteed baseline of economic security for vulnerable children and their mothers.
Three decades after the onset of the New Deal, under the broad umbrella of the Great Society and the War on Poverty, the modern era of early childhood intervention was launched with the creation of Head Start and the initiation of the Handicapped Children's Early Education Program (Smith and McKenna, 1994; Zigler and Valentine, 1979). Whereas Title V of the Social Security Act had strengthened the nation's medical focus on the consequences of low income and childhood disability, the policies of the 1960s spearheaded an education strategy. Fifteen years later, during a period of significant reduction in federal social programs and devolution of authority to the states, Head Start continued to be funded as a part of the government's “safety net,” and a new federal entitlement to early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities was enacted under Part H of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act Amendments of 1986 (Public Law 99-457), and reauthorized in 1997 as Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Public Law 105-107) (Meisels and Shonkoff, 2000).
The current social, economic, and political contexts within the United States in which this report will be read and interpreted have once again changed. In recent years, federal legislation has been enacted to expand the financing of child health care through the State Children 's Health Insurance Program under Title XXI of the Social Security Act (Public Law 105-33), yet the 60-year entitlement to welfare support for families with young children has been terminated by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Greater investment in education reform garners strong public support, universal school readiness is ranked first among the nation's education goals, and the demand for higher standards and stricter accountability in the public schools is widely endorsed. And yet, despite two high-profile White House conferences on child care and early childhood development and significant increases in public funding for early child care and education at both the federal and state levels, there is still widespread and well-entrenched resistance to the formulation and enforcement of more rigorous standards for child care providers and the settings in which they work. And despite the creation and expansion of Early Head Start for infants and toddlers, services for 3- and 4-year-olds are still available to less than half of the eligible children in the United States, more than 30 years after the opening of the first Head Start center in 1965 (Meisels and Shonkoff, 2000).
Beyond specific government policies and programs, the context of this report is reflected in a set of highly interrelated social, economic, and