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The Case for Taking Better Care of 2-Year-Olds.

In Wichita, Kansas, single mother Tiffany McNitt sometimes cries after dropping her kids, aged 2 and 3, at their babysitter’s house on her way to work. It’s not just that she’ll miss them—she worries her children aren’t learning anything and are already falling behind.

In Seattle, Tori Gottlieb and her husband agonized over spending 25 percent of their income on day care for their 2-year-old daughter last fall. They didn’t see how they could afford to have the second child they knew they wanted.

Parents dread the terrible twos, but what makes the year so tough for many families isn’t just tantrums in supermarket aisles or toilet-training disasters. It’s the difficulty of finding safe, high-quality child care in a country that offers parents limited choices of questionable quality and little guidance on how to make those choices. This neglect could have far-reaching consequences—research shows that a toddler’s daily environment can have a lasting effect on her brain structure for a lifetime.