- Boasts one pediatrician for every 676 kids under 18 -- the highest ratio in the country -- and is home to a top-rated children's hospital
- Was the first state to require insurers to cover fertility diagnosis and treatment, including in-vitro fertilization
- Has the lowest rate of infant mortality (the number of children who die before age 1) in the country -- 5 deaths per 1,000 births
With stringent standards covering everything from close supervision to developmental activities, Massachusetts is a leader in offering quality childcare -- especially for babies. The state is one of only three that mandate a 3:1 ratio of kids under 18 months to caregivers; some states permit an infant-to-caregiver ratio twice as high. Massachusetts also enforces strict requirements for caregivers (it's one of 10 states stipulating background and child-abuse checks) and infant play and learning (it was the first in the country to set curriculum standards for family-operated childcare centers).
"We require our providers to help infants develop socially, emotionally, and intellectually, so we are not warehousing children," says Ardith Wieworka, commissioner of the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services in Boston. Since 2001, the state has doled out more than $1 million in grants to childcare centers interested in making quality improvements such as those relating to curriculum or staff training. A large percentage of the grant money has come from the sale of license plates that read, "Invest in Children."
What's more, the state offers an above-average number of licensed childcare centers (3,242, or one for approximately every 123 kids under 5), which gives parents plenty of choices and helps prevent long waiting lists. Massachusetts also makes childcare more affordable by allowing parents to deduct expenses of $4,800 for one dependent or $9,600 for two or more when filing their state income tax returns.