It absolutely is an essential element of child care welfare reform. I think that for kids, when it comes to getting acclimated to such a social and mobile society, it should begin as young as possible. I know it's hard to let your kid out into the world, but this is vital.
I think that pre-kindergarten (remember when we used to call it pre-school?) is a vital part of welfare reform for families. Studies have shown that the earlier a child is involved with casual directed learning, the better they do later in life. I think we owe it to all of our children to give them a head start in life.
Child care welfare reform needs to provide this kind of free pre kindergarten because many young children receiving assistance live in environments where there is no mental stimulation and so they enter public school way behind their peers. Also they may be suffering from neglect or hardship that a few hours in a caring situation would help.
No, free pre-K is not an essential element of child care welfare reform, because the way to get people off of welfare is not to give people more welfare. The way to get them off of welfare is to make welfare more miserable than not being on welfare. They need less, not more.