Working Families Near Victory on Safe, Quality Child Care

On September 12, a bicameral, bipartisan agreement was announced on legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the federal law that allocates funds to the states to assist families with the cost of child care and to improve the quality of child care.  The last time that Congress reauthorized or made changes to CCDBG was in 1996 – 18 years ago. teacher and kids circle time

Much has happened since that time. Today, 74.7% of mothers with school-age children are working and 64% of mothers with children under age 6 are working. In fact, today, 57.3% of mothers with infants are working.  In today’s economy, mothers work to support their families.  Census Bureau data released on September 16 showed that the number of men and women working full-time, full year, increased by 1.8 million, suggesting a shift from part-year, part-time work status to full-time, year round work.

The fact of the matter is that mothers work. Working families, spurred by working moms, need child care in order to ensure that they can support their families.

In 1990, Congress passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The law was historic at the time because it offered modest child care subsidies to low income families to support their effort to work. The theory was that a work support was better than welfare support. In 1996, that concept was re-affirmed when CCDBG was reauthorized as part of welfare reform.

Today, 18 years after Congress last revised CCDBG, we have an advantage of better understanding the neuroscience behind child development and lessons learned from the deaths that have occurred in child care throughout the country.  Any child’s death is tragic, but it is even more tragic when it can be prevented.  And that’s the thrust behind the bicameral, bipartisan CCDBG bill. We can better protect children in child care, we can better promote their healthy development, and we can expect more accountability from states that accept federal child care funds.

The House of Representatives passed the CCDBG reauthorization bill on Monday, September 15. The Senate spent the remainder of last week attempting to get agreement to pass the measure. Despite the fact that the Senate approved similar legislation in March by a vote of 96-2, the body was not able to pass it by unanimous consent (UC) before adjourning Thursday evening, September 18.  Unanimous consent was necessary because there was not time before adjourning for lengthy floor debate. Therefore, there were about 30 bills that were approved by UC Thursday night, but not the child care bill.

Two Senators objected to passing the child care bill: Senator Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Toomey (R-PA). The CCDBG bill will be the pending business of the Senate on November 12 when the Senate reconvenes after the election. Hopefully, the measure will pass and be sent to the President for his signature into law.  While that is certainly good news, the delay is not without consequence.  On the surface, it may seem that a delay of 8 weeks is nothing after 18 years. That is true. However, at the same time, the delay pushes the bill into the next fiscal year which begins October 1.  For practical purposes, that means that states will have 3 years (instead of 2) to pass conforming measures to ensure that children are safe and that state policies are accountable as federal funds are spent.

The CCDBG bill is a bipartisan measure that will help support both the needs of working families and the needs of children.  Let’s hope that the Senate will pass this measure without delay in November.

For a summary of the bill, click here.
For a detailed comparison of current law with the provisions in the House passed bill (and pending Senate bill), click here.

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