Unlicensed Child Care Puts Children At Risk

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is allocated to states to both assist families in affording the cost of child care and to improve the quality of child care (such as through training or other activities). In October, new state reported child care data was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with regard to the number of low income children in each state assisted through  CCDBG.  boy playing w blocks, verticle stock

Overall in FY2013, about 1.4 million children received assistance each month (about 47,500 fewer children in 2013 compared to 2012). The number of children receiving assistance is one part of the story. An equally important part of the story is the type of child care paid for by CCDBG.

In many cases, low income families who receive assistance are able to access quality child care that they would not otherwise be able to afford.  That’s good news for children who will be in a safe setting that promotes their healthy development. And, great news because research shows that high quality child care makes a difference for all children, but particularly for the school readiness of low income children.

What is troubling is that of the 1.4 million children receiving federal subsidies, about 15 percent (218,265) are in unlicensed care. This means that these children are in settings where little is known about the provider except that she receives a government check to care for low income children. In many states, these unlicensed providers are not required to have training, there are no minimum health and safety protections for children (or maybe there is a checklist that providers submit “self-certifying” compliance) and no inspections are required – unless there is a parent complaint.

In 11 states plus Puerto Rico, 25 percent or more of the children receiving a subsidy are in unlicensed care (Hawaii, Oregon, Alabama, Puerto Rico, Nevada, Illinois, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Missouri, North Dakota, and Indiana).

unlicensed by percentage snapshot fy2013

In 18 states, of the children in unlicensed settings whose care is paid for through CCDBG, more than half of the children are with non-relatives.

Unlicensed NonRelative Care Declining FY2013

Why does it matter? Child care licensing serves to provide some minimum health and safety protections for children in child care. States may require minimum training for providers and an emergency plan in the case of a fire or simple things like working smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher. In the past month in Virginia, 3 babies have died in unlicensed at home child care programs where providers had no training for emergencies, no fire extinguishers, and no working smoke detectors.  For Virginia, 46 infants have died over the last few years in unlicensed care. In Missouri, more than 67 babies have died in unlicensed care.  In Indiana, 18 babies have died in unlicensed care. Maybe some of these children were on a subsidy, but we don’t know because current law does not require reporting of this type of data.

The death of any child is a tragedy. It’s an even greater tragedy when the deaths can be prevented. Licensing  serves to protect the health and safety of children. One would think that when taxpayer dollars are used to pay for the care of low income children, that the settings paid for would be safe. But, with unlicensed care, we just don’t know. What we do know is that unlicensed care poses risks to children since there are no minimum health and safety protections.

This week, the Senate will consider legislation to reauthorize (renew) the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on September 15.  If approved by the Senate this week, the measure will be forwarded to the President to be signed into law. The bill includes important new health and safety protections for children. It requires more accountability for state expenditure of federal funds.  But, most importantly, it will help strengthen the quality of child care in every state so that parents have more choices among quality settings.

Arkansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Wisconsin, choose not to use subsidy dollars to pay for unlicensed care.  For the rest of the states, the bill will require a review of the policies to protect children when the states allow funding for unlicensed settings.  The bill requires:

  • a comprehensive background check (a fingerprint check against state and federal records, a check of the state child abuse registry and a check of the state sex offender registry) for all licensed or regulated care and unlicensed nonrelative care where subsidies are used;
  • States that choose to use subsidies to pay for unlicensed care to publicly explain why such care does not endanger the health, safety, or development of children;
  • At least one annual inspection of all providers receiving a subsidy, including unlicensed non-relative care;
  • Minimum training on important health and safety topics like safe sleeping practices and training related to the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of children; and
  • States to report deaths in child care, differentiated by type of setting and whether the setting is licensed or unlicensed.  Requiring the collection of this data is not to be morbid, but to better inform states and HHS about any trends and training that might make a difference.

The bill does not require assistance to families to be used for licensed care. However, it does require states to ensure that if they choose to use taxpayer dollars in unlicensed care, that children are safe. Children should be safe in child care – whether that care is paid for by a subsidy or not.

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.

Congress Reaches Bipartisan Agreement on Child Care!

On September 12, 2014, a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders announced an agreement on legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which allocates funds to states for child care – to help families afford the cost of child care and assist states in improving the quality of child care. Pre school

While Congress generally reviews laws periodically to adjust them for new research, best practices, and to address any shortcomings not foreseen when bills are drafted (a process referred to as reauthorization,  which generally occurs every 5 years on average), it has been 18 years since CCDBG was last reauthorized in 1996. Much has been learned during the intervening years from the science of brain development to the child care policies within states.  For example, national studies have shown that most state child care policies are weak and the oversight of those policies is even weaker.

Legislation to reauthorize CCDBG was approved by the Senate in March.  The House held a hearing (also in March), to hear from experts about the need for quality child care. This summer, House Republicans and Democrats negotiated a reauthorization bill starting with the measure that was approved by the Senate. With adjournment expected soon this fall, House Education and Workforce Committee members, Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA) reached an agreement and negotiated a final bill with Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee members – Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC).

At a time when Congress is polarized, and budget and international events, engagements, and threats are the focus of contentious debate on the House and Senate floor, it is just short of a miracle that a bipartisan, bicameral, group of leaders came together and reached an agreement on an issue that is critical for working families with children.

The fact of the matter is that working families need child care in order to get and retain a job. Children need a safe place to be and a setting that promotes their healthy development. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization bill agreement, as announced yesterday, will both promote children’s safety and improve accountability for the expenditure of federal funds.  It also shows that Congress can come together in a bipartisan manner and in a manner that unites both the House and the Senate on behalf of children.  Kudos Representatives Kline, Miller, Rokita, and Loebsack and Senators Harkin, Alexander, Mikulski, and Burr!  Working families commend your initiative and dedication to push partisan politics aside and support good, common sense policy for children.

The measure is expected to be considered by the House and the Senate during the week of September 15.

Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014

In Brief:  The bicameral, bipartisan, CCDBG agreement reached to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) improves the quality of child care by requiring basic health and safety protections for children whose care is paid for by taxpayer dollars.  The funds set-aside for state activities to improve the quality of care will require more accountability for the use of those dollars.  In addition, more emphasis would be placed on strengthening the child care workforce, the cornerstone of quality child care.

For a detailed bill summary, click here. 

For a copy of the bicameral, bipartisan press announcement, click here.

For a copy of the bill, click here.

More Accountability Needed: Child Care Aid by Race

May marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that outlawed “separate but equal.”   In the decades since 1954, much as been done to integrate schools, boost performance rates among all children and close the achievement gap that is first noticed in kindergarten. As a nation, we’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.

The 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores of our nation’s 4th graders show that:

  • 21 percent of white 4th graders read below grade level;
  • 47 percent of Hispanic 4th graders read below grade level; and
  • 50 percent of African American 4th graders read below grade level.

Studies have well documented the school readiness gap when children enter kindergarten. African American and Hispanic children enter kindergarten below their white peers in reading and math related school readiness skills.

If we are serious about closing the achievement gap, we need to look at where children are before they enter school and strengthen the quality of early childhood settings. Most states now operate Pre-K programs. As studies show, Pre-K can make a difference.  But, Pre-K is not a panacea. The reality is, that most children are in some form of child care every week.  Given the hours that children spend in child care, and the age at which they begin child care settings, it is time to strengthen the quality of child care (for children age 4 and younger) to ensure that children start school ready to succeed and to close the achievement gap.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary source of federal child care funding to states. More than 1.5 million children each year receive assistance through CCDBG. The split between white and African American children among CCDBG children assisted is about equal (43% of the children whose care is paid for with CCDBG dollars are white; 42% of the children are African American).

What we know from the most recent (FY2012) CCDBG data is: overall, about 256,241 children or 17 percent of the children whose care is paid for by CCDBG are in unlicensed care. While licensing requirements vary by state, little is known about the safety and quality of unlicensed settings – even if federal CCDBG subsidies are used to pay for it.  For example, there may be no training requirements for child care providers or only minimal training required – far below state licensing standards. There may be no health and safety requirements or only minimal requirements – far below state licensing standards. There may be no inspections or unlicensed settings may “self-certify” that they meet any state requirements (if they apply). Background checks for unlicensed child care providers receiving subsidies are mostly based on a name check, not a fingerprint check matched against state and federal records to prohibit those who might attempt to use an alias or circumvent a background screening system.

Unlicensed care does not mean illegal care. Some child care settings are license-exempt, which means that a state statute specifically exempts that category of care from licensing requirements. (For example, a state may specifically exempt “drop in” care, a child care setting in a mall designed to care for a child for a few hours on an irregular basis while a parent shops).  Some states do not license family child care homes until they reach a certain threshold of children. (For example, in 27 states, family child care homes are not required to have a license until they care for 4 or more unrelated children).

Why the attention to unlicensed care?   In 10 states, 30 percent or more of the children whose care is paid for with CCDBG funding are in unlicensed settings. (Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, and Oregon). For a table of CCDBG funded unlicensed care in all states, click here.  It may be that these settings are safe and offering quality care, but the reality is, we do not know.  What we do know is that minimum protections for children required by licensed care are not required.

In 18 states, 50 percent or more of the children whose care is paid for with CCDBG subsidies are African American.

Race Table Picture

The percentage of children under age 13 within each state in unlicensed care varies greatly. In Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, either no CCDBG dollars are spent on unlicensed care or 1 percent or fewer of the children whose care is paid for by CCDBG are in unlicensed care. Among the remaining states, the percentage of children in unlicensed care paid for by CCDBG varies from 72 percent in Hawaii to 2 percent in Georgia.

African American Children Under Age 5 in Unlicensed Care Paid for by CCDBG: What we know from the data is that for children under age 5, African American children are twice as likely to be in unlicensed care than white children (21.4 percent vs 11.8 percent).

Children Under Age 5 by Race

We know that the 4th grade reading test scores show that African American children are more than twice as likely compared to white children to read below grade level. We know that the school readiness gap is first noticed in kindergarten but does not begin in kindergarten. It’s time to bring more accountability to CCDBG funding to ensure that all children are in settings to promote their safety and healthy development.

There is much attention today to expanding Pre-K programs for 4 year-old children. That’s a great goal. However, the fact remains that for many children, child care is their early learning program.  From the research, we know that low income children are more likely to start school behind their more economically well-off peers. From a policy perspective, we know we have an opportunity with CCDBG dollars to ensure that low income children are in higher quality settings than they otherwise would be able to access. However, from the data, we know that nearly one-fifth of those who receive assistance are in unlicensed settings – settings that we know little about except that they are not required to have minimum protections for children.  And, from that same data, we know that African American children under age 5 whose care is paid for with a subsidy are twice as likely as white children to be in unlicensed care.

Sixty years after Brown vs Board of Education, we still have a long way to go. As we seek to close the achievement gap for students in K-12 schools, it is time to review the settings children are in before they start school. Our first step ought to be to review the settings children are in that are funded by taxpayer dollars. Licensed or unlicensed, are federal CCDBG dollars spent in an accountable manner? Are children, whose care is paid for with taxpayer dollars, in settings that are safe and that promote their healthy development?

It is troubling that given the plethora of research that underscores the importance and impact of quality child care on the school readiness of children, and particularly those at risk,  that  African American children under age five are twice as likely as white children to be in unlicensed settings.  If we truly care about school readiness, we can and should create more accountability for how our federal dollars are spent — for all children.

 

Child Care and Early Learning: 2013 Highlights

The Year in Review

From Congress to the states, 2013 was a banner year for child care and early learning.  Despite a roller coaster ride with the federal budget, early learning initiatives remained a high priority.  As you can see below, much progress has been made to pave the way for continued success in 2014.

Federal PolicyCartoon Capitol

Bipartisan Child Care Reauthorization legislation Approved by Senate Committee:  

In June, bipartisan legislation,  S. 1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).  The measure was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and was approved in September. For a summary of the legislation as approved by the committee, click here.   CCDBG has not been reauthorized in 17 years.  At a time when Congress is polarized on so many issues, it was great to see a bipartisan effort to strengthen the quality of child care.  Hopefully, the full Senate (and the House) will approve the legislation in 2014.

HHS Proposed Revisions to Child Care Regulations to Strengthen the Quality of Care

In May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed revised child care regulations for the first time since 1998.  Public comments were accepted on the proposed rules through August.  The intent of the rules is to strengthen the health and safety of children in child care and to promote their healthy development.  For a comparison of the bipartisan Senate bill and the proposed HHS rules, click here.  To see public comments about the rules (and to sort by topic), click here.  The final HHS rules are expected to be published in 2014.

Strong Proposals Made for Preschool for All Children

In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for Preschool for All Children. As part of his budget proposed to Congress last spring, the President proposed a 10 year $75 billion plan to expand pre-k for all children. The proposal called for quality benchmarks: state level standards for early learning, qualified teachers in every classroom, and comprehensive data and assessment systems. All 4 year-old children from families at 200% of poverty or below would be eligible.  The President’s plan also called for $1.4 billion in new Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships and an expansion of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV).

In November, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Harkin (S. 1697) and in the House by Representative Miller (H.R. 3461).  The measures embody the concepts of the President’s plan.  Preschool grants would go to local education agencies (LEAs), including charter schools, early education programs or a consortium of school districts and early education programs.  After full enrollment of 4 year-old children, states would be allowed to enroll 3 year-olds.  States would be required to set-aside 20 percent of funding in the first 4 years for quality related activities and may set-aside 15 percent for high quality infant and toddler programs. The measure also includes non-renewable 3 year preschool development grants.  Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships would be authorized at $1.4 billion.  Some child care provisions were included in the measure to support child care training, licensure, compensation initiatives and health & safety for which $100 million was authorized.  To date, the measure has garnered 23 cosponsors in the Senate and 64 cosponsors in the House.

2013 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants:  In December, six states received RTT-ELC grants totaling $280 million – Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Information about the 2013 grants is located here.

RTT-ELC Grants in Progress: 2011 Award Winners – California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington. Information on 2011 grants is located here.   2012 Award Winners – Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Information on 2012 grants is located here.

2013 Federal Budget in ReviewCapitol Scrabble

What a roller coaster ride this year’s federal budget activity was.

January 2013: The original sequester (the across the board cut that was included in a 2011 budget deal, which Congress delayed until January 2013 as a hammer in the event deficit reduction targets were not met) was pushed to March 1.  The sequester was supposed to be implemented on January 2 and represent a 50/50 reduction between defense and non-defense spending to the tune of $109 billion.  Appropriation bills were not completed in 2012 and a continuing resolution was enacted to freeze spending through March 27.

March 2013:  Despite additional time before the postponed sequester was scheduled to occur, Congress did not reach agreement on deficit reduction. As a result, a sequester of about $80 billion (7.3% in defense spending and 5.1% in non-defense) occurred on March 1.   The House passed its budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 25).  The Senate passed its budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 8).  These measures do not become law.  Instead, they act as a management tool for Congress – a blueprint for spending, revenues, and deficit reduction.  The measures could not be more different, which led to a fiscal impasse for the next 7 months.

FY2014 Senate vs House Budget Resolutions

FY2014 Senate vs House Budget Resolutions

September 2013:  Fiscal year 2013 ended September 30 without Congress passing appropriation bills for the new fiscal year beginning October 1.

October 2013:  With Congress unable to reach a budget agreement, the government shut down for 16 days.  Finally, a deal was reached which extended current spending through January 15, 2014 and charged a Committee with making recommendations by December 13 to deal with the looming sequester.

December 2013:  Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) led a committee announcing a new budget deal in December.  The agreement replaced $63 billion of the sequestration cuts for 2014 and 2015 with other savings measures.  Wait a minute, you must be thinking.  The sequester again? We already had it in March. There’s another sequester? Yes.  The 2011 Budget Control Act set caps on funding through 2021 and called for $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Each year through 2021, there will be a $109 billion sequester (equally divided between defense and non-defense spending) to achieve the budget savings called for under the 2011 budget deal.  The Murray-Ryan budget deal will reduce the sequester in January 2014 by $45 billion and by $18 billion in January 2015. While this is good news (relatively), it still means that there will be a reduction in spending of about $64 billion in January 2014 (split equally between defense and nondefense spending).  So, where are we now on the budget?  The good news is that the size of the sequester will be smaller.  It is now up to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to determine funding levels for various programs with a little more funding to work with absent the Murray-Ryan agreement.  With the current CR scheduled to expire on January 15, we can expect early January funding decisions to be made.  Stay tuned.

2013 State Child Care & Pre-K Achievementspreschool report 2013

Child Care Provider Background Checks.  Children should be safe in child care and people with a violent history should not be in the business of caring for unrelated children.  2013 was a banner year for states passing child care provider background check legislation.  Massachusetts led the way by passing fingerprint check legislation in January 2013 (effective September 1, 2013).  In March, Utah passed legislation (effective July 2013) and Georgia passed legislation (effective January 2014).  Indiana passed legislation (effective July 2013) requiring all regulated child care providers to have a fingerprint check against FBI databases.  Oklahoma passed legislation in 2011, which became effective in November 2013. Kentucky revised regulations in the fall to require an address search of the sex offender registry for all registered providers.  Virginia pre-filed child care background check bills in the Senate and House to be considered in January 2014.

Child Care Provider Health & Safety.  States continued to pass legislation improving health and safety requirements.  Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Texas, and Utah passed legislation.  Kentucky revised regulations to strengthen health and safety policies.

State Pre-K Programs.  Hawaii and Mississippi passed legislation establishing statewide voluntary preschool.  In December, the Mississippi State Board of Education awarded $2 million to 11 consortiums to provide pre-k for 4 year-olds.  All of the consortiums include at least one school district, as well as other groups such as Head Start, private child care centers, and foundations.  Texas doubled the size of its pre-k program in Dallas.

Early Learning Improvements.  Colorado created the Infant and Toddler Quality and Availability Grant program, which was funded at $3 million beginning in July 2013.  Minnesota established an Early Learning Scholarship program for families with children who will be age 3 or 4 by September 1 with income at or below 185% of the poverty line.  Scholarships are capped at $5,000 per year.   Rhode Island established a Child Care Assistance Program Parent Advisory Council to advise the Governor and state agencies on issues related to the quality, affordability, and accessibility of child care offered through the state subsidy program.  Washington established an Early Start Program – a continuum of early learning programs from birth to age five, which includes:  home visiting and parent education programs; the early achievers program (the state’s QRIS); integrated full day and part day, high quality early learning programs; and high quality preschool for children in families at or below 110% of the federal poverty line.

State QRIS.  Nebraska passed legislation directing the State Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to collaborate to develop and implement a quality rating system, establish quality rating criteria, assign a quality scale, and provide incentives and support, including professional development to participating child care providers.  Washington will require preschool programs receiving state funds to enroll in the state’s QRIS and maintain a minimum score level.

Key 2013 Reports:

2013 Interesting Policy Databases

2013 Census Bureau Quick Tools

Interactive Map:  In December, the Census Bureau released Census Explorer, a new interactive map that gives users easier access to neighborhood-level statistics. The map uses updated statistics from the 2008-2012 American Community Survey (ACS).

Interested in finding Census Bureau data about your community? Watch this fact finder webinar hosted by Census Bureau Experts.

My Congressional District gives users quick and easy access to selected statistics collected by the Census Bureau through the American Community Survey. The American Community Survey provides updated detailed demographic, social and economic statistics every year.

Coming in January 2014 from the Census Bureau:

Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Poverty 2009-2011 — Analytical report on the duration of poverty spells and the frequency of transitions into and out of poverty based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation. It focuses on episodic and chronic poverty, length of poverty, exits from poverty and the characteristics of the affected population. (Scheduled for release Jan. 7.)

Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials — The Census Bureau’s first-ever report on the number and characteristics of adults with educational credentials other than academic degrees, such as a professional certification or license, or educational certificate. The data, based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation, pertain to fall 2012. (Scheduled for release Jan. 16.)

2014 Road Forward

Together We Can Move Mountains!

Together We Can Move Mountains!

The good news for 2013 was that progress on the early learning front was made and important markers were set. Thank you to state child care administrators, parents, advocates, child care providers, child care experts and everyone who works every day to improve the quality of early learning settings.

We’re on the road, we need to continue building on the successes we’ve had.  Together, we can make a difference to ensure that all children have access to safe, quality, affordable child care and early learning settings.

Child Care Bill Passes Committee!

On September 18, 2013, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved legislation (S. 1086) to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which allocates funds to states for child care – to help families afford the cost of child care and assist states in improving the quality of child care.

CCDBG Markup

CCDBG Markup

While Congress is supposed to review laws periodically to adjust them for new research, best practices, and to address any shortcomings not foreseen when bills are drafted (a process referred to as reauthorization,  which generally occurs every 5 years on average), it has been 17 years since CCDBG was last reauthorized in 1996. Much has been learned during the intervening years from the science of brain development to the child care policies within states.  For example, national studies have shown that most state child care policies are weak and the oversight of those policies is even weaker.  The Senate HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families held 3 hearings prior to approving the legislation today:

Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 Highlights

In Brief:  The CCDBG reauthorization bill improves the quality of child care by requiring basic health and safety protections for children whose care is paid for by taxpayer dollars.  The funds set-aside for state activities to improve the quality of care are tightened up for more accountability for the use of those dollars.  In addition, more emphasis would be placed on strengthening the child care workforce, the cornerstone of quality child care.

Child Safety:

  • The measure requires comprehensive background checks for child care providers who are receiving federal subsidies to care for low income children. A comprehensive background check includes a fingerprint check against state and federal records, a check of the state child abuse registry and a check of the sex offender registry.
  • If a state uses federal funds to support unlicensed child care with taxpayer dollars, states would be required to explain how such care will not endanger the health, safety, or development of children.
  • To protect the health and safety of children in child care, states would be required to ensure that child care providers have training in the following topics:  prevention of shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma, the prevention and control of infectious diseases, handwashing and universal health precautions, the administration of medication (consistent with standards for parental consent), the prevention of and response to emergencies due to food and other allergic reactions, the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and use of safe sleep practices, building and physical premises safety, emergency preparedness and response planning, the handling and storage of hazardous materials, the identification of and protection from hazards that can cause bodily injury such as electrical hazards, bodies of water, and vehicular traffic, transportation precautions (if applicable), first aid and CPR, minimum health and safety training to be completed prior to caring for children or during an orientation period.

Accountability for Child Care Programs:

  • The measure requires an inspection before a provider is licensed to care for children (or receives a subsidy in the case of an unlicensed child care setting) and requires at least one annual unannounced inspection.  Inspection results are required to be posted on the internet so that parents can make informed decisions when selecting child care.

Parent Resources:

  • The measure requires that states disseminate information in a manner so that parents can better understand the quality of care when they look at potential child care options. States would be required to pass along information about child care licensing, background checks, inspections, programs participating in state quality rating systems and their level of quality.
  • Parents would also receive information about other federal and state programs for which they might quality, demystifying some of the programs that once navigated could really make a difference to a family with young children, including information about developmental screenings so that children with a disability or developmental delay can be identified earlier to receive services.
  • States may use funds to establish or support a system of local or regional child care resource and referral organizations to provide parents with consumer information concerning child care options, particularly to assist parents in enrolling children in high quality care.

Child Care Quality:

  • The current 4 percent quality set-aside would be increased to 10 percent over 5 years with an additional 3 percent for quality activities related to infant and toddler care.
  • States would be required to provide a set of workforce and competency standards for child care providers that incorporate knowledge and application of the state’s early learning guidelines and the state’s child development and health standards.  In developing these policies, states would be required to develop a statewide progression of professional development designed to strengthen the child care workforce.
  • The measure requires states to conduct a market rate survey of child care prices every two years, requires that the survey be statistically valid and reliable and reflect variations in the cost of child care by geographic area, type of provider, and age of the child.  States would be required to use the survey in setting child care subsidy rates, taking into consideration the cost of providing higher quality care and to the extent practicable, increase rates without reducing the number of families served. States would be required to have policies that pay providers in a timely manner.
  • From the quality set-aside, states would be required to engage in at least two of the following activities:
    • Supporting the training, professional development, and professional advancement of the child care workforce;
    • Supporting the use of the early learning and developmental guidelines by developing and implementing ELGs and by providing technical assistance to promote language and literacy skills, foster school readiness, and support later school success;
    • Developing and implementing a tiered quality rating and improvement system;
    • Improving the supply and quality of child care programs and services for infants and toddlers;
    • Promoting broad child care provider participation in QRIS programs;
    • Establishing or expanding a statewide system of child care resource & referral services;
    • Facilitating compliance with state requirements for inspection, monitoring, training and health and safety with state licensing;
    • Evaluating and assessing the quality and effectiveness of child care programs, including how services may improve a child’s school readiness;
    • Supporting child care providers in obtaining accreditation;
    • Supporting state or local efforts to develop or adopt high quality program standards; and
    • Carrying out other activities that a state determines improves the quality of care for which measurement of outcomes related to improve provider preparedness, child safety, child well-being or school readiness is possible.

Protections for Working Parents:

  • The measure requires a 12 month eligibility period for child care assistance before eligibility is re-determined. (Continuity of care is very important to children and with modest fluctuations in income in low wage jobs, care should be taken to promote continuity for children despite modest family income fluctuations- as long as family income does not exceed 85 of state median income).
  • Payment practices for children receiving a subsidy would be required to reflect generally accepted payment practices of child care providers in the community.

Upon consideration of the bill today, Senator Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee said, “child care is a critical support for virtually every working parent.”  He gave credit to Committee members Senator Mikulski  (D-MD), the former Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families and current Appropriations Committee Chair,  and Senator Burr (R-NC), a longstanding member of the Senate HELP Committee as well as Children and Families Subcommittee.

Senator Mikulski said, “It’s a really good day today. This is the way that the Senate should work. The bill is a result of a significant bipartisan effort…. Finding pragmatic solutions, focused on the needs of the child….”.  Senator Burr added, “we took time to listen to views across the country.  CCDBG has not been reauthorized in 17 years. Parents need information about who is providing good care and who is not. This bill will lead to safer child care so that federal tax dollars are not used in settings that would compromise the safety of children.”  Senator Alexander (R-TN), the ranking member of the HELP Committee explained that “child care can be the most difficult obstacle for working mothers.”

The next step is for the full Senate to consider the bill. It’s not clear at this time when that will happen, but what is clear is that few bills in Congress today have such broad bipartisan support.  It is long past the time when CCDBG should be reauthorized.  Today’s action is good news.  Contact your Senator today and ask for his or her support for the legislation. The message is easy:  Children should be safe in child care. Please support the Senate HELP Committee bill and pass it this fall.

Accountability for Funds Used for Child Care

On July 11, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, issued an early alert memorandum identifying gaps in state health and safety policies for children in unlicensed settings whose care is paid for through federal funding.

The Office of Inspector General is conducting an evaluation entitled, “Child Care and Development Fund: Monitoring of Licensed Child Care Providers” (OEI-07-10-00230), which is expected to be released this fall.  Under the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG statute), states are required to have health and safety standards in place for all providers (including unlicensed providers) receiving CCDBG funds.  The three requirements by statute are: prevention and control of infectious disease; building and physical premises safety; and health and safety training.

In the course of investigations pertaining to the report, the IG’s office found that:

  • Nearly 300,000 children whose care is paid for through CCDBG are in unlicensed care.
  • 30 states allow license-exempt center-based providers to care for children receiving CCDBG subsidies.
  • 33 states allow license-exempt family child care home providers to care for children receiving CCDBG subsidies.
  • Despite CCDBG statutory requirements, some states, such as Mississippi, reported that they did not have any requirements for unlicensed centers or unlicensed family child care homes.
  • Of the states that reported health and safety requirements in the three areas required by law, 9 states allowed center-based providers to “self-report” compliance with the requirements and 23 states allowed family child care home providers to self-report compliance.
  • In most states, license-exempt providers are not subject to routine monitoring visits.

In May, HHS proposed new rules to strengthen the safety and quality of child care for children whose care is paid for through CCDBG.  When the new rules go into effect, all providers (licensed or unlicensed – except relatives) will have to meet basic health and safety requirements. In addition, HHS will no longer allow states to accept self-certifications (unless such certifications document each of the requirements met by the provider).  But, self-certification, alone, will no longer be allowed.

How many children in your state receive a subsidy? Click here. How many children receiving a subsidy in your state are in unlicensed care? Click here The comment period on the proposed HHS regulation runs through August 5, 2013.  If you agree that there should be accountability for the expenditure of federal funds, money used to help low-income families afford the cost of child care, comment today.