Today, the National Women’s Law Center and CLASP are releasing Implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization: A Guide for States.
Last November, Congress reauthorized CCDBG, our major federal child care program, for the first time since 1996. Key provisions in the new law support the following objectives:
- Protecting the health and safety of children in care through more consistent standards and monitoring of standards.
- Improving the quality of care, including through increased supports for child care providers.
- Enabling families to more easily access child care assistance that supports stable and continuous care and that can be coordinated with other programs.
The new child care law is important as it recognizes that child care is a two-generation support and is structured to achieve the two important goals of child care assistance and child care itself: supporting parents’ work and promoting children’s healthy development. Child care assistance helps parents afford reliable child care, which can help them gain and maintain the stable employment they need to support their families. Research also demonstrates that high-quality child care fosters children’s growth and learning, which can increase their odds for future success as students and in life.
These two goals—helping parents work and promoting children’s well-being—are interrelated. When parents are able to work and earn a steady income, they can offer their children more stability, opportunities, and resources. And when parents have peace of mind that their children are in child care that offers them a safe and nurturing environment, they are more likely to be productive at work.
To take advantage of the opportunity offered by the reauthorization, and fulfill the goals of the legislation, states will need to be strategic and thoughtful about implementation. States will need to consider their broader goals in implementing the new law; identify the full set of changes they need to make to their current policies to meet those goals; and assess the financial and other resources necessary to overcome the gap between their current policies and their goals for the implementation. States should not only examine the policy changes that are necessary, but also the changes they need to make to administrative rules and procedures to ensure they effectively serve children and families.
While the reauthorization presents opportunities for states to strengthen their child care assistance programs, it also presents challenges for states. It is the first CCDBG reauthorization that is not accompanied by significant new funding. Yet meeting the requirements of the new law will entail additional costs for states, which could force them to divert resources from other important areas such as maintaining families’ access to assistance and setting adequate payment rates for providers serving families receiving child care assistance. Already, 315,000 children have lost child care assistance since 2006 and provider payment rates in most states are far too low to support high-quality care.
The Guide offers strategies to state administrators and advocates for implementing the various provisions of the law—provisions that address areas ranging from background check requirements to professional development systems to eligibility determination and redetermination. The Guide illustrates the promise the law holds for helping increase low-income families’ access to affordable, high-quality care—yet demonstrates that this promise will only be truly fulfilled with increased investments in child care both at the federal and the state level.
NWLC and CLASP welcome the opportunity to work with our partners around the country to ensure that the goals of the new law are realized for children, their parents, and the providers who work with them every day.