Somewhat quietly this week, the Senate passed and President Obama signed into law S. 1086, reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant of 1990. The passage of this bill is a huge win for families, children and child care advocates. It ensures that low-income families that meet state eligibility requirements and receive Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) subsidies will have access to higher quality, more transparent child care programs.
CCDF is the largest federal funder of afterschool and child care programs for children from infancy to age 13. The reauthorization took positive steps to ensure access to safe, high-quality programs for all families that need them.
What does reauthorization mean for programs, providers, families and children?
- Programs will be safer. Now all child care staff members, whether they work directly with children or not, will be required to have criminal background checks. The reauthorization also beefed up pre-service and continuing education requirements for providers.
- Families will be able to more easily access information about programs. The legislation funds the development of a national provider website searchable by zip code, and calls on states to make program monitoring and inspection reports available online.
- Families will have consistent access to care. 1086 established a 12-month re-eligibility determination period. Once families become eligible to receive child care subsidies, they will continue (except in limited cases) to receive the benefits for a full year before they need to reapply. Additionally, parents who lose their job during the eligibility period do not have the additional stress of losing child care. This new policy is family-friendly and child development-friendly; research clearly shows the benefits of attending a high-quality child care program multiply the longer a child participates.
- Program providers will be more skilled and knowledgeable about how to best support child development. States must now meet minimum requirements for professional development and continuing education to improve the knowledge and skills of program providers.
- Programs will be of higher quality. The state quality set-aside, federal dollars that fund professional development and implementation of quality improvement systems, will increase from 4% to 9% over a five-year period.
This is a significant policy opportunity for our clients and partners in the afterschool and expanded learning space. Collaborative urges programs, providers and state and local intermediaries to engage in conversations with their state CCDF administrative agencies now, as these agencies plan to implement the provisions of S. 1086. Share your wish list for improving quality, and make sure your voice is represented as state agencies develop enhanced professional development systems and improve access to high-quality child care programs.
The federal Office of Child Care in the Administration for Children and Families has created an information portal for providers, parents and advocates. Visit the website to read a summary of changes, view the full, marked-up bill text or ask a question about statutory changes.