Putting Child Care at the Top of the Agenda

A new era for child care subsidy policy is before us. The 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) now explicitly states that child development is one of the purposes of the funding. 

It paves the way for states to take stock of their overall child care policies and reimagine child care subsidy.  As state budgets recover from the Great Recession, state policymakers have an opportunity to think big about the role of child care in putting vulnerable young children on a path to success.

State child care subsidy systems have not kept up with the new knowledge about child development, mostly maintaining their outdated welfare reform approach to minimum quality and restrictive rules that limit access.  The new CCDBG requirements provide a window of opportunity for larger conversations about how to improve access for families and how to accelerate the move toward higher quality. Rather than tinkering around the edges, states can tackle the thornier issues of child care, such as how to:

  • Improve the skills of the workforce
  • Reduce barriers for families
  • Increase continuity for young children
  • Reduce the regulatory burden on providers
  • Coordinate child care with other funding streams
  • Improve financing to cover the cost of quality care
  • Improve accountability for delivering high quality care

As we observe the work of our partners here at the Alliance for Early Success, we are seeing some inklings of where states want to go:

  • In Washington state, the Early Start Act (HB 1491 and SB 5452) takes the stand that public funding should no longer support low quality care and would accelerate expectations for child care and pre-k providers to reach quality standards.  (For more information contact the Children’s Alliance)
  • New Mexico’s Child Care Accountability bill (SB 379 ) is drawn from recommendations made by the Child Care Task Force and is designed to promote child well-being, increase school readiness and support families who are working and going to school. The bill calls for a comprehensive approach to quality with annual outcomes reporting of what was achieved.  (For more information contact NM Early Childhood Development Partnership)

While much needs to be clarified about the federal law, we see these next 18 months as critical for child care policy, where states can go beyond “What do we need to do to comply with federal law?” to thinking about “What could we be doing better for young children and their families?”

The Alliance for Early Success is committed to fostering this conversation about improving state child care policies. Several organizations in the Alliance National TA Network are actively engaged in CCDBG implementation with funding from this year’s grant cycle.  In addition, the Alliance is supporting or conducting the following activities:

  • The Alliance funded the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Center on Law and Social Policy (CLASP) to develop a guide to the new law, to provide direct technical assistance to states, host learning communities with state leaders and advocates and gather promising policy strategies. 
  • Funding was awarded to the Frameworks Institute to develop messaging and communications materials and to provide training with early childhood and poverty advocates in two states as part of process to identify opportunities for a common agenda.
  • The Alliance will continue to convene state and national leaders as needed to share ideas and challenges associated with CCDBG implementation.

Steffanie Clothier
Senior Policy Director, Alliance for Early Success
(March 11, 2015)