Better for Babies: Helping Low-Income Families Access Quality Child Care Options

Sep 24, 2013

This post is the fourth installment in a series highlighting the findings from CLASP's recent study and subsequent publication, "Better For Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies." Read the earlier posts here>>

By Stephanie Schmit and Hannah Matthews

Recently, CLASP released a report, Better for Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies, that presents data from a recent state survey of child care subsidy, licensing, and quality enhancement policies.  It provides a national picture of infant-toddler child care.

The new report is part of CLASP's Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care Project. The foundation of Charting Progress is a Policy Framework comprised of four key principles describing what babies and toddlers in child care need. One of the key principles is that families need access to quality child care options. For low-income families, child care assistance is essential to affording the high costs of infant and toddler care. State child care subsidy policies can determine whether and how parents with very young children can get and retain assistance for and access to quality care.

Findings from the Better for Babies Survey related to access to quality options for infant and toddler care:

  • Twenty-five states set their maximum subsidy eligibility determination period at 12 months for most families. The remaining states extend shorter authorization periods to families before requiring redetermination of eligibility. Four states (Illinois, Nevada, New York, and South Dakota) allow longer eligibility periods for children receiving subsidies who also attend Early Head Start, which is allowable under CCDBG regulations. In practice, all families may not be authorized for the maximum eligibility period. All states require families to report changes, such as those in employment or income, which would impact their eligibility status between periods of redetermination; however, some states have taken steps in recent years to limit what families are required to report and how often. Longer eligibility periods for subsidies may support continuity of care for infants and toddlers.
  • According to what states reported in this survey and a 2012 analysis by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), only three states (Arkansas, Hawaii, and New York) set their standard reimbursement rate for a one-year-old in center-based care at the recommended 75th percentile of a current market rate survey. Only New York set its rates for both one-year-olds and four-year-olds at the recommended 75th percentile. Higher reimbursement rates allow providers to better meet the high costs of infant care and allows families access to more child care options
  • Thirty-two states have tiered reimbursement rates. Of those, approximately 80 percent still have a reimbursement rate for center-based care that is below the 75th percentile of current market rates.
  • Twenty-two states reported offering differential rates for infant-toddler care. What this means varies by state. For example, in California, according to the 2012-2013 state plan, contracted child care centers caring for infants receive a 70 percent higher rate above the standard reimbursement rate and those caring for toddlers receive a rate 40 percent higher. For infant and toddler caregivers in family child care homes, the adjustment factor is 20 percent.
  • Fourteen states reported using contracts to increase the supply or improve the quality of infant-toddler care. States utilize different strategies when creating contracts. Some states contract directly with the child care providers, while others offer sub-grants to communities or other entities.
  • Forty-one states reported that they pay child care providers for days when a child is absent from care. These policies widely vary, with the number of allowable absent days deviating up to 10 days per month. One exception is Idaho, which does not limit the number of allowable absent days. According to a recent NWLC fact sheet, many states are beginning to put stricter guidelines on their absent day policies by reducing the number of hours or days that are reimbursed.
  • Of the 37 states that currently have Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), 35 states reported that they include quality standards specific to infant-toddler care, with guidelines specific to infants and toddlers across the social, emotional, physical and cognitive domains.
  • Twenty-one states reported that they provide varying monetary or non-monetary support for family child care networks.
  • Thirty-three states reported that they support (through play-and-learn groups, supports to help providers become licensed, health and safety trainings, etc.) the license-exempt FFN providers caring for infants and toddlers.

Read the full report here>>

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