In Focus: Cultural Competency

Jun 15, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Updated Guide for States Offers Strategies for CCDBG Implementation

Today, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Women’s Law Center released an updated version of Implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization: A Guide for States published originally in April 2015, following the 2014 bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The updated guide includes an outline and discussion of provisions in the final rule implementing CCDBG issued in September 2016 by the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This guidebook summarizes and analyzes key sections of the law and offers recommendations—and cautions—for policymakers and advocates as they consider how to implement those sections.

The updated guide provides greater understanding of the law and regulations and makes the case for necessary legislative and administrative policy changes at the state level and necessary funding increases at the federal and state level.

Because of the complexity of the reauthorization, states expressed a  need for significant new investments to seize the opportunities offered by the law to improve child care to benefit children, parents, and providers. In the years following the reauthorization, Congress appropriated minimal CCDBG funding increases that were  far less than needed to support implementation.

The CCDBG reauthorization stands at a critical juncture. Without new resources to implement the law, states face the possibility of being forced to make tradeoffs that will undermine the very goals of the reauthorization. Moving a reform forward without adequate funding leaves states with no choice but to trade off among essential priorities: basic health and safety assurances; quality improvements; economic stability for families; and resources for providers.

Despite widespread agreement on the worthy goals of the CCDBG reauthorization, its ultimate success will depend on federal and state lawmakers’ commitment to investing in this vital work support and child care program.

Read Implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization: A Guide for States >>

Jun 9, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Trump’s Budget Would Undermine Children, Weaken Head Start

By Ruth Cosse and Hannah Matthews

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget claims to demonstrate “commitment to early childhood outcomes by continuing to fund Head Start and Child Care at historically high levels.” In reality, it would cut funding for Head Start, child care assistance, and after-school child care. Furthermore, the budget would slash health care, nutrition assistance, and other supports that promote health, wellbeing, and economic security for poor children and families, including those enrolled in Head Start.

The president’s proposed cuts would undermine Head Start’s ability to deliver on quality standards, including robust comprehensive services like preventive health services, developmental screenings, and family support. Decades of research on effective early education programs demonstrate the central role of comprehensive services in advancing poor children’s wellbeing as well as their success in adulthood. Head Start, in particular, is proven to improve early childhood and young adult outcomes.

Budget Cuts Would Rip Key Supports from Head Start Families

CLASP’s analysis of administrative data finds that Head Start families rely on the following programs:
  • Most (87 percent) Head Start children receive health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and/or Medicaid.  The president’s budget would dramatically cut and restructure both CHIP and Medicaid allowing states to cut benefits, cap coverage, or create waiting lists. It would also remove guarantees for developmental screening and other services. Health coverage is crucial to ensure that Head Start children can access a medical home for ongoing care and are up to date on immunizations, as required by the program. Access to CHIP and/or Medicaid early in life improves children’s long-term health and helps them succeed in school and into adulthood. 
  • More than half (56 percent) of Head Start families receive nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides nutritious food to low-income children and parents. The Trump budget would slash funding by $193 billion over 10 years and radically change SNAP’s structure. This would significantly increase food insecurity, which undermines children’s healthy development and school readiness. Significantly, children who are food insecure during their first years can experience lifelong consequences.  They often have fewer opportunities than their peers for academic success and experience worse health and educational outcomes.
  • Thirteen percent of Head Start families received cash benefits or other services under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF funds provide cash assistance and a range of other benefits to low-income families.  Additionally, in 2015, states used 6 percent of TANF funds to support Head Start or pre-kindergarten services.  The president’s budget would cut TANF by at least 10 percent in every state. This would severely reduce the amount of funding available to provide income and supports to Head Start families, as well as funding for Head Start services. 
  • Seven percent of Head Start families receive Supplemental Security income (SSI). SSI provides cash assistance to individuals who are disabled or elderly and have little or no income. The president’s budget would cut SSI by reducing benefits for households with more than one SSI recipient. Those cuts, coupled with plans to slash Medicaid, would significantly undermine children with disabilities. Head Start requires that at least 10 percent of enrollees are children with disabilities. For these Head Start children, cutting SSI would drive them deeper into poverty and further threaten their healthy development.
 
Budget Cuts Would Reduce Quality, Capacity of Head Start 

All Head Start programs must adhere to Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), which outline the services they are required to provide. Required services include health and developmental screenings; health care referrals and follow up; special services for children with disabilities; nutritious meals; vision and hearing screenings; immunizations; onsite family caseworkers; and home visits. Head Start also connects families with parenting education; adult education; and other social and educational services. Trump’s budget would cut or eliminate funding for nearly all of these services, undermining the capacity of Head Start programs to meet standards.
Comprehensive services are a key reason why Head Start children experience better health outcomes—such as lower BMI scores, healthy eating patterns, and increased likelihood of dental checkups—than their peers who aren’t enrolled. Services are provided directly through Head Start programs or through linkages and referrals with community organizations. Head Start programs are required to help children and families access existing services in the community. If services can’t be found elsewhere, the program must provide them.  This results in fewer dollars for other program services.
Finally, the Community Services Block Grant—proposed for elimination—provides flexible funding for a range of anti-poverty services and funds many agencies that deliver Head Start programs. Without all of these federal supports, most Head Start programs would be unable to meet performance standards, greatly diminishing the quality of services. 
 
Conclusion

For the Administration to deliver on its “commitment to early childhood outcomes,” it would need to increase funding for Head Start and child care and strengthen the vital programs on which Head Start’s efficacy depends.  Trump’s budget would do the opposite, jeopardizing the health, school readiness, and future success of Head Start children and families. Moreover, failing to adequately fund Head Start would undermine the program’s long-term benefits.
As Congress makes spending decisions for 2018 and the long term, it’s essential that lawmakers maintain the core structure of highly effective federal programs like Medicaid and SNAP. They should also consider new investments in Head Start and other federal programs that improve poor children’s wellbeing and future outcomes.
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May 31, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

New York Cuts Child Care Spending Amid High Need, Increased Costs

By Christine Johnson-Staub

The 2014 bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization took important steps to improve access to quality child care, continuity of care, health and safety for children, and economic stability for families. However, near-stagnant federal funding levels have made it challenging for states to meet new requirements.

A small number of states are increasing their investments in child care access, reasonable payment rates for providers, and meeting new federal health and safety requirements. Other states are balancing the ledger by limiting demand - restricting access and eligibility to child care assistance.

The New York State legislature has gone even further, slashing child care spending despite enormous unmet need and impending CCDBG costs. The state budget, passed in April, cut $7 million from child care subsidies for working parents who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This could result in hundreds of children losing care.

Already, New York serves just 17 percent of children eligible for assistance. From 2006 to 2015, New York’s average  monthly number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care fell by nearly 15,000 children—a 12 percent decline. However, hundreds of the most vulnerable younger children will struggle to access high-quality care while their parents work.

Helping families pay for child care is critical to provide economic stability and ensure high-quality care that promotes children’s development. Investing in CCDBG is essential to expand access to assistance and implement the reauthorization reforms outlined above. To date, New York and other states have delayed implementing many provisions through waiver extensions; however, those waivers are time limited, which means increased costs are on the horizon.

While New York legislators cut funding for direct assistance, they expanded a child care tax credit that targets households with incomes between $60,000 and $150,000. Middle-income families also struggle to afford child care, but the tax credit won’t reach low-income families with the highest burden. Additionally, families who pay for child care weekly or monthly won’t benefit from an annual credit. Furthermore, the policy does nothing to improve health, safety, or quality and will not prevent New York’s impending child care crisis.

At the federal level too, predictions about the Trump Administration’s plans to address child care affordability through the tax system are swirling. Congress would be wise to not follow New York’s lead. Improving the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit must be coupled with new investments in direct assistance. Congress should increase CCDBG funding to help low-income families pay for child care as well as support states in complying with the program’s new requirements. For FY 2018, CLASP estimates an additional $1.4 billion is needed to meet reauthorization requirements without cutting assistance for more children. Without that investment, up to 217,000 children are at risk of losing child care assistance nationwide, including 9,419 in New York.

To sufficiently fund CCDBG, Congress needs to provide relief from sequestration, which has constrained non-defense discretionary funding levels. The president’s budget proposal, which marked the beginning of the FY 2018 budget process, would disinvest in key programs and take the country in the opposite direction. It demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of families’ needs.

As Congress begins their work on a federal budget, lawmakers should consider the impact of discretionary spending caps and make an affirmative choice to invest in families’ economic stability and access to quality child care.

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