In Focus: Head Start/Early Head Start

Oct 11, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

A Broad Base is Speaking Up for Child Care

By Christine Johnson-Staub

As a testament to the critical role that child care plays in supporting today’s working families, a diverse array of voices is undertaking an important national conversation on the affordability and accessibility of quality child care. Parents, child care providers, labor union representatives, economic justice advocates, community organizers, early childhood advocates, and other allies are prioritizing the need for high-quality, affordable child care for families, and the importance of quality jobs for caregivers. Conversations over just the past month across the country have offered the opportunity for individuals to share their experiences and perspectives, and for stakeholders to come together to share strategies and identify common priorities.  

  • In Lansing at a recent convening organized by Michigan United – with national partners Caring Across Generations, CLASP, Demos, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), National Women’s Law Center, and People’s Action – parents from across Michigan talked about the importance of state investment in child care and early education and of making changes to simplify and reform state policies. They cited the complexity of the application process and rigidity of eligibility rules that—as one parent described—result in a mother being turned down for child care assistance because her modest income was $20 too high.
  • In New York, the same group of national partners, working with Citizen Action of New York and other state leaders, convened a group of diverse stakeholders to talk about strategies for strengthening revenue, funding, access, and support for child care workers under the state’s current budgetary and policy constraints. Allison Julien, a caregiver and NDWA member spoke of the stress child care workers face as they raise their own children and simultaneously work ten to twelve-hour days in stressful jobs caring for others’ children. Melissa Reed, a family child care provider, shared that the hardest part of her job is paperwork, and the second hardest part is the paycheck saying, “If you want quality, pay us quality wages.”
  • And in Washington, D.C., CLASP was pleased to participate in the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) National Assembly, where a group of parents, in-home caregivers, and providers emphasized the importance of compensation and job quality. One provider, who has taken care of children for more than two decades, spoke eloquently about the unique needs of each child and family, and the importance of providing child care choices that respect the differences in culture and life experiences.

The challenges voiced in these conversations are shared by individuals across the country, and are exacerbated by additional barriers faced by an increasingly diverse population of children and caregivers. Latino families, in particular, access child care assistance at much lower rates than other families, likely a result of state policies that create hurdles disproportionally impacting particular communities.

It is critical that child care policies and services reflect the nation’s changing demographics and the evolving needs of parents, which include care during non-traditional hours and culturally and linguistically diverse caregivers.  CLASP and its national partners are privileged to be part of the conversation. We are committed to working with state and federal leaders to improve policies, increase investments, and strengthen child care to work for families in poverty. Doing so requires prioritizing the needs of underserved families, including those in racial and ethnic minority communities and immigrant communities. The diversity of voices speaking up for child care brings new momentum to the issue at a time of great urgency.  Child care helps parents work and children learn and grow. Yet, despite child care’s centrality in so many families’ lives and to our country’s prosperity, public investments are limited, forcing low-income families to shoulder enormous cost burdens. A renewed focus—and continued conversation—on child care among an expanding group of allies is needed in this country to put child care front and center as a priority for investment. 

Sep 23, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Final Rule Implementing CCDBG Act of 2014 Includes Important Provisions to Support Low-Income Families

Today, the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released final regulations implementing the 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). This an important step forward in implementation of the new CCDBG law.

CLASP is thrilled to see provisions included in the rule that will support low-income families in accessing more stable child care assistance to help them go to work or school and to provide important continuity for children. The final rule includes important subsidy provisions that:

  • Codify the law’s 12-month eligibility provisions so that children who receive CCDBG-funded child care will be eligible for a minimum of 12 months of assistance, regardless of temporary changes in parents’ employment or participation in education or training, as long as family income does not exceed the maximum federal eligibility level;
  • Significantly decrease the reporting requirements for families during their eligibility period so that small changes in family circumstances no longer result in abrupt disruptions to assistance; and
  • Establish a graduated phase-out of subsidies that will ensure families keep assistance as their earnings increase above the initial qualifying eligibility levels. .

Additionally, the final rule clarifies for states important health, safety, and quality provisions.

CLASP is gratified that the new regulations reflect many recommendations made by the advocacy community, and we look forward to continue working with state policymakers and advocates as they balance how to realize the important opportunities in the law for low income children and parents with the real cost burden on states given the lack of sufficient federal and state investments to date in child care.  CLASP will provide more analysis on the rule and implementation opportunities in the coming weeks. 

Aug 30, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Declining TANF Child Care Spending Underscores Need for Major Child Care Investment

By Christina Walker and Hannah Matthews

This month, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released expenditure data from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which allows states to use their block grants for child care assistance. TANF spending on child care decreased by $45 million in 2015. Nationally, about $2.6 billion of TANF funds were used for child care through direct spending on child care and transfers to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).

August marks the 20th anniversary of welfare reform, which created TANF.  As part of welfare reform, Congress made new investments in CCDBG recognizing that low-income mothers need help paying for child care so they can go to work or job training. Since TANF’s creation, states have been permitted to spend TANF directly on child care assistance or transfer up to 30 percent of block grant funds to CCDBG. After cash assistance, child care has consistently been the second largest use of TANF funds.

In the early years of welfare reform, combined TANF transfers and direct TANF spending on child care reached $4 billion. However, as the block grant has declined in value, the amount spent on child care has fallen by 35 percent and has remained near $2.6 billion or below for the past four years. In 2015, states transferred $1.3 billion from TANF to CCDBG, a decrease of $65 million from the previous year, and spent $1.2 billion in TANF funds for direct child care assistance, an increase of $17 million from the previous year.

Use of TANF funds varies greatly by state.  Twelve states transferred 30 percent of their block grant to CCDBG or a combination of CCDBG and the Social Services Block Grant: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington. Six states transferred 25-29 percent of funds – Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, North Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The largest declines in combined TANF funds used for child care in 2015 (including transfers and direct spending) were in: Ohio (-$49 million), Wisconsin (-$46 million), Pennsylvania (-$37 million), and New York (-$24 million). The biggest increases were in: Washington, ($34 million), Colorado ($27 million), Indiana ($23 million), and North Carolina ($17 million).  

TANF requires states to contribute maintenance-of-effort (MOE) funds, $2.7 billion of which they spent on child care.  Because a portion of TANF MOE funds spent on child care may also be counted toward states' CCDBG MOE requirement, total child care spending (CCDBG and TANF combined) for 2015 cannot be determined until 2015 CCDBG expenditure data are available.

While the net expenditure change from 2014 to 2015 is not dramatic, the overall trend is reason for distress. Prior to this latest release of administrative data, CLASP’s analysis of 2014 CCDBG and TANF data showed combined child care assistance spending at a 12-year low and the number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care assistance at a 16-year low, with only 1.4 million children receiving any help. Not since 1998 have so few children been served.

TANF has failed poor children and their families in providing a safety net and buffering them from the harm caused by poverty. TANF is also not a reliable or sufficient source of funding for child care assistance. As states implement the 2014 bipartisan reauthorization of CCDBG, they are facing increased pressure for resources; implementing important health and safety and continuity provisions of the law could come at the cost of serving even fewer children as Congress has not allocated significant new resources. To implement the important new changes in the law without further decreasing the number of children served, CCDBG needs an immediate $1.2 billion increase in the federal 2017 fiscal year. In future years, far greater investments will be needed to ensure that more low-income families have access to affordable, high-quality child care that can support family economic stability and children’s success.

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