In Focus: Infants and Toddlers

Dec 22, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

By Hannah Matthews

There’s no question that 2014 was a monumental year for early childhood policy.  After a tumultuous end of 2013 brought about in part by a partial federal government shutdown, 2014 began with Congress approving a more than $1 billion increase in federal investments in child care and early education, including $500 million to support Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) partnerships to increase the supply of high-quality infant-toddler care and $250 million for Preschool Development Grants to advance high-quality state pre-kindergarten programs. While applicants prepared submissions during the year, CLASP worked with states in particular to understand the importance of better state subsidy policies to support successful partnerships.

Following the significant budgetary win, the even-more momentous CCDBG reauthorization began with passage in the Senate in March and concluded with the President’s signature in November. After 18 years, significant changes were made to the child care subsidy program to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care and make the subsidy system work better for low-income children and families. The bipartisan reauthorization had strong support in the House and Senate. We are gratified that CLASP’s voice has been important to the conversation, with many ideas that we promoted about continuity of child care assistance included in the final law, and our Executive Director having testified at a House hearing on the reauthorization. The final FY 2015 spending bill agreed to earlier this month increased CCDBG funding by $75 million. While this was an important message of support for the Congressional reauthorization, it still leaves states with large budget gaps in order to implement provisions of the new law.

And finally, on the heels of a new law and new early childhood investments, CLASP was excited to be a part of the White House’s Early Education Summit to bring much-needed attention to the importance of investment in child care and early education. At the Summit, recipients of the Preschool Development Grants and EHS-CC partnership grant competitions were announced, sending the resources committed last January to states and local communities. 

With these tremendous accomplishments, this year brought sobering moments as well. In February, CLASP first reported the slow decline in the number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care, and in October we reported, based on FY 2013 data, the number had reached a 15-year low. The program has not served so few children since 1997. Federal and state spending on child care assistance fell to a 10-year low. In September, the US Census Bureau released annual poverty data showing that while overall child poverty fell, an unacceptably high number of children, in particular young children and Black and Hispanic children, continue to experience the profound impacts of being consigned to a childhood in poverty.

Taken together, it’s clear that 2015 will be a year with challenges ahead, but great opportunity and potential as well. The work yet undone motivates us to do more in the coming year. Look for more resources from CLASP as we turn our attention to CCDBG implementation, including the need for significant new resources to cover implementation costs and to stem the tide on the decline of children getting help. Also in 2014, we’ve made efforts to seize opportunities with the greatest potential to improve the lives of poor children and families. In doing so, we brought attention –and worked towards solutions – on several important issues including maternal depression and job schedule challenges. We will continue to find the opportunities ripe for positive change in 2015. CLASP wishes you the best for a happy holiday season and the promise of good things to come for young children.

In case you missed them, here are some selected publications from the CLASP Child Care and Early Education team in 2014:

Jul 9, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

A Two-Generation Approach to Policy

By Stephanie Schmit

In a forum earlier today, co-hosted by CLASP and the Foundation for Child Development (FCD), panelists discussed two-generation policy solutions to reduce poverty. Panelists highlighted local innovation, as well as opportunities for large-scale federal and state policy changes to improve educational opportunities from early childhood to community college to workforce development. With diverse perspectives and experiences, the panelists shared a common vision that the circumstances of poor families are too important and too widespread to continue our current public policies without rethinking how to serve families as a whole, rather than adults and children independently. Fortunately, we have many opportunities to take action.

A new CLASP brief examines major federal and state policy areas for large-scale change that better support families as a whole. Two-generation policies reflect strong research findings that the well-being of parents is inextricably linked to children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic well-being. And at the same time, parents’ ability to succeed in school and the workplace is substantially affected by how well their children are doing. Despite growth of local two-generation programs, which combine services for parents and children, little attention has been given to two-generation approaches to large-scale policy change. These opportunities include:

  • Pair education and training pathways with child care and early education. Identifying opportunities for better policy choices that would make it easier to pair education and training pathways with early education would help both parents and children. This would require rethinking program design throughout many policy areas, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), workforce development, higher education, child care, and Head Start.
  • Expand early childhood home visiting programs through state and federal investments, and seize other opportunities to help parents and young children in their very vulnerable early years. Home visiting programs offer a variety of voluntary, family-focused services to expectant parents and families with new babies and young children in the families’ homes. Many home visiting programs have a two-generation approach, focusing on the parenting skills and needs of parents while providing child development activities, although this varies tremendously depending upon the model used.
  • Improve child care policies for both children and parents. Continuity and stability of care can improve children’s early education as well as adults’ work stability.  Removing work schedule verification requirements and allowing for broader authorizations can make child care assistance more usable for parents with work schedule challenges.  Linking child care enrollment policies with those of other public benefits can also reduce the burden on parents to get and keep subsidies.
  • Improve labor policies for low-income workers.  A comprehensive package of improvements in labor policies, including an increase in the minimum wage, advance notice of job schedules, the right to request and receive flexible and predictable job schedules, minimum hours, and paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, would support low-income workers in their role as parents.
  • Expand access to health care and mental health treatment. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers a game-changing opportunity. The ACA tears down major barriers to depression treatment and provides many mothers with health insurance for the first time. The benefit package includes mental health (and substance abuse) treatment, access to primary and preventive care, as well as, prevention screening and quality measures to target depression.

Read the full brief here>>

Watch the webcast here>>

Jun 6, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Expanding High-Quality Child Care for Babies: ACF Releases Funding Opportunity

By Hannah Matthews

Today, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) launched a historic funding opportunity to advance high-quality, comprehensive infant and toddler child care across the country. With $500 million available in Congress' FY 2014 spending bill, Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnership and Early Head Start (EHS) Expansion grants will leverage EHS and child care dollars to expand access to full-day services for poor, young children. Funding will be made available within each state based on the number of young children in poverty. 

Eligible applicants may apply for funding through three opportunities:

  1. EHS-CC Partnerships. New or existing EHS grantees will partner with center-based child care or family child care homes to provide full-day, high-quality infant-toddler care that meets EHS standards.  Applicants proposing EHS-CC partnerships will receive the highest funding priority.
  2. Non-Partnership EHS Expansion. New or existing EHS grantees may expand the number of slots in traditional EHS centers or family child care homes. Funds may not be used to expand the EHS home-based model. Applicants will be expected to propose providing full-day, full-year services for a minimum of 48 weeks. Non-Partnership Expansion applicants must justify why an EHS-CC partnership is not the best approach for their community.
  3. Combination EHS Expansion and Partnerships.  New or existing grantees may expand the number of slots in EHS programs and also partner with center-based or family child care. Applicants proposing a combination of EHS expansion and EHS-CC partnership will receive priority over straight expansion models.

All grant funds, including EHS-CC Partnerships, Non-Partnership EHS Expansion, and Combination EHS Expansion and Partnerships may be used to serve children from birth to 36 months in center-based settings and children from birth to 48 months in family child care settings. All applicants must consider a birth to five continuum of high-quality early care and education in developing their proposals.  

All grantees are required to leverage existing local resources and collaborate with community organizations to provide the full array of comprehensive services to young children. EHS-CC Partnership grantees must ensure that a minimum of 25 percent of slots are filled by children who receive child care subsidies and are also EHS eligible. Applicants who propose filling at least 40 percent of their slots with children receiving subsidies will receive additional points.

Applicants who propose serving children who reside in high-poverty zip codes and federally designated Promise Zones will receive additional points.

CLASP will continue to review the funding opportunity and provide supporting information and resources. Applications for funding are due by August 20. The complete funding opportunity announcement is available here.

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