Dec 09, 2013 | Permalink »
Confronting the Child Care Eligibility Maze
By Rhiannon Reeves
A new report from CLASP and the Urban Institute, Confronting the Child Care Eligibility Maze: Simplifying and Aligning with Other Work Supports, aims to address two important challenges faced by low-income families eligible for child care assistance: burdensome administrative processes that make it difficult to get and keep child care benefits, and the cumulative challenges clients face when they try to access other benefits for which they are eligible (i.e. SNAP - formerly known as food stamps -- and Medicaid).
The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), or Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), is intended to help defray the costs of child care for low-income working families with two main program goals: to help parents become or remain employed, and to support the safety and development of their children. These goals can be compromised, however, by burdensome administrative processes that make it challenging for low-income families to get and keep child care and other benefits.
Policymakers and stakeholders are increasingly realizing that these problems undercut the ability of CCDF and other work supports to achieve their goals-both for clients and for program efficiency. As a result, they are seeking a new way of doing business - one which focuses on improving client access and retention of benefits, service delivery, efficiency, and accountability. This approach enables eligible parents applying for child care assistance to give their information one time, be easily connected to not only child care but also the larger package of benefits for which they are eligible, and be able to keep that package of benefits as long as they are eligible with minimal burden to themselves and to the state.
Confronting the Child Care Eligibility Maze is a product of the Work Support Strategies (WSS) Initiative, a multiyear effort that is working with a select group of states to help them design, test, and implement more effective, streamlined, and integrated approaches to delivering key supports for low-income working families. Through concrete policy ideas and examples from states across the country, the report offers an in-depth guide to help states not only simplify child care subsidy policies, but also align child care policies with other work supports. With this information, states can identify strategies to improve access and retention of benefits, while improving service delivery and reducing administrative burden.
Child care should not be a maze, and this new resource helps simplify access to the variety of benefits - including child care subsidies - that help support low-income working families in their efforts to gain economic security.
Read the full report here>>
Nov 26, 2013 | Permalink »
Early Education is not One-Size-Fits-All: Addressing the Unique Needs of Dual Language Learners
More than one in four (27 percent) young children under age 6 in the United States have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English, and one in seven (14 percent) has at least one parent who is limited English proficient (LEP). Many of these children and some of their parents will learn English while learning or speaking another language. For early learning programs to fully reach their goals of supporting children's growth, development, and school readiness, they must be intentional about meeting the educational needs of dual language learners (DLLs).
A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute identifies particular features of early learning programs that most effectively support DLLs. The report finds a few key elements that influence the quality of early education programs for DLLs including accessibility and affordability, language of instruction, instructional practices, assessment, teacher and classroom quality, and school-family partnerships. When these program and policy components are designed using the research available that supports the key elements necessary, high-quality programs for DLLs can produce positive outcomes for children. Some of these programs may already exist as evidenced by a recent comprehensive review of research on young Latino and Spanish-speaking children confirming that public programs like Head Start and public pre-k are helping DLLs make important academic gains.
Understanding the key elements that influence the success and development of participants and integrating them into policies and program design will ensure that children are able to grow, develop, and enter school ready to learn. The changing demographics of the young child population should spur new thinking in the design and implementation of early learning programs. We must ensure that DLLs are not just included, but optimally served, in high-quality early learning programs.
Nov 21, 2013 | Permalink »
Child Care Workforce Study Reveals Large, Educated Workforce
In 2012, the early care and education workforce consisted of about one million caregivers in center-based programs, one million paid home-based caregivers and about 2.7 million unpaid home-based caregivers.
The success of children in both center-based and home-based care relies heavily on the interactions with their caregivers. Many young children spend time in a weekly non-parental care arrangement---46 percent of children under age one, 54 percent of children ages 1-2, and 76 percent of children ages 3-5. Additionally, many of these children spend a substantial number of hours in their weekly arrangement thus making the role of the caregiver all the more important to ensuring that children are in safe, high-quality environments where they can grow and thrive.
Until now, a lack of nationally representative information on the child care workforce has left many to speculate about the educational attainment and other characteristics of those who are caring for our country's youngest children. The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the US Department of Health and Human Services recently released the first in a series of briefs as part of the National Survey of Early Care and Education project that sheds some light on the characteristics of the early care and education workforce across the country.
Some findings in the brief come as a welcome surprise. The survey found more than half (53 percent) of center-based caregivers have an associate's or bachelor's degree--nearly a third reported a BA or graduate/professional degrees. For home-based caregivers, about 30 percent reported college degrees. These proportions are higher than some in the field previously suspected. The findings suggest that attention to educational credentials in the early childhood field has gotten traction and raised the credentials of the workforce.
Low wages for early care and education teachers and caregivers have been a persistent problem, and this report underscores that. The median hourly wage for all center-based caregivers directly responsible for children from birth through five years was $10.60 in 2012 or roughly $22,000 a year (if employed full-time), which is just shy of the federal poverty level for a family of four in 2012 ($23,050). Of course, this varies tremendously based on educational attainment and funding source of individual centers. In order to ensure that a qualified, educated workforce can be retained to maintain quality and continuity of care and to ensure that caregivers are able to support themselves and their own families, increased compensation is paramount. Approximately 75 percent of caregivers in all settings evaluated in the study reported having some form of health insurance, although not necessarily through their employer. Given the low wages of the workforce, the Affordable Care Act provides new opportunities for those uninsured to access affordable health care coverage.
The more information that is available, the more informed policy decisions can be. This nationally representative sample provides a clear picture of the current workforce and allows for more effective strategizing about the needs of the workforce and the children they serve. Utilizing this information to ensure the child care workforce is on a positive trajectory is crucial to the success of the field, of children, and their families.