Too Little Progress On Child Care
Sep 24, 2008
Yesterday the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) released its annual report on state child care subsidy policies, State Child Care Assistance Policies 2008: Too Little Progress for Children and Families. This report compiles essential data on key state child care assistance policies. NWLC finds that some states made progress in the last year, while a few states took steps backwards. In general, however, most states today have policies in place that make fewer families eligible for help paying for child care as compared to 2001. Key findings of the report include:
- Ten states have set provider reimbursement rates at the level recommended in federal guidelines so that a parent can access at least 75 percent of care in their local child care market. This was one more state than in 2007, but far below the 22 states that set reimbursement rates at the 75th percentile in 2001.
- Only 34 states increased their income eligibility limits to keep pace with or surpass the rise in the federal poverty level in the past year. Yet, 33 states still have income eligibility limits set lower as a percentage of poverty than in 2001.
- Seventeen states had waiting lists for child care assistance in 2008--the same number as in 2007-- and compared to 22 states in 2001. Yet, in nine states, the number of children on the waiting lists increased in the last year. Waiting lists are as high as 204,063 children in California and 47,603 children in Florida.
- Parent co-payments for child care, as a percent of family income, were the same or lower in most states than in 2007. In about half of the states, the parent co-payment was higher as a percent of family income than in 2001. Moreover, in some states, a parent receiving child care assistance pays a greater percent of family income than the national average percent spent on child care by all families.
The report demonstrates that since 2001, flat federal funding has moved state child care assistance policies in the wrong direction, with fewer families getting the help they need. At the same time, the cost of child care has increased faster than inflation, putting additional pressure on family budgets. Moreover, budgetary pressures in states could lead to additional cuts in services that families need, while updated poverty figures suggest that more children are living in poverty, and more families will be eligible for help paying for child care.
Families need child care--safe, quality child care that supports the full range of children s and families needs--in order to go to work or look for employment and for their children to thrive. As families weather the economic crisis, states and the federal government should make new investments in child care to help them succeed.