In Focus: Child Care Subsidies
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 20, 2013 | Permalink »
The Importance of Family Engagement in Infant and Toddler Programs
Family engagement strategies in child care and early education include families as partners and support families in parenting their children to help them reach their full potential. Research shows the value of building strong relationships among the adults in a young child's life and the positive impact those relationships can have on the family as a whole.
Strong family engagement practices are particularly important for families who face multiple challenges, like poverty and language barriers. For example, more than three-quarters of Head Start families receive at least one family engagement service from the program; the most commonly accessed are parenting education (52 percent), health education (48 percent), and emergency or crisis intervention (21 percent). Despite its importance, knowing how to effectively engage parents from a variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds in child care and early education has historically been a challenge for the field. However, effective models like the Strengthening Families and Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement frameworks have offered approaches that can help policy makers and practitioners improve family engagement practices.
To shine light on what research tells us about the importance of family engagement in child care and early education programs serving infants and toddlers, CLASP has released a new resource. Promote Family Engagement is part of CLASP's "Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care" project, an ongoing effort by CLASP to link research to policy ideas to help states make the best decisions for infants and toddlers in child care. This latest resource provides research documenting the importance of strengthening family engagement, policy recommendations states can consider to improve their family engagement strategies for infants and toddlers, and additional online resources.
Using information provided in Promote Family Engagement, States can put policies in place that support and strengthen families with infants and toddlers and increase child care and early education providers' ability to serve those children well. By incorporating expectations around family engagement practices into quality, subsidy and licensing policies, states can build on the success of existing models and practices, creating both the incentive and the supports that programs require to meet the needs of vulnerable families. To find out more about the importance of family engagement in programs serving infants and toddlers, as well as the policy options available to states, visit Promote Family Engagement>>
Nov 14, 2013 | Permalink »
Investing in Young Children: A Fact Sheet on Early Care and Education Participation, Access, and Quality
Today, CLASP, together with the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), released Investing in Young Children: A Fact Sheet on Early Care and Education Participation, Access, and Quality. The joint report reveals that significant underinvestment in early care and education programs at the state and federal levels has left large numbers of children underserved.
High-quality early care and education can play a critical role in promoting young children's early learning and success in life, while also supporting families' economic security. Young children at highest risk of educational failure - those experiencing poverty and related circumstances that may limit early learning experiences - benefit the most from high-quality early care and education programs.
Major findings in the report include:
- Family economic hardship is the predominant risk factor associated with academic failure and poor health. Nationally, 25 percent of children under six live in poverty. Other risk factors include having a teen parent, living in a household without English speakers, and having parents without a high school degree.
- Children are underserved by the three largest federal child care and early education programs: Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and Head Start and Early Head Start. Funding for CCDBG has not kept pace with inflation and growing need. Since 2006, approximately 150,000 children have lost access to child care subsidies and an additional 30,000 will lose subsidies as a result of sequestration.
- Although funding for Head Start has increased by $1.2 billion from 2006 to 2012, demand has exceeded its growth. Only 42 percent of eligible children are served by Head Start preschool and a mere 4 percent of children who are eligible are served by Early Head Start. As a result of sequestration, 57,000 children have lost or will lose access to Head Start services in 2013.
- For child care and early education to be effective, it must be high-quality. However, states are not meeting recommended benchmarks. Currently, only 4 states (CT, ND, OR, VT) meet benchmarks for both class size and adult-child ratios, while 33 states meet neither of these critical benchmarks.
A complex mix of federal and state investments and policies shapes low-income families' access to quality early care and education. Currently, these investments and policies are too weak to benefit large numbers of young children experiencing economic hardship and other circumstances that can pose serious risks to their healthy development and school success. Strong investments in early learning, such as those proposed in the Strong Start for America's Children Act that was introduced yesterday, can help connect vulnerable children and their families with home visiting services, high-quality child care, and preschool -- all of which counter negative risk factors and support healthy child development.