Early Childhood Education Update - October 2010

October 05, 2010 | Child Care & Early Education

In this issue:

CLASP RELEASES ANALYSIS OF CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE IN 2008

CLASP has released a new policy brief, Child Care Assistance in 2008, which analyzes the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program in 2008, the most recent year in which CCDBG data is available. The brief details state child care expenditures from CCDBG and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant program. Overall, total federal spending on child care assistance decreased from $13 billion to $12.6 billion in 2008, due to less spending in CCDBG. As a result, the program served 1.6 million children, the smallest number this decade. State spending patterns show great variation with 30 states increasing overall spending and 21 states making cuts. Child care cuts and unmet need is of particular concern given the recent data released from the U.S. Census, showing dramatically high poverty rates, particularly for children.

Child care spending in the TANF program increased for the second consecutive year. Although states do not report to the federal government on the number of children served in direct TANF-funded child care, HHS estimates that 2.5 million children received child care assistance through all sources, including CCDBG, TANF, and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) in 2008. Yet, only one in six children who is federally-eligible for assistance receives any help. Individual state fact sheets are also available.

FEDERAL AGENCY UPDATES:  OFFICE OF CHILD CARE RELEASES FY 2012-2013 CCDF DRAFT PLAN PREPRINT, HHS ANNOUNCES HEAD START RECOMPETITION RULES, GAO STUDIES IMPROPER CHILD CARE PAYMENTS, AND U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REVIEWS RESEARCH LITERATURE ON EFFECTIVE ECE DEVELOPMENT

In recent weeks, several federal agencies have released information related to child care and early education. These agencies are:

Office of Child Care Releases FY 2012-2013 CCDF Draft Plan Preprint - The Office of Child Care (formerly known as the Child Care Bureau) has released a draft of the FY 2012-2013 Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plan Preprint for States and Territories for public comment. The proposed Preprint has been reorganized for better usability and transparency and includes changes, such as a greater emphasis on health and safety and quality improvement. The revised quality section focuses on four parts: health and safety, early learning guidelines, program quality improvement activities, and professional development systems and workforce initiatives. For each of the four parts, the Preprint asks states to conduct a self-assessment, set goals for the upcoming biennium, and report on quality. States, territories, and other stakeholders have until November 23, 2010 to submit comments on the proposed Preprint. Information on the Preprint is available in the Federal Register.

HHS Announces Head Start Recompetition Rules - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new proposed rules that will require lower performing Head Start programs to compete for continued funding. At least 25 percent of grantees will be required to recompete for funds each year. This announcement is part of HHS's ongoing efforts to ensure that Head Start continues to provide high-quality comprehensive programs for the nation's most vulnerable children. Recompetition is intended to ensure that Head Start programs are held accountable for the very high standards established for the program. HHS also announced four new national training and technical assistance centers to support local Head Start programs in meeting the program's high standards. The centers will identify and disseminate evidence-based best practices. Coaches and mentors will also be placed in Head Start programs to provide training and technical assistance to teachers and directors. Ten exceptional Head Start programs are being named Centers of Excellence, which will serve as models and provide technical assistance for other early childhood programs. Public comments may be submitted within 90 days (select Proposed Rules as the document type and search for Head Start) at: http://www.regulations.gov/.

GAO Studies Improper Child Care Payments - The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, Undercover Tests Show Five State Programs Are Vulnerable to Fraud and Abuse, on improper payments in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. A series of undercover investigations revealed that state child care programs were vulnerable to fraud. GAO investigators posed as parents and unregulated relative caregivers and successfully billed states for fraudulent child care payments.The Child Care Bureau has taken issues to address improper payments and program integrity, including the issuing of an August 2010 Program Instruction, Program Integrity, Financial Accountability, Access to Child Care. In the report, GAO acknowledges that states in the study had already implemented, or planned to implement, GAO's recommended actions to reduce fraud and abuse. The Child Care Bureau is working with states to ensure that as they take actions to prevent improper payments, access to child care is not compromised for eligible children and families. Improper payments are reason for concern. Particularly when resources are limited, it is critical that they go to those who are eligible and most in need of services. Currently, only one in six federally-eligible children receives child care assistance.

U.S. Department of Education Reviews Research Literature on Effective ECE Professional Development - The U.S. Department of Education has a released a review of the research literature on strategies that improve and support professional development in the early childhood field. The review, Toward the Identification of Features of Effective Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators, summarizes research findings on what works in four critical areas of professional development:

  • Enhancing the human or social capital of early childhood educators,
  • Strengthening institutions and organizations that provide professional development,
  • Improving early educator practices in specific child developmental domains, and
  • Increasing the overall quality of early care and education settings.

YOUNG CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS: IMMIGRATION TRENDS AND NATIONAL AND STATE CHARACTERISTICS

Two new briefs from the Urban Institute provide a profile of children of immigrant families and analyze immigration trends. The briefs are: 

  • Children of Immigrants: 2008 State Trends Update - This brief is a follow-up to a previously released report that examined immigration trends and the conditions of children of immigrants using data from the 2005-06 American Community Surveys (ACS). In the new brief, ACS data collected from 2007-2008 reveal that six traditional immigrant destination states (CA, NY, TX, FL, IL, and NJ) continue to account for more than half (65 percent) of children of immigrants. However, this share represents a decline since 1990, when the share was 73 percent. Twenty-two new-growth states are becoming major destination sites and presently account for 21 percent of children of immigrants. Among six states, children of immigrant represent more than 30 percent of children. In California, children of immigrants account for more than half of children.
  • Young Children of Immigrants: The Leading Edge of America's Future - This brief focuses on the state of young children ages 0 to 8 in immigrant families. The brief finds that overall the growth in children of immigrant families accounts for the entire increase in the number of young children in the U.S. from 1990-2008. During this period, the number of young children of immigrants doubled from 4.3 million to 8.7 million children. In contrast, the number of young children with native-born parents decreased slightly. The brief also provides information on parents' country of origin, early education enrollments, English language proficiency of children and parents, parental education, and household income.

BUILDING AND USING STATE EARLY CHILDHOOD DATA SYSTEMS

The Early Childhood Data Collaborative, a partnership of seven national organizations, has created a new guide, Building and Using Coordinated State Early Care and Education Data Systems: A Framework for State Policymakers. The guide offers information and ideas on how to develop and utilize coordinated early childhood education (ECE) data systems to improve the quality of child care and early education programs as well as support the providers that serve young children. In particular, the guide elaborates on three components that are critical to building state ECE data systems successfully:

  • Principles for building ECE data systems: Effective data systems enable stakeholders to answer key questions about policy and practice and promote continuous improvement. The guide discusses the principles and rationale for developing ECE data systems.
  • Ten ECE fundamentals of coordinated data systems: Coordinated data systems link and track key information about young children, ECE programs, and the ECE workforce over time. The guide lays out 10 components of effective, coordinated ECE data systems. For each component, the guide offers examples of how states are integrating the component in their data systems.
  • Ensuring appropriate access and building capacity: Stakeholders need appropriate training or preparation on how to use data for continuous improvement. The guide discusses key considerations on ensuring protection of privacy, data security, and appropriate access to data. In addition, the guide offers ideas on how to build the capacity of stakeholders (e.g., policymakers, teachers, and parents).

THE IMPACT OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE LOSS ON CHILD HUNGER AND HEALTH

Public assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), are important sources of support for children and their families experiencing economic hardship. In a new policy brief, Earning More, Receiving Less: Loss of Benefits and Child Hunger, Children's HealthWatch unveils new research findings on the links between public assistance loss and child hunger. Previous research conducted by Children's HealthWatch demonstrated that public assistance benefits, such as SNAP, can significantly help to protect the health of vulnerable children by improving their access to nutritious foods. New findings indicate that this protection falters when families lose public assistance benefits due to exceeding income eligibility limits. Among a sample of households, Children's HealthWatch found that the rate of child food insecurity among families currently receiving SNAP benefits was 5.9 percent. This rate increased to 8.9 percent among families that no longer qualified for SNAP benefits due to increases in income. Likewise, child food insecurity was higher among families that lost TANF benefits due to income increases compared to families receiving TANF benefits. The brief calls attention to the "cliff effect" in which increases in income can actually reduce a family's total available resources due to loss of public assistance benefits or greater tax liability. The brief notes that this "cliff effect" can have adverse impacts on children's health.

NCCP RELEASES UPDATED NATIONAL AND STATE EARLY CHILDHOOD PROFILES 

The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) has updated its national and state early childhood profiles on children under age six. The profiles contain information on policies as well as quality and access issues in several key areas of child well-being: health, early care and education, and parenting and economic supports. NCCP's national early childhood profile reveals that:

  • Household income: Forty-four percent of young children live at 200 percent or below the federal poverty level (FPL).
  • Racial/ethnic diversity: Nearly half of young children (48 percent) are from racial/ethnic minority groups.
  • Risk factors: Thirty-four percent of young children are exposed to one to two risk factors, such as living in poverty, while 10 percent are exposed to three or more risk factors.
  • Health care: Twenty-four states set the income eligibility limit for Medicaid/SCHIP at or above 200 percent of FPL for pregnant women.
  • Child care assistance: Seventeen states set the income eligibility limit for child care assistance at or above 200 percent of FPL.
  • Pre-kindergarten/Head Start: Most states (43 states) fund a pre-kindergarten program and/or supplement Head Start, while 17 states supplement Early Head Start with state or other federal funds.
  • Infant/toddler care: Nearly half of states (23 states) promote continuity of care by mandating through regulations that infants and toddlers in child care centers be assigned a consistent primary caregiver.
  • Home visiting: Thirty-two states have a statewide home visiting program.

IMPROVING COMPENSATION IN THE EARLY CHILDHOOD FIELD

Two new resources address the challenge of providing adequate compensation for professionals in the early childhood field. These resources are:

  • Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform - The Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children has developed a blueprint that states (with a particular focus on Massachusetts) can use to improve compensation in the early childhood field. The blueprint makes four overall recommendations for creating a state agenda and provides examples of how each recommendation can be implemented. The recommendations are:
    • Develop a career lattice that requires increased compensation for career growth and both incremental wage increases and annual bonuses for achieving performance benchmarks and obtaining additional education,
    • Create a refundable 15 percent earned income tax credit for education providers,
    • Create an early education endowment fund that may provide financial support for compensation, the career lattice, and supplements the market rate for high-quality programs, and
    • Develop a loan forgiveness program for early educators that requires a commitment to the field.
  • The Child Care WAGE$ Project: 2009-2010 Program Results and Outcomes in North Carolina - The Child Care Services Association has released 2009-2010 participant and outcomes data from the Child Care WAGE$ Project in North Carolina. The Child Care WAGE$ project aims to address the problems of under-education, low compensation, and high turnover in the early childhood field by providing education-based salary supplements to child care providers. Two other states (Florida and Kansas) also offer the program. The newly released data reveals that more than 7,000 early childhood professionals in North Carolina participated in the WAGE$ project in 2009-2010. Among these participants, more than half earned an Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education or higher. Participants received an average supplement of $1,500 a year, and nearly all surveyed participants reported that the supplement helped to relieve financial stress. Only 12 percent of participants left their child care program in contrast to a statewide turnover rate of 24 percent in 2003 and 31 percent prior to WAGE$ becoming available statewide.

STATE 2010-2011 CCDF PLANS TO SUPPORT INFANT/TODDLER CARE

A new brief from the National Infant and Toddler Child Care Initiative highlights a wide range of actions that states are taking to support the care of infants and toddlers using the infant/toddler earmark in the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). The brief, Keys to High Quality Child Care for Infants and Toddlers: State and Territory 2010-2011 CCDF Targeted Funds for Infants and Toddlers, illustrates a wide range of activities, such as:

  • Professional development - states are using CCDF funds to provide technical assistance to infant/toddler providers, encourage participation in the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC), and develop family child care and infant/toddler credentials.
  • Child care settings and activities - states are using CCDF funds to offer free training on infant/toddler care, literacy building activities, and early childhood mental health consultations.
  • Infant/toddler slots - states are using CCDF funds to increase the number of infant/toddler slots for facilities that serve families receiving subsidies and to improve the quality of these programs.
  • Child care resource and referral (CCR&R) - states are using CCDF funds to support CCR&R agencies in a variety of ways, such as funding infant/toddler specialists, nurse/health consultants, and equipment/facility improvement grants.
  • Early learning guidelines - 13 states are using CCDF funds to update, finalize, or implement early learning guidelines for infants and toddlers and to offer training on these guidelines.
  • Family engagement - states are using CCDF funds to provide resources to families with infants and toddlers, including information on child development, immunizations, and support for infants with developmental disabilities.
  • Planning, research, and evaluation - states are using CCDF funds to collect and analyze data on supply and demand for infant/toddler care and to track children's progress over time.

CLASP's Early Childhood Education Update is a monthly roundup of news, legislative developments, research, and other developments of interest to the early care and education community. This update is part of CLASP's project, funded by The Joyce Foundation, to provide technical assistance to early childhood policymakers and advocates in Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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