BUILDing Strong Foundations: Speak Up For Racial Equity in State Plans!

With the historic allocation of $2.4 billion in new federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds in the 2018 omnibus spending bill, we have the opportunity to improve child care and early education policies for infants and toddlers, and their parents and caregivers. The new dollars came at a time when we know more than ever about what supports the healthy development of infants and toddlers and what families need for economic stability. We also know the clear racial and ethnic disparities in who receives child care assistance and how child care workers of color fare in state child care assistance programs. The increase in funding gives states the chance to make progress on these fronts.

Right now, state CCDBG administrators and stakeholders are working on Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plans for using their CCDBG dollars in 2019-2021. States can use these plans to signal their vision for how to address racial and ethnic inequities in child care access and the workforce. Each state is required to collect public feedback on its plan, so now is an important time for stakeholders to point out policies and practices that create or exacerbate inequities.

As you review and comment on your state’s draft plan, please consider these five opportunities to improve racial equity for infants and toddlers, and those who care for them:

  • Access – About one in five (21 percent) eligible Black children receive child care through CCDBG, and that number declines to 8 percent for Latino children. Barriers include eligibility policies that discriminate against parents in low-wage jobs, which often have unpredictable and irregular hours. State CCDBG policies can support continuous access to child care for infants and toddlers by ensuring parents receive real 12-month eligibility regardless of temporary changes in hours or income, job search is an approved activity for eligibility, and reporting requirements are minimal. While most states have implemented 12-month eligibility as required by the CCDBG law, at least six states have gone a step further and continue child care eligibility for the full 12-month period regardless of job loss, providing maximum stability to children and families. (CCDF State Plan section 3.3)  
  • Consumer education – Parents are at a disadvantage in accessing high-quality infant and toddler child care if consumer education efforts are not designed to reach their community. Consumer education and outreach plans should reflect an awareness of where children of color live and their families’ linguistic and cultural needs. States should also develop these plans with an understanding of who is providing child care in the community and how families get information to make child care choices. States should intentionally design consumer education plans that engage trusted community-based organizations in shaping and carrying out consumer education strategies and connecting families to providers who are supported to meet their needs. (CCDF State Plan section 2)
  • Professional development – Parents want to make child care choices that meet their geographic, scheduling, and cultural and linguistic needs. State plans can begin to address racial stratification of the workforce by providing health and safety training and other professional development that reflects the full range of provider types, including home-based and center-based options, as well as the linguistic and cultural needs of the providers themselves. States can also include an intentional focus on racial bias and cultural competency in professional development goals for the child care workforce. For example, in Washington State, the Department of Early Learning has adopted a Racial Equity Theory of Change to guide its work, and has incorporated Culturally Responsive Guidelines into its professional development system. (CCDF State Plan section 6.2)
  • Targeted funding to support quality and infant and toddler care – Under the 2014 CCDBG reauthorization, states must target a percentage of their dollars to quality improvement  (8 percent) and increasing the availability of high-quality infant and toddler care (3 percent). To promote equity, states can use these dollars to build high-quality supply in underserved communities of color through start-up support, supplies, and professional consultation. In addition, states can use these funds for provider monitoring and other ongoing quality supports that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and implemented to reach the full range of providers in underserved communities. (CCDF State Plan sections 7.2 and 7.5)
  • Payment policies and rates – States can design their rate structures to intentionally support the higher cost of caring for infants and toddlers and ensure that these rates are sufficient to support the development of high-quality programs in underserved communities. This can be done by establishing adequate base and tiered rates overall, as well as by improving infant-toddler rates specifically through either a market rate or alternative cost model.  Further, states’ rate structures should be sufficient to fairly compensate the early childhood workforce caring for infants and toddlers, a workforce disproportionately composed of women of color. Finally, states can use contracts and other stabilizing payment mechanisms to target supply building and supports to communities of color where access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers is low. For example, Massachusetts contracts directly with providers, awarding child care slots based on age served and geographic supply needs. (CCDF State Plan section 4)

State CCDF Plans are due at the end of June, so states are collecting public and written comments on their draft plans now. But each state plan is a living document. While your state plan can and should reflect a commitment to improving equity in child care assistance policy, it can also be amended in the months and years to come to include additional positive policy changes for infants and toddlers, and their families and providers.

To read more about racial equity in early childhood programs, see CLASP’s Equity Starts Early: Addressing Racial Inequities in Child Care and Early Education Policy, and please join CLASP, BUILD, and ZERO TO THREE on our webinar, Equity Right from the Start: Addressing Access to Quality for Infants & Toddlers, on August 13. You can register here!

The new Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding represents an enormous opportunity to improve access to and quality of child care for infants, toddlers, their families, and the teachers and programs that work with them. With funding from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a project of the JB and MK Pritzker Family Foundation, the BUILD Initiative is organizing a series of webinars and blogs in partnership with ZERO TO THREE and the Center for Law and Social Policy for state policy leaders, decision makers and advocates. Information on the series, including webinar registration, can be found here

This blog post originally appeared on the Build Initiative’s website.