Latest Child Care Data Demonstrate the Need for New Investment

By Shiva Sethi 

This week, Congress is making important appropriations decisions about the funding of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and other programs that support children and families. In March 2018, Congress included a $2.37 billion increase for CCDBG in the FY 2018 omnibus spending bill, the largest one-year increase in federal funding for child care in history. With this investment, states are working to fully meet the requirements of the 2014 reauthorization of CCDBG and make child care subsidies work better for families with low incomes. While the significant boost in funding provides critical resources to implement the reauthorization, raise rates, and expand access for low-income families, it was not sufficient to make up lost ground over the past decade.

As the largest source of federal child care assistance, CCDBG is a critical support for many children and families with low incomes across the country. Unfortunately, due to chronic underfunding, the program doesn’t serve nearly as many children as it should. Just one out of every six children who is eligible for the program receives child care assistance.

Last week, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released new data about the Child Care and Development Block Grant from FY 2018. The data reveal many important trends and stories that can help inform the need for continued investment in the program.

The new data show us that in 2018:

  • an average of 1.32 million children received CCDBG subsidies every month. This is slightly higher than the average from 2017, which was 1.31 million.  This slight increase in children served doesn’t fully capture the impact of the $2.37 billion FY 2018 funding increase for CCDBG, which wasn’t allocated to states until the middle of FY2018. While 250,000 providers across the country received CCDBG subsidies, this is a decline of 20,000 from 2017 and a continuation of the significant decline in providers since 2006.
  • 28 percent of children served by the program were infants and toddlers (under 3) and 28 percent were preschool-age children (ages 3 and 4). All other children served were 5-13.
  • 40 percent of children receiving subsidies were Black, 41 percent were white, and 4 percent were multiracial. 24 percent were Latinx regardless of race. 

The 2018 data tables debuted several important new categories, including some that CLASP advocated for in recent years. For the first time, ACF is now reporting data on families experiencing homelessness, the primary language spoken at home, and children with disabilities. These new categories will help provide a more detailed picture of who is served by CCDBG, who may not be reached, and how the program could be improved.

These data make clear what we already know: CCDBG needs more investment so that all families  needing child care assistance have access to it. CLASP recently submitted these comments to ACF showing how increased investment in CCDBG will lead to increased access to affordable, high-quality, child care. As appropriations negotiations continue this week, at a minimum, the Senate should match or exceed the $2.4 billion CCDBG investment made by the House. This funding boost would allow states to expand access to child care assistance and continue to reverse years of decline.