Use Subsidy Policies to Promote Stable, Quality Care

Recommendation: Use state child care subsidy policies to support stable, continuous access to the highest-quality providers and caregivers for infants and toddlers in low-income families.

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What policies can states use to move toward this recommendation?

To move toward this recommendation, states may use multiple policy levers, starting from different points. Potential state policies include the following:


  • Work toward increasing child care subsidy payment rates-through vouchers, contracts, or bonuses-to account for the higher costs of providing infant and toddler care of the quality desired by the state, rather than using current market rates (which research has shown are not adequate to support high-quality care for low-income babies and toddlers).
  • Provide ongoing funding for subsidized slots tied to high-quality standards, such as those of Early Head Start, national accreditation, or state Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), directly to providers through grants or contracts, in order to care for eligible infants and toddlers in underserved communities.
  • Pay higher subsidy rates to infant and toddlers child care providers who work toward meeting and sustaining high-quality program standards (such as those in the state QRIS or national accreditation). Higher subsidy rates can also attract high-quality providers into the child care subsidy system.
  • Allow family, friend, and neighbor caregivers receiving child care subsidies to participate in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and put in place policies that make it easier for all providers and caregivers to have continuous access to the program.
  • Allow eligible families to qualify for child care subsidies uninterrupted for at least six months, preferably 12 months. During the interim period, require only minimal reporting and do not require re-determination.
  • Make it easier for families with babies and toddlers to access child care subsidies by coordinating the application and re-determination processes for child care subsidies with other social service programs, such as Food Stamps, TANF, and Medicaid.
  • Make it easier for families with babies and toddlers to maintain their subsidies by simplifying the recertification process and minimizing chances families will lose their subsidy during periods of change in family circumstances.
  • Allow eligible pregnant women to be placed on the waiting list for subsidy.
  • Provide subsidy payments to providers and caregivers for all days when babies and toddlers are absent due to illness, in order to remove disincentives to caring for infants and toddlers.
  • Improve accessibility of the child care subsidy system for limited English proficient (LEP) providers and parents by translating information, regulations, and applications; hiring bilingual staff; and using qualified interpreters.
  • Ensure that subsidy recertification notification is provided to LEP parents in the appropriate language.
  • Identify families in the subsidy system that make frequent changes in child care arrangements, and provide them with intensive counseling about child care choices and the importance of stability for their children’s well-being.


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