Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, March 25, Paula Koos, executive director of Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA), testified before the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, which is chaired by Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN). We asked Paula to share some of her testimony and a little bit about her experience speaking before the Subcommittee.
Guest blog by Paula Koos, executive director of Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA)
Yesterday, I had the honor of testifying before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce about the need for quality, affordable child care. The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled “The Foundation for Success: Strengthening the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program.”
This hearing picked up the CCDBG Reauthorization conversation, which came in the wake of the Senate passing a bi-partisan reauthorization bill by a vote of 96-2 just a couple of weeks ago. Congressman Rokita kicked off the hearing with an opening statement discussing the importance of quality improvements to the current child care system and the solid foundation provided by the Senate’s CCDBG Reauthorization bill.
I was joined on the panel by Dr. Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Mrs. Linda Kostantenaco, President of the National Child Care Association; and Ms. Gloria Jarmon , Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A long overdue bill
The hearing was in response to the historic measure passed by the Senate HELP Committee that would reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant. It is my hope, that the House can also pass CCDBG this year.
If passed, It would be the first reauthorization since 1996. It includes significant changes to the quality measures. The bi-partisan bill that was passed by the committee would require providers to undergo comprehensive background checks, receive orientation training and ongoing professional development, and be subject to initial and annual inspections.
I began my testimony by saying, “Child care is a way of life for the majority of families. It is the same in Oklahoma. But… child care is hard to find… hard to afford… and too often the quality is questionable. Parents worry about the cost… and they worry about whether or not their kids will be safe while mom and dad are at work.”
CCR&R’s are essential to communities
In addition to talking about the necessity for basic federal measures to ensure that children are safe in child care, the role of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies and the importance of these agencies within communities were a main theme of my testimony and many of my responses to the Representatives’ questions. After the four witnesses finished their testimonies, all four panelists answered a range of questions from the Subcommittee members about priorities for CCDBG Reauthorization, suggestions for where the current program could be improved, and any recommendations regarding the Senate’s CCDBG Reauthorization bill.
A memorable experience
Despite the snowy weather in my time in Washington D.C., I could not have been more honored to have had the opportunity to represent OCCRRA, the entire Child Care Resource and Referral field, Child Care Aware® of America and the millions of parents and families that rely on safe, quality and affordable child care in this nation. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Paula Koos has 40 years experience working with nonprofits including 25 years as an Executive Director. She spent 22 years traveling around the country working with the Girl Scouts and was a certified Girl Scout Executive Director. After retiring from Girl Scouts and 25 years away from Oklahoma, Paula returned home and has put her knowledge and expertise to work in the early education field, serving on numerous committees in the state and fostering efforts at collaboration. She received her Masters in Recreation Management and her Bachelors of Science in Physical Education from the University of Oklahoma. She received a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Case Western Reserve University, attended the Yale University Leadership and Decision Making in Organizations Seminar and the Harvard Business School Corporate Management Seminar and completed Principles of Fund Raising at The Fund Raising School.