President Obama Signs Child Care and Development Block Grant into Law

Just before noon today, President Obama signed into law the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The bill, which provides child care assistance to families and funds quality initiatives for child care, had not previously been reauthorized since 1996.  Today’s signing follows an overwhelming show of bi-partisan support during Monday’s Senate vote on the legislation. This bi-partisan bicameral effort was led by Representatives John Kline (R-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and David Loebsack (D-IA), and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

“Every working parent with children, no matter their income level, worries about child care. What’s affordable? What’s accessible? Will my child be safe? Where can I get the best care for my kid? The CCDBG program has given many families over many years peace of mind, but we can and should be doing more to improve child care for children, parents and providers alike,” said Senator Mikulski, one of the leaders and original sponsors of the legislation. “It is long past time to revitalize, refresh and reform this vitally important program.”

As you know, this is huge news for families and a moment we should all celebrate!  Many of you have advocated for a number of years on the reauthorization of CCDBG, and in partnership with Child Care Aware of America, you’ve brought attention to the importance of this legislation to support the safe, healthy development of all children in child care settings.

Today we celebrate the recognition, through legislation, that children deserve safe, healthy, quality settings across the country.  This bill will significantly:

  • Enhance parental choice by providing information about available care options
  • Strengthen safety in child care settings by requiring all providers  to comply with state health, safety, and fire standards and undergo annual inspections
  • Promote high quality child care by reserving funds at the state level to improve the quality of care provided to children, enhancing states’ ability to train providers and develop safer and more effective child care services

And it is all thanks to you. Your support got us here. Your calls, letters and emails to Congress made this happen. Your stories showed policymakers why this bill is so important to America’s working families and to millions of children’s health and safety. Now is the time to celebrate all that has been accomplished in 2014. For those of you who attended our child care Symposium in April, our “something big” is finally here. Congratulations! And thank you to Congress and the President for making children and working families a priority.

Look for more information as we seek to support the implementation. You can send a thank you to President Obama and to Congress for standing up for working families by visiting our action center, or tweet, tag, and share the image below with your members of Congress show your appreciation on social media:

Thank you CCDBG-Reauthorize

Office of Science and Technology Policy Spotlights the Importance of Early Literacy

Editor’s Note: This guest blog was written by Child Care Aware of America staff member Michelle McCready. Michelle is our Director of Public Policy, a working mother to her young son, Aiden, and a dedicated advocate for child care policy.

Yesterday Child Care Aware of America joined the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy to highlight early literacy challenges and successes in communities across the country and share best practices and lessons learned. The word gap refers to children in low income communities starting school with 30 million less words  than their peers of higher socioeconomic status. The day consisted of advocates, led by Too Small to Fail, alongside top researchers and scientists, as well as federal and local policymakers, discussing the importance of creating a strong literacy foundation for all children.

Panelists

This strong literacy foundation helps prepare students for kindergarten and  sets children up for better outcomes throughout their life. This foundation also supports a workforce needed to compete in the global economy and create a prosperous future for generations to come. In the first three years of life early language and rich literacy experiences are especially important. As research has proven, the brain undergoes its most dramatic development during this time as children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. As a mother of a 19 month-old son, I get to witness this dramatic development every day. On our ride home from child care, I talk, read, and sing with him and see how his vocabulary is exponentially blossoming.

But it’s not just my son. On a typical day more than 11 million children under age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in the care of someone other than their mother. About one-quarter of these children are in multiple child care arrangements. In these settings, children are naturally communicating with their caregivers on what they think, feel and are experiencing. This “conversational duet” not only promotes language skills, but also critical thinking skills, and strong social and emotional development.

Speaking and honoring home language is also critical.  Children  need to have lots of fun and meaningful chances to talk, read, and pretend-write in their home language. Each of the opportunities to interact build skills that will help all children be prepared for a successful life.

Make sure to visit ChildCareAware.org to get more information on how you and your child’s caregiver can best build your child’s early reading and writing skills. A call to your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R) can give you additional information about literacy resources.

Also, make sure to check out what some of our coalition partners are doing: Too Small to Fail’s Talk, Read, Sing Campaign http://talkreadsing.org/. And ZERO TO THREE’s new web portal, Beyond the Word Gap http://www.zerotothree.org/policy/beyond-the-word-gap/, which offers multimedia resources to help parents, professionals, and policymakers to support early language and literacy.

PBS NewsHour on the Cost of Child Care

Last week PBS NewsHour aired a story about child care and featured three families whose stories represent millions of others in the United States today; the story of families who find it is sometimes more affordable not to work, than to pay for child care, and the quality of child care they can afford.

I sat down with PBS NewsHour for the broadcast as well. We are often contacted for  comments, facts and history on the rising costs of child care – but few stories capture the real point behind our Cost of Care reports; that child care is an economic and education issue that affects everyone.

The cost of child care is certainly financial news, but more importantly the cost of child care highlights how our nation’s child care system is preventing families from working because it’s simply too expensive and families don’t often know what they’re really getting for that price.  Instead of a child care system that empowers families to make a better life for them and their children, we have a child care system that is fragmented and frankly, in too many cases, simply unsafe.

This summer, Child Care Aware of America will release its annual Child Care in America State Fact Sheets. These reports lay bare the numbers beyond cost – availability, how families pay for child care, what states pay to subsidize child care and many more facts about working families today. We look forward to the dialogue.

Meanwhile, what did you think of the PBS NewsHour broadcast? Watch,  then comment below.

 

Quality Child Care gives Families Peace of Mind

Child care providers have a deep and resounding impact on the children and the families they serve. This Provider Appreciation Day, we asked parents to send in stories about the early learning professionals in their children’s lives and the positive impact they have had on their family. The responses were overwhelming. Below we’ve highlighted  a few to sharewith you today, as we celebrate and honor the teachers that care for our youngest learners.

Preschool children in classroom with teacher“I really enjoy Scaife Day Care. They have been providing my son with great care since he has been three months and now he is five years of age.” –Crystal Davis, Milwaukee, WI

“I would like to thank, recognize and express sincere gratitude for the care my daughter, and family as a whole receives from Mercy Cares for Kids, especially the staff in Infant 2, Karan, Alketa and Leah. These ladies take care of my child as if she were their own while I am at work, they take on the duties of ‘mommyhood’ and the respect, care and comfort they provide to me and my daughter is exceptional. Every day is planned with social, educational and developmental information. Taking on the task of playing a large role in raising someone else’s child is neither something that is easy to do, nor a job for everyone. It takes a special person to be respectful, competent and devoted to young children. My appreciation for the care they provide to my family could never be expressed through words, and in attending events and functions at the site, it is evident that the entire center encompasses these wonderful traits.” – Julianne Brown, Albany, NY

“I love [Cozy Care] and their values. When the owner Traci Poellnitz, told me how the nursery and daycare is about EDUCATION I couldn’t believe myself. I thought wow… these preschoolers are learning Arabic! I’m all about education so when I heard what they do, I thought, this is a no-brainer.” –Alex Spencer, Cincinnati, OH

“When my son was born, I spent the first year of his life being a stay at home mom. It was amazing and I loved every day of it! However, I did have to return to teaching the following year. It was very hard for me to leave my son. He started off at an in home daycare. Things just weren’t working out. Communication was horrible, and my son did not have a daytime routine/schedule. This is when my husband and I decided to try him at a learning center. We were VERY nervous at first. We didn’t know what to expect, and we didn’t know how our son would adjust. Well, it’s been almost 5 months now and we couldn’t be happier!! My son is receiving EXCEPTIONAL care at Fundamentals Early Learning Center, and is learning new things every day! He absolutely loves his teacher and all of his classmates. We spent all of last week on vacation, and all he talked about was his teacher back at school and his classmates. This made my husband and I extremely happy! We are so proud and thankful to be a part of the Fundamentals family! We appreciate them!! “ –Whitney Lewis, Central Louisiana

On Family Circle Learning Center
“Best child care my husband and I have experienced. The teachers are great with the kids. We trust that our babies are well taken care of away from us!! Thank you for loving our babies as much as we do.” –Sherri Armendariz, Renton, WA

“I write a testimonial every year. Lenora is a fantastic provider for all the children she cares for. I am going on my eighth year with my children in her care. Tomorrow she is taking them to the strawberry patch. She always does fun and education trips with the kids, so it makes it a special time for them to look back at when they are older.

Thanks so much for all that you do Lenora. You are appreciated more than you know. I (and my family) would not have made it the past 8 years without you!” –Holly Price, Durham, NC

Quality child care providers are education professionals. Working families get peace-of-mind when they know their child is in the care of a trusted, quality provider. They are an integral part of a family’s support system.  This Provider Appreciation Day, we urge you to not only celebrate the early educators in your life, but also to remember that their training and professional development directly impact the quality of care they are able to provide. It’s time to create a quality child care system that works for families and providers and pays a living wage to our child care professionals.

Provider Appreciation Day Logo

Buzz on early childhood is good; progress still needed

Struggling to get out of poverty: The Two Generation Approach” tells on NPR, the story of two mothers who participate in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Career Advance program. It’s one of at least three stories I’ve seen over the past week highlighting early education, the benefits and the costs.

Career Advance puts to practice the “two generation” approach to ending poverty, by providing quality early childhood experiences to children while at the same time supporting their parents’ economic advancement.

Starting education at age four is too late
NPR’s new education team also laid out some answers to the question; what is quality preschool?  The story does well to share the facts on early education in this country, and it also rightly, if not intentionally, highlights a huge gap in the way we think about early childhood education.   We need to ensure we consider the entire developmental continuum.  Preschool is important and we cannot forget about the babies.

Children learn from birth, and of the 1.1 million families who received child care referrals from child care resource and referral agencies in this country, more than half were for infants and toddlers.  Babies and toddlers must receive the same level of quality in child care as they should in preschool programs they enter at age four.

Or, as written in a 2011 Forbes article about George Kaiser: “Oklahoma, like a lot of places in America, has universal preschool, but it begins only at age 4, at which point many poor kids are so far behind their rich peers that they’ll never catch up. Early Head Start programs for infants and toddlers offer slots for only 3% of Tulsa’s 10,000 low-income kids, a rate similar to the national one.

‘Reaching 50% wouldn’t be impossible, at $30 billion per year,’ says Kaiser, except it would never happen because the dispossessed don’t have many lobbyists.’ ”

Parents pay costs of early education
The NPR story was also compelling because it also showed the depth of investment needed to achieve positive results. The program got off the ground thanks to support from The George Kaiser Family Foundation. The program is now funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For most families, it’s the parents who pay for child care – quality or not.

Cost of Care graphic

Our “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report”  generated more than 400 media stories across the country last fall and has seen a renewed interest following the Pew Research Center’s report on the increase in women opting out of the workforce to stay home with their children as well as a Washington Post story.

The question I get asked most often is why is child care so expensive? The simple answer is, running a quality program costs a lot of money, and in the business of early learning, the bulk of the cost is absorbed by the families.

The more important question is, what are we, or are we not, getting for that price? Are families getting quality care for their children? Families cannot do it alone. In the end, we all pay the cost for low investment and low quality for our children, even in health care.

The health connection
James Heckman, the Nobel laureate who made the economic case for early childhood investment,  recently released findings of a link between investments in quality early childhood programs and preventing chronic disease.

Professor Heckman and his colleagues continue to demonstrate through research that investments made early in quality early childhood programs prove to prevent challenges later in life. Watch the video about Heckman and his team’s research on chronic disease and early childhood programs.

We need to spread the word that early investments matter and quality child care programs have proven to have many beneficial outcomes for our children and their future.

Provider Appreciation
This Friday, May 9th is Provider Appreciation Day. As we seek solutions so that all families can access the opportunities inherent in quality child care we must also applaud and honor the providers of that care and the important work they do each day, in partnership with families, to nurture and prepare our nation’s children for school and beyond.

Will you commit to showing appreciation for those who are helping to raise a brighter future? Join us www.providerappreciationday.org

 

 

Provider Appreciation Day: A call for pay, preparation and promotion of our early childhood educators

Provider Appreciation Day Logo

May 9 is the day we celebrate our nation’s child care providers, early childhood educators and teachers. And while we celebrate, we also must reflect on how we acknowledge their commitment to children through pay, professional preparation, and promotion of the field as an essential driver supporting the healthy development of children.

Low pay, big responsibilities
We know child care providers don’t get paid a lot. But previous statistics like those from Georgetown University’s Center on Education which show an early childhood education degree among the least lucrative of all college majors, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s report that the median pay for child care providers was $9.30 per hour in 2012, still shock me.  It is so critical that our nation’s providers and early childhood educators get the professional preparation they want and deserve in the classroom, either through higher education or in professional preparation training programs.

Subsiding child care costs
Child care providers are essentially subsidizing the cost of child care with their paychecks.  Even with such low provider wages, families pay a lot for child care. Child care costs eat up a larger percent of a family’s budget – rocketing from two percent of the cost to raise a child in 1960 to 18 percent in 2012. Child care and education, not including college, costs families more than healthcare and food, according to a 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture report on the cost of raising a child.  Our cost of child care report showed the average cost of child care for an infant was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.  Two children in child care? That can cost you more than a mortgage in 19 states and Washington D.C.

Quality suffers
But the biggest loser in this low pay and high cost equation is quality. Studies and stories have proven that quality costs money and that quality is worth the upfront investment, returning at a rate of as much as 15 percent, according to economist James Heckman. Supporting our early childhood providers and educators with a living wage and professional ongoing support is essential to delivering quality as well. When child care providers leave the profession because of low pay, the turnover affects a child’s education, and we lose great educators.

Solutions
One solution to a quality child care system that supports child care providers and families would be to diversify the financial support for child care so all children can access quality care no matter their family’s ability to pay.

Join us in honoring those who teach, nurture and care for our children on May 9, and remember they too need our support all year round.  What other solutions would you suggest?

 

California makes progress ensuring basic health, safety of children in licensed child care

Guest blog from Kim Johnson, Public Policy Director, California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

Editor’s Note: Child Care Aware® of America participated in a story with a California investigative reporting team writing about families’ access to licensing and inspection information on child care in their state. The story, which also featured an interview with Kim Johnson, public policy director at the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network prompted local lawmakers to move forward getting inspection records online and easily accessible for families. Kim writes here as a guest blogger about the history and progress of protecting children in child care in California and why this might be the year the system gets a much needed technology fix.

California’s licensing program, the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) performs the essential function of protecting the basic health and safety of children in licensed centers and family child care home settings in California. Budget cuts and compliance procedures have resulted in a program that now provides inadequate oversight and monitoring of these facilities – as few as one site visit over five years.

Prior to 2003, licensed child care centers were required to receive a site visit at least once a year and family child care homes three times a year under CCLD. In reality site visits may occur as few as once in five years from the licensing program, hardly enough to ensure minimum safety in an industry with high staff turnover.

The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network (the Network) has led efforts that would require more frequent inspections by sponsoring Assembly Bill 419 (Mitchell): Care facilities, in the 2011-12 legislative session and in the current year with Assembly Bill 1454 (Calderon): Care facilities: regulatory visits.

Research demonstrates that licensed programs are more likely to be in compliance with required regulations if inspections occur more frequently. In addition, inspections are associated with lower rates of accidents requiring medical attention.

The Network strongly encourages the allocation of new resources to expand states’ capacity to ensure the basic health and safety of children in licensed child care settings by strengthening the licensing infrastructure.

The Governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year provides additional funding to the Licensing Division to strengthen their accountability and oversight and to make efficiencies. The discussion about this proposal in Budget Committees in both the Assembly and Senate, demonstrate that the Legislature is also supportive of providing new resources to the Licensing Division.

Paired with recent television and print media attention that highlights California’s need for improvement, citing research such as, Child Care Aware® of America’s 2013, “We Can Do Better Report,” may just put this issue over the tipping point to make positive change.

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to learn more about AB 1454 and support this effort by signing the Network’s petition located here: http://www.rrnetwork.org/support_ab_1454.

Recent Media:
NBC Bay Area Coverage
California Lags Behind in Child Care Oversight
Completely Outdated Inspection System Needs Fix

Parents Struggle to Access Child Care Records
California’s Lack of Online Child Care Records Leaves Parents in the Dark

Kim Johnson serves as the Public Policy Manager of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network where she guides the Network and its member agencies in budget and legislative analysis, public policy education and advocacy efforts. Kim also leads the Network’s Public Policy Committee. She is a mother of three.

More in the States: Virginia progress on background checks for child care providers

Virginia Progress on Background Checks for Child Care Providers

elly1

Elly and Cameron Lafkin preparing for their interview on Weekend Today, August 2013

Guest Blog by Sharon Veatch, Executive Director, Child Care Aware® of Virginia

At Symposium in 2013, I met Elly Lafkin, one of Child Care Aware® of America’s parent leaders, whose baby, Camden, died in a child care program in Shenandoah, Virginia in 2012. It was heartbreaking to hear that during the police investigation of Camden’s death, the police processed the child care provider’s fingerprints and found that the woman had several aliases and a history of criminal offenses. When Elly said that she and her husband would have made a different choice had they only known about the provider’s past, I knew I would make changing the law in Virginia a top priority for the 2013 session.

There were many things to do and we needed to do them quickly. We drafted background check legislation and materials. We met with Voices for Virginia’s Children to request that the background check bill be included in their children’s agenda. We met with stakeholders such as the Department of Social Services, the State Police, the Virginia Child Care Center Association (VCCA), the Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Associations (VAFCCA), and the VA Association for the Education of Young Children (VAEYC) and the religious community. With each meeting we had, there were concerns raised that we sought to address.

After meeting with several state legislators, we identified sponsors to introduce the bills in the House and Senate. In January, we succeeded in getting bills introduced to require fingerprint background checks for child care providers: HB 412, with Co-Patrons of Delegate Richard Anderson, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and Delegate Chris Peace, and SB 639 with by Senator Emmett Hanger. A fiscal impact concern started to derail the process so we worked out a compromise with the sponsors. The compromise was to require a task force to convene stakeholders (the Department of Social Services, the state police, the child care provider community, parents, etc.) and to recommend ways to implement a fingerprint check system at the lowest possible cost in a practical and effective manner. The task force recommendations would be due on November 1, 2014 with enough time to prepare the recommendations in bill form for the 2015 session.

We testified at budget hearings, committee hearings, and worked with VA legislators and staff. Elly Lafkin testified before the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee to make the case about why parents believe background checks are important. We met with every member of the House HWI Committee and the Senate Rules Committee (the committees where the bills had been referred). In the end, the bill passed the House and the Senate. Our child care team made it happen. Elly is looking forward to standing at the Governor’s side as he signs Cami’s bill into law. Next year we’ll be back with a draft bill to implement the task force’s recommendations.

Get More:
Elly and Cameron Lafkin told their story on the Weekend Today Show, August 2013, with an interview from Child Care Aware® of America.

Child Care Provider Reacts to Cost of Care Report

Child Care Aware® of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Care: 2013 Report received a huge reaction from the media – more than 250 references in the news, reaching an estimated 2 million readers and viewers.

In the report we noted child care is one of the lowest paying professional fields and one of the most labor-intensive. We asked a child care provider to share her perspective on the report.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the award-winning Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia. In this guest blog she shares how the field has changed over the years, and how her team works to balance a successful, high-quality child care program with an innovative approach.

~ Lynette

The Child Care Aware® of America publication, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report was a great prelude to the bi-partisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013, introduced last week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY). The importance of early care and education is now being seen as what we, as providers, have known for decades. This age is a critical time of investment.

But while legislators continue to discuss why it is important for Americans to invest in early care and education on all levels, families continue to struggle to ensure their children remain in a high-quality program. The term child care suggests this is an institute for someone to watch children while parents work. While families do rely on child care to support working parents, the field has undergone great changes over the last few decades.

From child care to early education
Today, early care and education has improved the quality of learning for all children. With countless research findings how on a child’s brain develops, we now know that the influences children have in the first years of development are crucial to their success throughout their life. Because of this research, the field of early childhood education has increased quality requirements, added educational guidelines for teachers, and implemented early standards of learning that allow a child’s environment to be rich with positive interactions, and resources that enhance their learning experiences.

Preparing for kindergarten
Recognizing how essential it is to positively impact the brain activity while children are under age 5, educators now work to ensure that children are ready for the challenges that face them in kindergarten and beyond. Children who start kindergarten behind require additional services to catch up. If those services are not provided, children remain behind, and are subject to school failure.

The funding challenge
But public funding has yet to catch up with the quality changes. Many low-income families with young children can apply for federal assistance to help pay for child care. However, subsidy rates are at least 10 years behind the current market rates for child care services, and many  local social service departments have  long waiting lists.

If families do receive child care subsidies, many times, they are required to find quality care that will accept this subsidy rate. Many child care centers charge families, who are already struggling to afford care, the additional cost, over and above the subsidy rates. Right now, the subsidy leaves a balance that can range from $20 to $100 a week.

As the executive director of Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, we have made this struggle our mission.

Our solution
Working to ensure that all families have access to quality early childhood education, we work with private funders and foundations to make ends meet.

But all centers do not have this option.

They either provide the professional quality early learning environment that our children deserve, or provide substandard care, accepting the fees offered through public funding to support families.

Then there are families who don’t meet the income guidelines to receive a public subsidy, but still have difficulties meeting the costs associated with quality early care and education.

Tough choices
Sometimes, families opt to have one parent stay home because the loss of one income is more economical than the cost of child care. While this may seem a solution to the rising cost, as explained earlier, the research backing the importance of early childhood education shows that children enrolled in a quality program show greater outcomes than those children who have not experienced it at all.

Americans need to stop viewing early care and education as “just child care,” and commit to the financial investment in our future.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia.