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

 

 

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Let’s Move! Child Care Celebrates 3rd Anniversary—Sign Up and Take the Quiz Today!

Editor’s Note: This is a special announcement from our partners at Let’s Move! Child Care. 

This June marks the 3rd anniversary of Let’s Move! Child Care and we’re having a special drawing to give away classroom toolkits sponsored by Nemours, a child health system. These toolkits are full of kid-friendly physical activity materials that can be used in classrooms with children ages 2-5.

Early Care and Education providers who sign up and take the checklist quiz between June 1st and June 13th will have their names entered into the drawing for a chance to win a toolkit. By signing up, you can join the nearly 13,000 child care providers who have committed to working towards the Initiative’s best practices for healthy nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding support, and screen time. Watch this video to see how it all began.

Getting started is simple. Signing up and participating are free.
To enter the drawing, visit http://www.HealthyKidsHealthyFuture.org between June 1st and June 13th to sign up and take the Let’s Move! Child Care Checklist Quiz. You will receive a participation certificate, have access to free tools and resources, and the checklist quiz can help your program build an action plan to start meeting the Let’s Move! Child Care best practices. There’s also plenty of information and tools on the website for parents to help their children learn healthy habits.

Sign up today and take the quiz to become a recognized Let’s Move! Child Care provider!

If you are already registered and have taken the quiz, send us your success stories!  Send your story to LMCCStories@cdc.gov with the subject line “LMCC 3rd Anniversary” by May 28, 2014. Entries should be no longer than 500 words. Be sure to include a contact name, phone number, and e-mail address.

Thanks so much for your support and hard work to ensure young children grow up healthy!

The Let’s Move! Child Care Team

Additional Resources from Child Care Aware® of America

Suggested Tweets:

@letsmove Child Care turns 3 in June. Learn how you can celebrate and win! #RYH4ChildCare

Are you signing up for the @letsmove Child Care drawing? #RYH4ChildCare

Child Care providers can help children build healthy habits. Learn more @letsmove Child Care

Links:
Let’s Move! Child Care with Child Care Aware® of America

Child Care Aware of America member testifies before House Subcommittee for CCR&R perspective on CCDBG Reauthorization

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)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Ms. Paula Koos, Executive Director, Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association, testified before a House Subcommittee on CCDBG Reauthorization.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Ms. Paula Koos, Executive Director, Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association, testified before a House Subcommittee on CCDBG Reauthorization.

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.

 

Get more:

Full text of opening statements and testimonies from the hearing

Watch the archived webcast of the hearing

5 Reasons CCDBG Reauthorization matters

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.    

Congress Set to Pass Spending Bill with Investments for Early Learning

Tweet your thanks with this image!Wednesday, Congress will begin voting on a spending bill that includes investments in early childhood education.

Late Monday night, Senate Appropriations Chair Senator Barbara Mikulski and House Appropriations Chair Representative Hal Rogers announced an agreement on a spending bill that will fund the government through September 30, 2014. The spending bill consolidates the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government each year into one “Omnibus” spending bill.

The Omnibus spending bill would set spending for the rest of Fiscal Year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, which allows for some relief of the sequester, which had set spending at $967 billion for the year, but falls short of the $1.058 billion proposed by the Senate and the Administration.

Some of the highlights of the bill’s investment in children and families include:

  • $2.36 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is an increase of $154 million over the FY2013 levels.
  • $8.6 billion for Head Start, which is an increase of $1.025 billion over the FY2013 level.
  • $500 million from the above $8.6 million will be put towards expanding access to Early Head Start, including the development of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grants to help improve the quality in child care programs.
  • $250 million for Race to the Top- Preschool Development Grants to help states develop, enhance, or expand quality preschool programs for children 4 years old or older from low-income families.

Leaders of both parties in Congress and the Administration support this Omnibus spending bill, sending a clear signal there is a federal commitment to invest in early childhood education.

Tweet Thanks
Although there is still work to do, join us as we tweet thanks to those Congressional members who supported children and families through this budget process.

  • Senator Tom Harkin @SenatorHarkin  Chair of Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski @SenatorBarb  Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Congressman Hal Rogers @RepHalRogers  Chair of House Appropriations Committee
  • Senator Jerry Moran @JerryMoran  Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services  (Labor HHS) Subcommittee
  • Senator Richard Shelby @senShelby  Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Congresswoman Nita Lowey @nitalowey  Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee
  • Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro @rosadelauro  Ranking Member, House Appropriations LaborHHS Subcommittee
  • Congressman Jack Kingston @JackKingston  Chair, House Appropriations Committee
Tell them you appreciate their commitment to a quality early learning experience for young children and families. 
Get More
Bill details on the policy blog: Mikulski and Rogers Unveil Omnibus Spending Bill

New Report Finds States Lacking in Background Checks and Inspections

On Monday, November 4, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General released a report on the monitoring of licensed child care providers. The findings, while displaying the dire state of child care licensing standards nationwide, are not surprising.

The report found that 21 states do not require all licensed child care providers to receive an annual, unannounced inspection and that only 15 states require comprehensive background checks. While finding that all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia are in compliance with current Federal regulations, the requirements are vague and provide states with little guidance on how to improve accountability for the funds.
Under current Federal regulations, states are required to provide protections for children using federal child care assistance in three areas:

1) Prevention and control of infectious disease
2) Building and physical premises safety
3) Minimum health and safety training

Even though all states may have implemented policies and practices that comply with the above requirements, the reality is that many states don’t provide basic protections for children and families. For example, the OIG report found that “only 15 States reported performing checks sufficient to be considered comprehensive background screenings for both center-based and family home providers.”

While conducting a background check via a state criminal record check or of the child-abuse registry may provide some information on the criminal history of a potential provider, it is essential that a FBI Criminal check, based on fingerprints is used to ensure consistency between states, and that a check of the sex-offender registry is conducted. The report states that currently, “the sources least often checked by States were FBI criminal records and sex-offender registries. “

While the numbers of states not conducting comprehensive background checks show that states are lacking in requiring a measure that most parents believe are already in place, the HHS report found that 21 states did not report requirements for routine inspections, and those that did, did not always comply with the states own monitoring requirements.

In FYs 2010-2011, the report showed that states were consistently missing opportunities to “identify deficiencies and recommend provider improvements.” For example, in that time period, Illinois missed 82% of its required inspections; primarily failing to record complete and/or accurate details about the inspections. Inspections are crucial for ensuring that children receive the most basic protections while in child care settings and typically look for whether the number of children present matches the amount in the sign-in/sign-out log, whether staff/child ratios are met, whether the program has current certifications for CPR and first aid, and whether dangerous chemicals are properly stored.

The HHS-OIG report emphasizes the necessity for improvements to current law and/or regulations to ensure that children and families that receive federal assistance for child care are provided basic measures to keep them safe and healthy. Although the report focuses on the state of the state statutes as they exist currently, there has been federal initiatives to require basic standards, including comprehensive background checks, initial and annual training, and pre-licensure and annual inspections.

The CCDBG Reauthorization bill would ensure that children are in a safe environment that promotes their healthy development. Parents need child care in order to work and a strong economy depends on working parents. Parents want it; children need it. Urge your Senators to reauthorize CCDBG today!

Today Show sheds light on child care

Elly and Cameron Lafkin’s daughter, Camden, died while in child care in 2012. Camden was 13 weeks old. The Today Show told the Lafkin’s story on Saturday, and I was honored to provide comment on the policy factors that contribute to tragedies like what happened to the Lafkins.

As I said in the Today Show segment, quality child care is hard to find because states have no consistent standards for licensing, comprehensive background checks and training requirements for people who are caring for our nations children.

Watch the interview here.

Meanwhile, here are three steps you can take to help.

  • Support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Proposed Rule on child care. Today is the last day to add a public comment.
  • Tell Congress to renew the Child Care Development Block Grant reauthorization that would require comprehensive background checks for child care providers.
  • Share the Lafkin’s story. Spread the word so we can make change for all children in child care.

Lynette is the executive director of  Child Care Aware® of America.

Fathers Day: A call to engage dads in family and community

Celebrate the men who father children and serve as father figures this Father's Day 2013

Celebrate the men who father children and serve as father figures this Father’s Day 2013

By Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Child Care Aware® of America

June 16 is Father’s Day.  It’s a day to recognize your father, but also reflect on the important roles fathers, and father figures, play in children’s lives.

Did you know? Dads, by the numbers
More than 560,000 children in the United States live in father-only families.  And in families with a mother and a father in the home, fathers are taking increasing primary care responsibilities, according to 2011 Census data.

Consider this:

  • 21 percent of fathers are primary care providers for children under the age of 5
  • In families with an employed wife, 34 percent of fathers were the primary care providers for their preschoolers in 2011. In 2005 that number was 29 percent.
  • The number of single fathers increased fivefold between 1970 and 2000 (Fatherneed)

Fathers’ roles continue to change
It’s clear – fathers are doing more of the care and that is critical progress, because a father’s impact lasts a lifetime.

“Success in everything else is unfulfilling if we fail at family,” President Obama said to the men graduating from Morehouse college last month.

Engaging the whole family
Fathers, we must do right by you as well. We must learn how to better ensure the entire family is engaged in their children’s early learning.

One place to start is the Office of Head Start Father’s Day Webinar “Father Engagement is Everybody’s Business”  tomorrow, June 4.

Father figures
Fathers take many forms. They are made by biology and by choice. Every man who cares for a niece or nephew, grandchild or cousin, stepchild or neighbor is a father.  To you I say your impact is immeasurable.

Child Care Aware® of America thanks the dads, grandfathers and friends for the important role they play in children, families and communities.

Tell us. Is there  a special man in your life who is a dad or a father figure?  How do you celebrate Fathers Day?

Resources:
Administration for Children and Families Office of Head Start
Fatherneed by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.  p. 111