The National Collaboration for Youth believes that:
- Current child care funding streams are inadequate to attain the goal of creating and maintaining high-quality child care landscapes as the following points illustrate:
- The funding level for Head Start, for example, enables the program to serve just over 50 percent of the eligible three- and four-year-olds.
- Early Head Start is serving less than 3 percent of the nearly 3 million eligible children under age three.
- Funding from the Child Care and Development Block Grant is only reaching one in seven eligible children with working parents.
- In many states, the low reimbursement rates paid to providers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant create an environment where many low income families have no choice but to place their children in lower cost, often lower quality care.
- As a result, too many children are cared for in unstimulating or even unsafe settings, depriving them of the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive. In order to ensure access, the level of funding for these programs must adequately address the dearth of affordable child care options in many geographic areas across the country. Government involvement can include providing incentives for quality child care providers to establish facilities where there are none available.
- One of the most important quality components in a child care program in this labor-intensive industry is a significant, stable relationship between a trained caregiver and a child. This is a cornerstone of quality care - promoting healthy development rather than hindering it. Therefore, in order to ensure high quality, the level of funding for these programs must adequately address the extraordinarily high turn-over rates of professional staff (up to 40 percent annually). Quality training may reduce burnout and attract better candidates to the field. Other staffing needs must also be addressed, including training, education, and ratios.
- Government can play a number of roles in the effort to create and maintain high-quality child care options for families:
- Regulation and monitoring - appropriate licensure, accreditation or other regulation that defines and enforces minimum standards for the legal operation of programs
- Funding - adequately funding programs and supporting the child care infrastructure, including professional development for both home-based and center-based providers and supply-building activities
- Financial assistance - direct subsidies to all eligible families and refundable tax credits will greatly help with the cost of quality child care and the search for the right options for the child.
- Research and development - funding studies related to child development and learning as well as data-gathering for community planning
- Dissemination of information - sharing best practices and other information with consumers, service providers, and the public about ways to promote children's healthy development and learning, both at home and in child care settings
PUBLIC POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
The National Assembly recommends the following:
- Funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant must be increased to $11.25 billion, which will enable the program to provide subsidies to more than 150,000 additional children and their families.
- Maintaining the current standard of allowing states to provide child care subsidies to families up to 85% of the state median income which will continue the national commitment to child care as an important service to all families.
- Funding for Head Start and for Early Head Start must be increased by at least $1 billion so that the program can expand to serve more children and further strengthen its quality.
- Funding for the newly created Early Learning Opportunities Act should be increased by $150 million. This program provides grants to states and localities to support parenting-education programs and quality child development services for children under five.
- Making changes to the U.S. tax code to provide low-income families with refundable tax credits for child care.
- Providing incentives to both large and small businesses for implementing business practices and policies that ease the child care burden of parents.
- Providing states with adequate funding to increase their reimbursement rates and requiring that rates be set at no less than 75% of the market rate to allow parents to access 75% of the available services in the market.
- Providing incentives for states to increase their reimbursement rates.
- Assuring accessibility - both physical and sensory - make funds available for capacity building, i.e., the building of facilities in underserved areas.